Overriding faith

Jan 4th, 2009 | By | Category: Spirituality

By supernatural means Peter was set free but James was slain by the sword. How often we meet this dilemma on earth – one spared, another slain.  We cannot pretend to know the answer.  The will of God is overriding and He does not need to explain such mysteries to us.

Keswick Block Calendar, 3rd January 2009

There is a tradition in evangelical circles of having calendars with Bible texts.  The Keswick Block Calendar this year has not only a Bible text, but a couple of reflective sentences. The reflection for yesterday has about it a deeply Old Testament feel – God is God and will do as He will.

There seems an air of fatalism; what will be will be and there can be no explanation, at least not one that is comprehensible to human intellect.  Perhaps there is also an integrity in asserting that the answers cannot be known; the church has for centuries attempted to explain things and has clearly failed, for people are no longer satisfied with the church’s answers.  Perhaps all that can be said is that we believe because we believe.  Ultimately, faith becomes about believing, regardless of what happens.

The late Gerald Priestland began his book The Case Against God, with a story told to him by Rabbi Hugo Gryn, whose uncle had been in a concentration camp.

In this camp there happened to be a group of particularly learned Jews, several of them rabbis. They had to work six-and-a-half days a week, but on Sunday afternoons they were left in relative peace. One such afternoon the learned Jews, in their despair, took up the notion of putting God on trial- not so outrageous as it may seem, for there is a Hebrew term meaning ‘to have a legal disputation with the Lord’. So witnesses came forward for the prosecution, there were others for the defence, and there was a bench of rabbis acting as judges.

The case for the prosecution was overwhelming. They had only to look at their condition. Their community was being wiped out; most of their families had already been destroyed; how could a good God permit this to happen? The case having been made and a desperate defence put up, the judges had little difficulty in reaching their verdict: the accused was guilty as charged – guilty of neglecting His chosen people. Silence fell upon the court, until one elderly inmate rose to his feet.

‘Nevertheless’, he said, ‘Let us not forget.  It is time for our evening prayers’.

There is an intellectual honesty in admitting that the world does not correspond to our theology; that criticism and rejection of our faith are reasonable responses; that opponents of religion present a very convincing case; but that, nevertheless, we shall continue to say our prayers.

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