Day 143, our postal box number years ago and my girlfriend’s (now wife) secret code.
I EAT SUGAR
Let’s start off with feedback. I eat spoonsfoolls of sugar (not to make the medicine go down), because I like it. It has noooooo effffeeccts on me, ay promize usesall. That is a joke, because sugar does affect me, I avoid it. But I often use this when people boast about what they do and it does not affect them.
This whole paragraph just to say – lockdown is boring, I think I am doing OK, but it might be like the sugar – I do not notice the effect.
Some background for this post. Yesterday a Facebook friend posted something about God and atheism. I did not read the article, but commented that his comments resonates with me. I suggested a coffee to talk about our thoughts.
The background goes back much further. I grew up in George and attended the George Moeder Gemeente Church. There was a very influential minister, Rev Jordaan. He had a huge influence on my own faith an beliefs.
One day, as I was thinking, I realized that through the years there were influencers in the Dutch Reformed Church (all churches, probably, but I only have experience in the DRC). People like Prof Bennie Keet, Johan Heyns, Profs Willie Jonker, Flip Theron and Danie Louw (I studied under the last three). Thinking like that, I realized that each generation had their theological “heroes.” And at which seminary they studied played a huge role in their theology. In my youth if Prof Bennie Keet said something (other than that apartheid is wrong!) it had more authority than the Bible. Later it was Prof Heyns or Jonker, Theron or Louw, depending on your inclination.
Thinking of this, I could not help to wonder how my beliefs would be different, if I grew up in a different congregation. Or if our ministers studied at another seminary? Once you seriously consider this thought, the next step is what if I grew up in another neighborhood? Athlone, for instance, which, I think, is predominantly a Muslim environment? Or Seapoint, which is a more Jewish environment?
It seems to me we put a lot of emphasis on something that is not so clear cut as we would like to believe! I will come back to this just now.
This brings me to the science part. Karl Popper (I think) said that science is not about proving things right, but about proving it wrong. All metals expand with heat. We hold onto this until science finds a metal that shrinks when heated. Science deals in facts. That is why I don’t need faith when dealing with science. There is a huge difference between “I know” and “I believe.”
That is one reason why the whole fight between science and religion is such a waste of time. It is time we escape our dichotic thinking habits. I have written about the limitations of “either or” thinking before. No need to do so again. Science works with KNOWING, God is in the Realm of BELIEVING and faith. You will see why I avoid religion in a moment. Just hang in there.
THREE RELIGIOUS SYSTEMS – ONE ORIGIN
Let’s get back to the Christian/Jew/Muslim idea I left hanging earlier. Since I grew up in an Afrikaans Christian environment and Jesus was a Jew, I am not negative about Jews. Oh, as I grew older and gained experience, I realized that I was told a lot of things about Jews or the Jewish faith, that does not seem accurate in the real world.
|Reading Rabbi Kushner’s books I look at Jewish Faith differently|
Fortunately I had a few Muslims in my life, as well. If you allow them to, they will gladly share their beliefs with you. Don’t argue, listen and try to understand. You will be amazed how many times we keep the same fests, just with different content. The similarities also made me doubt the knowledge of some teachers in my life.
Here is the thing: Jews, Christians and Muslims share a history. We share at least the first 17 chapters of Genesis! That alone should be enough to keep us tolerant of each other! This is a fact, no belief needed – we have three worldwide faiths with the same origin – therefore the same God! This must make us think.
RIGHT OR WRONG VS RELATIONSHIPS
Faith is about relationships. It is a relationship with God. Our relationship with God will reflect in our relationship with ourselves, each other and the world in general. Our relationship with God will determine our self-image, how we see our fellow humans. In my own life, I am often embarrassed by this statement! In the Christian faith we are called to be representatives of God in the world – God’s ambassadors, so to speak. Now I am even more embarrassed.
And this is why I steered away from “religion” earlier. Religion becomes a limiting container. Religion has a historical-cultural origin. Where faith is based on a relationship, religion is based on rules. Or perhaps beliefs. The Muslims “left” the story with Hagar and Ismael. But they were blessed by the same God who blessed Isaac! Christians left the story much later, but they claim the same blessing Father that the Jews and Muslims claim. We too often judge each other and fight with each other as if we are enemies. We are family!
Our forebears walked different trails and therefore we have different traditions. But the origin is the same. I envisage it as meeting up with another Maritz and asking: “where do you come from?” And we follow the lines until we say, “Yes, we are related from ages ago. My great grandfather and your great grandfather were brothers.” Be kind to each other.
Now let us get back to the influencers. Often denominations are built around influencers. Very often politics play a role in these splits. Beware of the combination of religion (notice I use religion) and politics. Beware of the combination of religion and an economic system. Beware of religion and nationalism. Dangerous combinations that caused many of our problems in the world.
The influencers are (thought) leaders. They strike a cord because they openly address a problem or they solve a problem. Or offer what seems a solution to a problem (and it does not only happen in the religious context!). Soon they have disciples. Often zealous disciples. That is when the problem starts.
Here is the trust part! Make sure that the influencer you trust is trust-worthy. The people we trust shape our thoughts and our beliefs. Our thoughts and our beliefs shape our lives. And our lives shape the world. Make your trust very expensive.
In a biography on Karl Marx the author opens by saying that the two figures who arguably had the biggest influence on the modern world had the same problem. Their disciples ruined their message. That goes for both Jesus and Marx!
FAITH IS NOT EMPTY
What am I suggesting? Simply this – faith is just that – faith – not science. This is what Hebrews 11 says:
1 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
It is, amongst other things, a call to be humble.
ATHEÏSM – STILL FAITH!
And this brings me to atheism. I have an openness for atheism. Unfortunately too many atheists are more aggressive missionaries than some Christians. which often make me wonder about how strong their convictions really are! But since atheism is, just like theism, based on faith, there is no sense in arguing! Sooner or later we will know what we know! I can wait.
Having said all this, I still choose Christianity. That is part of who I am. Jesus set a very difficult example – I mean pray for your enemies? Pray for the ANC? Well, to be honest, I do, but not like I think Jesus meant it.
But that is my choice not because it is right or better, but because I understand it. I respect your choice, whatever it is.
But can we agree on this?
As disciples of who-ever or what-ever we choose to belief in, let us live in honor of our beliefs.
And let our beliefs be honorable.
(And this is once again just one man’s thoughts. Leave your comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts.)