Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The heart of faith

The first four chapters of Michael Jensen’s My God, My God raises the persistently vexing questions of humanity as related to our beliefs: death, guilt, the march of time, are all covered in sixty pages of theological reflections (p. 61). The book seems to be written for the genuine enquirer of Christianity, or for the doubter- for Thomas, if he was still around. The issues raised are not the kind of intellectual concepts (for want of a better term) that Christians often engage with when considering questions of belief and its bedfellow doubt: the historicity of the Bible, Science and Christianity, et al. This is hard reading (and, I imagine, even harder writing) and there is much stopping and thinking whilst undertaking the task. Jensen has made the process a pleasant one, quoting extensively from poets, theologians, songwriters, and others. But it is mainly hard reading because it touches upon the subjects that are often matters more of the heart than the head.

While Jensen begins where the Apostles did: the resurrection of Jesus (a man from Nazareth) from the dead (p. 15, and Acts 2); he spends most of these first chapters not examining that, but examining our experience of faith in the face of things which are beyond our control (namely those listed above). He does indicate at the end of chapter four the turn towards the content of faith. However, given that his premise (and subtitle) is the question: is it possible to believe anymore?, the book makes for serious reading for Christians who want to explore what Jensen calls the “existential difficulties of our faith” (p. 61).

For me, the most powerful reflections of Jensen were on time in chapter four. Our experience of time, specifically of enduring time, can so easily lead us into despair outside of an understanding of the Cross and Christ’s return. Jensen demonstrates how, in the midst of suffering, the Christian not only hopes but also experiences joy (as in James 1:2). These are important truths to be reminded of, as the days and weeks and months tick by for me in waiting. Life can be painfully abstruse in the short term, a map seemingly without directions, but as a Christian I take the long view, knowing where I have come from (the Cross) and where I am going (Christ’s return),

The Christian waits. But she is busy with waiting- active in resisting sin and in doing good works. Her waiting is a waiting for the risen and ascended Lord to judge the earth and to vindicate the elect. It is a waiting for the apocalypse- for the final revelation of things hidden from view. Waiting means allowing that the decisive world-ending action will be God’s in Christ- that the building of utopian visions of humankind on earth is not for now. Waiting means resisting the powers and authorities where they counter Christ’s ultimate authority, and serving them insofar as they reflect it. (p. 60)

It’s a long quote, but I think it offers much for us to chew on over the coming week. Is this how you wait when life is going well, when you’re full to overflowing with happiness? Is this how you wait when you’re in the midst of suffering, when you can barely shift your gaze to look above the footpath? Is this how you wait when you’re simply waiting, when you’re sitting beside the footpath, not moving at all?

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately our contributor for this month, Emma Little, has been unable to complete her blogs on My God, My God, so I (Siân Lim) have taken over, and apologise for this blog, because it is a little rushed.

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