JOPLIN, Mo. —
Are you a person of faith?
The majority of you who read this column would likely answer affirmative, perhaps with a qualification or two, of course. You might even be a little more specific and identify yourself as a person of the Lutheran or Baptist faith.
The imam and the rabbi would answer affirmatively, also perhaps qualifying their respective faiths, as would the Buddhist, the Hindu and so forth. Christians, Muslims and Jews would all attest to being affiliates of the Abrahamic faith, with all three religions tracing their lineage through Abraham.
If I posed this question to scientists, philosophers and humanists, the responses would likely be mixed. Some would respond affirmatively, some would respond negatively.
But more likely than not, someone would ask me to contextualize the term "faith." Do I mean faith in God? If so, how do I define or describe God?
If I were to establish the context of faith broadly to mean faith with or without God, then likely most would respond to my initial question in the affirmative.
We are all people of faith, even though some of us do not express faith in God. A scientist may place his or her faith in science, but it is still faith. Faith in and of itself does not require God. The same way in which mankind thinks, mankind believes. All humans are believers in something. All of us possess the faculty of faith.
It is through faith that we find a world view in which we discover our place in the universe. It is through faith that we develop a sense of direction and purpose. It is through faith that we find connection and identity. I believe we are given this inclination to believe for our own good, whether or not we believe in God.
Andrew Solomon, in his book "Noonday Demon," talks of a primary role played by faith in the handling of depression. He admits that he personally has difficulty in believing in God, but as a resource for getting through those tough battles with depression, he encourages the exercise of faith in something -- whether it be a doctor, your family, yourself or God.
The writer of Hebrews offers us insight into the dynamic of faith (Chapter 11: 1-3). Faith operates in the realm of the intangible; the spiritual. Faith is "the substance of things hoped for" and "the conviction of things not seen." It is through faith that I understand that the world was prepared by God and that God remains involved. This is a world view that sees God at the starting gate. A scientist may have this world view, or may hold to a different one. But neither I nor the scientist can prove our world view.
There are two things to be said of faith. First, faith is to be applied, not contemplated. You can talk about faith all you want, but it is of no benefit until applied. Second, faith requires no guarantees. In fact, faith asks for no guarantees. Faith is not present if there are guarantees.
The Bible speaks of rain falling on the just and the unjust. God's gifts via creation are universally given. Mankind is given the capacity of faith. What we do with that faith is up to us. Some say that believing in God requires a huge leap of faith. I say an even greater leap of faith is required to not believe in God.
I choose God.
Craig Tally is the senior minister of First Community Church in Joplin. His column appears bi-weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.