Thursday, May 13, 2004

Standing Things on Their Heads

Adventures In Orthodoxy
The Marvels of the Christian Creed and the Audacity of Belief
by Dwight Longenecker

This book compellingly conveys the joy and excitement that is present in our faith and in God. Longenecker does this by following G.K. Chesterton's technique of looking at familiar ideas differently by "standing them on their heads." Each chapter looks at the Apostles' Creed line by line and shows us that it is not simply a comfortable recitation of beliefs but a launching point for an exhilarating encounter with God. Below is an excerpt from the first chapter which looks at the Creed's opening phrase "I believe..." This is written as a contrast to the person who must have everything proven as fact, often scientifically, before they will believe it..

Even since Cain, we have found it difficult to believe. The reason has nothing to do with science. Quite simply, it's difficult to believe because it's difficult to obey. Belief is never simply an intellectual exercise. As rational beings, we know that to acknowledge something as true means that it must change our life. If something is true - really, utterly, and radiantly true - it demands our total allegiance. If something is eternally and magnificently true, it was here before I was and it must change me; I can't change it. No matter who the person is, or in what age he has lived, belief that demands obedience is, and always will be, a terrifying and exhilarating prospect.

Even the mere word obedience is a shock to the heart. It's enough to make you throw a book across the room. The word makes us think of pursed-lipped old nuns ready to thrash timid children into submission. We see hordes of jackbooted thugs goose-stepping to the commands of their demonic overlords. We imagine gullible religious devotees submitting to bizarre beliefs. We think of the young automatons of religious sects and the quivering woman shielding her children from the demands of an outrageous husband.

These are examples, not of obedience, but of domination and subservience. The obedience that goes with belief is something different. It's an inquisitive, open-ended, and youthful virtue. The word obedience comes from the Latin obedire, which means "listen to." True obedience is a kind of curiosity. It's a fresh alertness, a childlike eagerness to listen and learn. It's the voice of deep calling to deep. It is a human heart open to the drawing and calling of a timeless and universal power that the ancients could only call Love ...

... The first step is not to believe all the specifics, but simply to believe. To Be. To Live. To Be Alive. To Believe.

To believe in all things seen and unseen is to accept all that is real, both in the natural and in the supernatural realms. It means embracing every morsel of matter, from each grain of sand to each gargantuan star. It means being full of wonder at all things invisible - from atoms and angels to molecules and miracles. To believe in all things seen and unseen means accepting that the visible and invisible realms are intermingled in a marvelous and mysterious way. It means gasping with delight at the wonderful and frightening realization that all things are possible. This is the innocent, unembarrassed, and blessed state of the believer: His heart is open to everything on earth and in Heaven, and he plunges in to be overwhelmed by it all, crying, "I believe!"

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