The Necessity of Faith

The Necessity of Faith September 20, 2013

The words “faith” and “believe” appear a lot in our culture. From Kenny Rogers’ moving country music ballad “She believes in me” to the raunchy pop lyrics of George Michael’s “I Gotta Have Faith,” the words “faith” and “believe” resonate with our deepest and inner most desires. Politicians will frequently appeal to people to believe in their policies and to trust in their promises. Marriage is really a faith-bond between two people who have come to know, trust, and believe in each other. Precisely because life can be uncertain and painful we look to people, institutions, and ideas to both believe in and to hope upon. We do that, risky though it is, and despite the fact that it makes us vulnerable, because we genuinely think that in this person, or in this organization, or in these ideas, that we will find the security for things which we cannot control ourselves. Faith, belief, trust, hope – whatever words you like – these emerge from a deeply human experience full of dualities; experiences of life and loss, fidelity and failure, goodness and grief, as well as belonging and betrayal. All life is a life of faith, whether it is faith in ourselves, our family, friends, plans, people, ideologies, institutions, or even in forces beyond ourselves. We look to something or someone to be a rock and anchor that we can cling to in a world that feels like a merry-go-round spinning out of control. The reality is that faith is an inalienable feature of human existence. We certainly have a choice in whom or what we will believe in. But whether we will believe in someone or something is not a choice, it is a necessity, it simply part of what it means to be human in a world that is beyond our own mastery. We all reach out in faith somewhere, whether you are religious or not, because it is in our nature to stretch our hands towards the unknown and hope for what we might find.

When the Apostles’ Creed begins with the words “I believe” it is asking people who recite the creed to recognize their need to know, trust, and belong to something beyond themselves. It is an affirmation of one’s needs, needs that cannot be fulfilled or satisfied by our own efforts, but are met in the faith which is thereafter professed by the speaker. While we have many needs like food, shelter, purpose and companionship, perhaps our most basic need, one hard wired into the very constitution of our humanity, is to know God. That is why Augustine famously said, “You have set eternity in our hearts and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” The strange mood of discontent and the peculiar sense of dislocation that can sometimes feel is relieved when we discover that we were made to know and love God. Faith, then, is rest for our existential angst and the satisfaction for our spiritual hunger. The creed tells us our need, and it is a need that springs from the seat of our soul, a need to “believe in God.”

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