Archived Sections, From the Editor

Putting flesh on faith

Atheism has a point, especially when church folk don’t act on their beliefs

There is good evidence to support the argument that a majority of us decide to believe what we do because we inherited that faith matrix from our parents or community.
The argument that Lutherans tend to believe what they do because they were born into Christian families has some credibility. The same can be said of Roman Catholics or Southern Baptists or Mormons or Muslims.
A British atheist, Richard Dawkins, makes this argument in his new book, The God Delusion. The Oxford University professor is convinced that beliefs about God are accidentally embraced. Since we don’t know anything else, we believe what we were taught. He would espouse Socrates’ dictum: “the unexamined life is not worth living.”
Dawkins is pretty sure that, when we ask the hard questions, we are most likely to end up denying the reality of God. There is, he argues, too much evidence to the contrary.
Some of us who have followed Socrates’ advice have made the opposite discovery. I had a college religion professor who liked to answer the challenge, “What evidence is there, really, for a god?” by replying serenely, “Explain the existence of the universe.”
Religious faith is at its best and deepest, however, not a matter of intellectual certitude. It’s more about changing lives. If what I believe does nobody any good, then it’s not worth much. Far more people are brought to saving faith when they experience the wholesome faith of others in the flesh — that is, alive and active in a person’s life. (Some faith does not lead to wholesome outcomes. Consider, for example, the religious belief that God wants his followers to take revenge in his name, a tenet espoused by some in every age.)
I suspect the Eternal One had more in mind than casual intervention when Jesus was sent to live among us. What we received was God’s faith in us — made flesh.
What we believe makes no difference in God’s world unless and until we put flesh on it. “Love one another as I have loved you” is a call to put flesh on faith.
Remember that this holiday season.