Sunday, October 15, 2006

Beliefs About God

From Kierkegaard's "Provocations": one becomes a believer by hearing about Christianity, by reading about it, by thinking about it. It means that while Christ was living, no one became a believer by seeing Him once in a while or by going and staring at Him all day long. No, a certain setting is required — venture a decisive act. The proof does not precede but follows; it exists in and with the life that follows Christ. Once you have ventured the decisive act, you are at odds with the life of this world. You come into collision with it, and because of this you will gradually be brought into such tension that you will then be able to become certain of what Christ taught.
Let's say you're in elementary school, and the teacher gives you an address for a penpal. You send the first letter on your faith in your teacher, and you receive a "proof" of the penpal's existence in return (a response). There is another type of "proof", though: as you correspond with your penpal and develop a relationship, coming to understand each other better, you receive proof of their character.

I can imagine trusting your penpal before you really know their character — there's a kindness to that — but it makes no sense to trust someone before you even know they exist. Of course, this metaphor isn't perfect, it's even more extreme in the case of Christianity: we aren't asked to trust God the way we would trust a penpal, we're asked to give up everything. I can see how proof of God's character might "exist in and with the life that follows Christ", but it doesn't make any sense to devote yourself to something without some initial reason to believe it exists (and especially not if you have reasons to disbelieve).

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