Monday, September 28, 2009


They threw down their nets
and they followed Him.
There was no time to
calculate profit or loss.
There was no time to
call home for a second opinion.
It seemed like absolute madness.
It seemed like death.
But it was a wise madness,
a necessary death.
The old faith dropped
and sank beneath waves.
The new faith walked on water,
beckoning on to Jerusalem
and the dry hills around.

Steve Turner

If Jesus Was Born Today

If Jesus was born today
it would be in a downtown motel
marked by a helicopter's flashing bulb.
A traffic warden, working late,
would be the first upon the scene.
Later, at the expense of a TV network,
an eminent sociologist,
the host of a chat show
and a controversial author
would arrive with their good wishes
-the whole occasion to be filmed as part of the
'Is This The Son Of God?' one hour special.
Childhood would be a blur of photographs and speculation
dwindling by his late teens into
'Where Is He Now?' features in Sunday magazines.

If Jesus was thirty today
they wouldn't really care about the public ministry,
they'd be too busy investigating His finances
and trying to prove He had Church or Mafia connections.
The miracles would be explained by
an eminent and controversial magician,
His claims to be God's Son recognised as
excellent examples of Spoken English
and immediately incorporated into
the O-Level syllabus,
His sinless perfection considered by moral philosophers
as, OK, but a bit repressive.

If Jesus was thirty-one today
He'd be the fly in everyone's ointment-
the sort of controversial person who
stands no chance of eminence.
Communists would expel Him, capitalists
would exploit Him or have Him
smeared by people who know a thing or two about God.
Doctors would accuse Him of quackery,
soldiers would accuse Him of cowardice,
theologians would take Him aside and try
to persuade Him of His non-existence.

If Jesus was thirty-two today we'd have to
end it all. Heretic, fundamentalist, literalist,
puritan, pacifist, non-conformist, we'd take Him
away and quietly end the argument.
But the argument would rumble in the ground
at the end of three days and would break out
and walk around as though death was some bug,
saying 'I am the resurrection and the life...
No man cometh to the Father but by me'.
While the magicians researched new explanations
and the semanticists wondered exactly what
He meant by 'I' and 'No man' there would be those
who stand around amused, asking for something
called proof.

Steve Turner

The Lying Blues

Woke up in the morning
With lies on my radio
Woke up in the morning
With lies on my radio
Said- Don’t be uptight ‘cos everything is alright
If you just stay tuned to my show

Got up and caught the train
But lies stood along the line
Got up and caught the train
But lies stood along the line
They said if I soak up lungs full of smoke
Health and happiness will be mine

Saw the morning paper
Where the lies werern’t hard to find
Saw the morning paper
Where the lies werern’t hard to find
It said that show biz,TV, sport and nudies,
Where all that happened all the time

Down at the disco
Were the same lies with a beat
Down at the disco
Were the same lies with a beat
Sayin’ feelin good is bein’ good
So live your life like you move your feet

Looked at my TV
They had experts telling lies
Looked at my TV
They had experts telling lies
But you couldn't tell, it was done so well,
Being expert is a great disguise

Looking at the adverts
They were dressed to kill
Looked at the adverts
They were dressed to kill
I dropped my guard to give a laugh out load
And they came in and took my will

Brought me a magazine
And it’s lies were done with class
Brought me a magazine
And it’s lies were done with class
They said it’s ok most people do today
If it feels good just don’t ask.

Steve Turner

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Heralds of God

Here let me interpolate a quite personal remark. If you as preachers would speak a bracing, reinforcing word to the need of the age, there must be no place for the disillusioned mood in your own life. Like your Master, you will have meat to eat that the world knows not of; and that spiritual sustenance, in so far as you partake of it daily, will strengthen your powers of resistance to the dangerous infection. Surely there are few figures so pitiable as the disillusioned minister of the Gospel. High hopes once cheered him on his way: but now the indifference and the recalcitrance of the world, the lack of striking visible results, the discovery of the appalling pettiness and spite and touchiness and complacency which can lodge in narrow hearts, the feeling of personal futility all these have seared his soul. No longer does the zeal of God's House devour him. No longer does he mount the pulpit steps in thrilled expectancy that Jesus Christ will come amongst His folk that day, travelling in the greatness of His strength, mighty to save. Dully and drearily he speaks now about what once seemed to him the most dramatic tidings in the world. The edge and verve and passion of the message of divine forgiveness, the exultant, lyrical assurance of the presence of the risen Lord, the amazement of supernatural grace, the urge to cry " Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel" all have gone. The man has lost heart. He is disillusioned. And that, for an ambassador of Christ, is tragedy.

Extracted by Heralds of God by James S. Stewart

His Proper Name is Lucifer

The idea of life as self enclosed and purposeless if of course not simply a product of our own age. It is the natural product of the advance of science and has developed over a long period. It has already in fact developed over a long period. It has already in fact occasioned a whole era in the history of philosophy, beginning with Kant and leading on to the existentialism and the analytic philosophy of the present day. The chief characteristic of this phrase of philosophy can be briefly stated: Kant abolished God and made man God in His stead. We are still living in the age of the Kantian man, or Kantian man-god. Kant’s conclusive exposure of the so-called proofs of the existence of God, his analysis of the limitations of speculative reason, together with his eloquent portrayal of the dignity of rational man, has had results with might possibly dismay him. How recognizable, how familiar to us, is the man so beautifully portrayed in Grundlegung, who confronted even with Christ turns away to consider the judgement of his own conscience and to hear the voice of his own reason. Stripped of the exiguous metaphysical background which Kant was prepared to allow him, this man is still with su, free, independent, lonely, powerful, rational, responsible, brave, the hero of so many novels and books of moral philosophy. The raison d'ĂȘtre of this attractive but misleading creature is not too far to seek. He is the offspring of the age of science, confidently rational and yet increasingly aware of his alienation from the material universe which his discoveries reveal; and since he is not a Hegelian (Kant, not Hegel, has provided Western ethics with its dominating image) his alienation is without care. He is the ideal citizen of the liberal state, a warning held up to tyrants. He has the virtue which the age requires and admires courage. It is not such a very long step from Kant to Nietzsche, and from Nietzsche to existentialism and the Anglo-Saxon ethical doctrines which in some ways closely resemble it. In fact Kant’s man had already received a glorious incarnation a century in the work of Milton ; his proper name is Lucifer.

Extracted from the Sovereignty of Good by Iris Murdoch

The Modern Mount Rushmore

How we feel and what we think are now considered more important than what God wants and what His Word says. At the nucleus of today’s philosophy of life is me-ism none can deny. The “I” had taken place of “Thou”. Because we adults have sown the wind, our young children are sure to reap the whirlwind.

This was brought home rather forcefully in a one page article entitled “The Modern Mount Rushmore”. The author, Ralph Schoenstein, humorously yet pointedly presents proof of this from a classroom he visited:

My daughter Lori, who is eight, told me last night that she wants to grow up to sing like Judy Garlander or Michael Jackson. “Try for Judy Garlander,” I said. “A girl needs a great soprano to be Michael Jackson.”

These two singers have become Loris first hero and heroines. They are hardly figures for commemorative stamps, but many children have no heroes or heroines anymore, no noble achievers they yearn to emulate…

One day last spring I stood before 20 children of 8 and 9 in Lori’s third-grade class to see if any heroes or heroines were inspiring them. I asked each child to give me the names of the three greatest people he had ever heard about.

“Michael Jackson, Brooke Shields and Boy George,” said a small blond girl, giving one from all three sexes.

“Michael Jackson, Spider-Man and God,” a boy then said, naming a new holy Trinity.

…When the other children recited, Michael Jackson’s name was spoken again and again, but Andrew Jackson never, nor Washington, Lincoln or any other presidential immortal. Just Ronald Reagan, who made it twice, once behind Batman and once behind Mr T, a hero who like to move people by saying, “ Sucker, I’ll break your face.”…And I heard no modern equivalent of Charles A. Lindbergh, America’s beloved “Lone Eagle”

In answer to my request for heroes, I had expected to hear such names as Michael Jackson, Mr T, Brookes Shields and Spiderman from the kids, but I had not expected the replies of the eight who answered. “Me”. Their heroes were themselves.

It is sad enough to see the faces on Mount Rushmore replaced by rock stars, brawlers and cartoons, but it is sadder to see Mount Rushmore replaced by a mirror.

Growing Deep in the Christian Life: Essential Truths for Becoming Strong in by Charles R. Swindoll

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Who Cares if Christ is Risen?

In one of his sermons 'Creedal Affirmation in search of Commitment', Ravi Zacharias quote from a secular journalist who wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph titled, Who Cares if Christ is Risen?

But what is true at this time in our history is that we are moving into uncharted territory. Since the French revolution, many influential intellectuals have rejected religion. But it is only now that religious ideas are ceasing to underpin general morality. Because these ideas have prevailed for so long, people tend to assume that the morality which goes with them is somehow obvious and commonsensical and will continue. “Love thy neighbor as thy self” is widely believed to be a moral imperative which everyone can accept and try to follow without religious faith as if it were a belief which came naturally to man. But this is a terrible error. No moral doctrine comes naturally. As the derivation of the word “doctrine” implies it has to be taught. It can only be taught if enough people understand the theories on which it rests and have the means of instilling their consequences into the popular mind. We have entered a period in which this is no longer so and we are beginning to see the results.

Most of those who fight to stop hunts killing foxes would think nothing of having abortions. If members of the Animal Liberation Front had been in Jerusalem on that first Good Friday they would have been far too worried about the fate of the donkey, on which Christ entered Jerusalem, to mind that He was being crucified before their eyes. With this loss of a truly human morality comes paradoxically a greater emphasis on the importance of human gratification. As human beings no longer believe that they have a unique standing in the order of divine creation, they turn inwards. The great modern crime is to prevent people doing whatever it is they want to do. On the right this tends to mean complete freedom to make and sell whatever people want to buy. On the left it tends to mean giving government money to anyone who asks for it and arguing that any sexual taste or way of life is equally valid. Being yourself is the thing to be. As if your self was automatically interesting and good. The consequence is that what was once called selfishness is now called fulfillment. The word love is used just as much as it ever was, but it means something else. For a Christian the measure of love is what one is willing to give up for it. For the post-Christian love is the most exciting state of the ego. The social consequences are more greed, more crime, more family breakdown, and more violence and an extreme restlessness which makes contentment almost as outdated a word as Crenalin. And although many non-believers dislike these trends just as much as Christians, they are almost powerless to do anything about them. For religion has an extraordinary and unique capacity to keep sublime concepts of beauty and truth and the principals of conduct derived from them in the minds of ordinary people. Without religion few know what to think and into the vacuum created for superstition, fanaticism, and pure brutishness. To all of this the atheist will answer, “You may be right about the social consequences about the loss of faith, but that is simply the pain that results from people discovering they’ve been living a lie. Our duty is to develop a new way of living based on the truth” This may be an honorable position, but another possibility presents itself. It is that our moral beliefs will decay if they are cut off from their source, just as a stream will become a stagnant pool if it is no longer fed by its spring. And that this is what is happening in the West today. The injunction to “love thy neighbor” is not a statement of the obvious, it is a commandment and one which only makes sense because it flows from the first commandment, “love thy God”. We must obey it because it is true and we know it is true because of the event which this day, Easter, commemorates.

He went on to quote from the Wall Street Journal about David Koresh and his cult.

This is not the age of reason. We may be able to decipher the mystery of human genes but we can't begin to figure out David Koresh and the Branch Davidian not that we did not try... The hard and discomforting truth is that we seems to succumb into an age which reason are routinely humbled by the irrationalism or at least by the events for which traditional sources of authorities have failed to offer any adequate explanation. The Waco flames afterall were the only story of the past few days...The enemy and critics of the enlightenment , the age of reason will say that we are getting what we deserved for happily accepting that God was dead, they warned us about removing organised faith from the centre of active ideas indeed ridiculing it. Now we see that the religious urge is strong enough that in many confused lives, healthy faith is supplanted by much weirder such as the Koresh cult. Mature faith will help a lot but reason isn't doing so well either. Serious thinking: reason had better find a way to become respectable again, reason isn't some disrepute we suspect because we had been so profligated with our proofs and our wriggles.

A Civilization at Risk: Whatever Became of Virtue?


In an age of "anything goes", virtue is a revolutionary thing. In an age of rebellion, authority is the radical idea.

A prominent Christian businessman is exposed as a crook and a bigamist. A historic Christian denomination goes on record as favoring a woman's right to abortion. The second fact is even more shocking and serious than the first.


A brilliant Christian writer and pastor leaves his wife and children and runs off with another woman. Then he writes a book justifying it. The second fact is more shocking than the first.


Nearly as many of the marriages of Christians end in divorce as those of non-Christians. Most Christian denominations permit divorce, though Christ did not. The second fact is more shocking than the first.


In each of the above cases, the first statement shows only the perennial fact of hypocrisy, of not practicing what one preaches or believes. But the second statements are something altogether new. They represent a changing of the rules that makes hypocrisy impossible!

Matthew Arnold defined hypocrisy as a “tribute that vice pays to virtue”. With that tribute no longer paid, we no longer need virtue. The first of each set of facts above shows a lack of virtue; the second shows a lack of knowledge of virtue. This is new. Christians, like other sinners, have always been susceptible to vice, but today we no longer seem to know what vice and virtue are.

The solution to the first problem is repentance and divine grace — something a book cannot help much with. But the solution to the second problem is knowledge, and there a book can help.

Help is desperately needed exactly now. For exactly at the time when the fatal knowledge of how to destroy the entire human race has fallen forever into our hands, the knowledge of morality has fallen out. Exactly when the vehicle of our history has gotten a souped-up engine, we have lost the road map. Exactly when our toys have grown up with us from bows and arrows to thermonuclear bombs, we have become moral infants.

If a child's moral growth does not keep pace with his physical growth, there may soon be no child. Could this explain why the most common age for suicide today is adolescence? The human race is now in its adolescence and standing on the edge of a cliff.

The most terrifying things (other than demons) ever to appear on our planet — thermonuclear bombs — have done a wonderful thing, a thing all the moralists, preachers, prophets, saints, and sages in history could not do: they have made the practice of virtue a necessity for survival. In W. H. Auden's simple and perfect formula, “We must love one another or die.”

However, to practice morality, we must first know it. To be men and women of virtue, not vice, we must know what virtue and vice mean.

Our modern Western civilization is a freak because it is radically different from every other civilization that has ever appeared on this planet. How? Most obviously in its technology. But more deeply, in the spiritual origin of its technology, which is a new philosophy, a new answer to the most important of all questions: Why was I born? Why am I living? In what should I invest my hopes, my dreams, my longing and living and loving? What are the best things in life? What is the summum bonum, or greatest good?

To that perennial question Francis Bacon formulated the new answer: “Man's conquest of nature.” C. S. Lewis wrote a prophetic little masterpiece of a book about what happens when this new philosophy is combined with the loss of the knowledge of morality and virtue. The title says it neatly: The Abolition of Man.

[The term man in the phrase “man's conquest of nature” is a sexually chauvinistic term, not because all use of the traditional generic man is, but because we have a civilization that is in the midst of what Karl Stern called (in another prophetic title) The Flight from Woman. We extol action over contemplation, doing over being, analysis over intuition, problems over mysteries, success over contentment, conquering over nurturing, the quick fix over lifelong commitment, the prostitute over the mother.]

Long ago, Aristotle taught that there are three reasons for seeking knowledge. The most important one is truth, the next is moral action, and the last and least important is power, or the ability to make things: technique, technology, know-how. Bacon and modernity have turned Aristotle upside down.

We have sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind. This generation, we and our children, not some vague, safely distant future generation, now stand at the reckoning point. The most important decision in history is ours to make. We cannot return to technological ignorance, nor should we want to. But we can return to the knowledge of morality (and we should at least want to) — the knowledge that makes us the kind of people who can use these terrible new powers responsibly. What kind of people would that be? One with character and with virtue, two words which are seriously out of fashion, even embarrassing, today. That is precisely our problem.

I have never read any three sentences that go more deeply to the heart of our civilization and its distinctiveness than these from The Abolition of Man:

There is something which unites magic and applied science [technology] while separating them from the “wisdom” of earlier ages. For the wise men of old, the cardinal problem of human life was how to conform the soul to objective reality, and the solution was wisdom, self-discipline, and virtue. For the modern, the cardinal problem is how to conform reality to the wishes of man, and the solution is a technique. [1]


With this new practical philosophy of the conquest of nature comes a new theoretical philosophy that objective reality is only nature, that nature is all there is. This is Naturalism, the reduction of objective reality to matter, time, space, and motion.

The alternative to this philosophy is Supernaturalism, the belief that objective reality includes also something more than nature, something like God. If “objective reality” means God, then we had better conform to him, and it is silly to try to make him conform to us. But if “objective reality” means only nature, then we can conquer it, and it is silly to conform to it.

The common principle of both philosophies is that the inferior should conform to the superior, not vice versa. The premodern practical philosophy, or life view, flowed from the premodern theoretical philosophy, or world view: there is a God; therefore conform to him. The modern life view flows from the modern world view: there is no God; therefore we play God to the world (see below). Both philosophies are consistent, but one of the two must be wrong, disastrously wrong.

Two World Views
















Until recently, our civilization could still feel optimistic about its new ideal and its associated myth of universal and necessary progress. There are two reasons why the optimism is dying. One is, of course, the fear of collective thermonuclear or social suicide, but the other cuts even deeper. It is Freud's simple observation in Civilization and Its Discontents that we simply are not happy with our new, godlike powers.

We control nature, but we cannot control our own control. We control nature, but we cannot or will not control ourselves. Self-control is “out” exactly when nature control is “in”, that is, exactly when self-control is most needed.

If we can conquer everything except ourselves, the result is that we do not hold the power. More and more power over nature is placed in hands that are weaker and weaker. Heredity, environment, the spirit of the times, “the inevitable dialectic of history”, the media — something is always in the driver's seat instead of ourselves.


How are we weak?

Not technologically, of course. We are like King Midas, swollen with new powers and riches, although at a price: everything we touch has gone dead and cold.

Not intellectually. We learn more and more, though it means less and less. We are overwhelmed with knowledge as well as with power. Our heads are about to burst. Some do.

Nor are we morally weaker. I do not think we are necessarily more wicked than our ancestors, overall. True, we are less courageous, less honest with ourselves, less self-disciplined, and obviously less chaste than they were. But they were more cruel, intolerant, snobbish, and inhumane than we are. They were better at the hard virtues; we are better at the soft virtues. The balance is fairly even, I think.

But though we are not weaker in morality, we are weaker in the knowledge of morality. We are stronger in the knowledge of nature, but weaker in the knowledge of goodness. We know more about what is less than ourselves but less about what is more than ourselves. When we act morally, we are better than our philosophy. Our ancestors were worse than theirs. Their problem was not living up to their principles. Ours is not having any.

We have lost objective moral law for the first time in history. The philosophies of moral positivism (that morality is posited or made by man), moral relativism, and subjectivism have become for the first time not a heresy for rebels but the reigning orthodoxy of the intellectual establishment. University faculty and media personnel overwhelmingly reject belief in the notion of any universal and objective morality.

Yet our civilization, especially the two groups just mentioned, talk a good game of ethics. Ethical discussion has grown into the gap left by a dying ethical vision. It is the kind of discussion Saint Paul described as “ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth”. (Perhaps he had a prophetic vision of our modern TV talk shows!) It is intellectual ping-pong, “sharing views” rather than seeking truth. For how can we seek something we do not believe in? The notions that there is objective truth in the realm of morality and that an open mind is therefore not an end in itself but a means to the end of finding truth are labeled “simplistic” by the intellectual establishment when, in fact, they are simple sanity and common sense. (As G. K. Chesterton says, an open mind is like an open mouth: useful only to close down on something solid.)

In an age of “anything goes”, virtue is a revolutionary thing. In an age of rebellion, authority is the radical idea. In an age of pell-mell “progress” to annihilation, tradition is the hero on the white horse.


Moral values have become both privatized and collectivized. On the one hand, the modern mind has fallen victim to what C. S. Lewis calls “the poison of subjectivism”: the idea that morality is manmade, private, subjective, a matter of feeling, a subdivision of psychology. “I feel” replaces “I believe”.

On the other hand, sociology has socialized and collectivized morality; consensus determines rightness or wrongness, and democracy becomes our religion: vox populi vox dei (“the voice of the people is the voice of God”). These two developments, privatism. and collectivism, may seem contradictory, but they have happened simultaneously in the modern West.

Their effect is that we live in two separate worlds. Our feeling life, our inner world of “values” (no longer real goods), is set against the outer world of behavior, a world governed by social “mores” (no longer real morals). “Values” are like thoughts, like ghosts, undulating blobs of psychic energy. “Mores” are like brute facts, like machines, ways people do in fact behave, not ways they ought to. We are like ghosts in machines.

What happens if we bring together these two halves of our alienated world? What happens when we realize that our subjective consciousness is a prophet of objective reality? What happens when we realize that objective reality includes not just brute facts but also goods, not only is's but also oughts, not only the fact that society does do such-and-such, but also the fact that society ought to do so-and-so?

When this meeting of the two hemispheres of our cracked world takes place, it is like a homecoming between alienated lovers. A shudder reaches us, deep and breathtaking. We have run away from that shudder for centuries. Martin Buber writes:

At times the man, shuddering at the alienation between the I and the world, comes to reflect that something is to be done.... And thought, ready with its service and its art, paints with its well-known speed one — no, two — rows of pictures, on the right wall and on the left. On the one there is ... the universe. The tiny earth plunges from the whirling stars, tiny man from the teeming earth, and now history bears him further through the ages, to rebuild persistently the ant-hill of the cultures which history crushes underfoot.... On the other wall there takes place the soul. A spinner is spinning the orbits of all stars and the life of all creation and the history of the universe; everything is woven of one thread, and is no longer called stars and creation and universe, but sensations and imaginings, or even experiences, and conditions of the soul....

Thenceforth, if ever the man shudders at the alienation, and the world strikes terror in his heart, he looks up (to right or left, just as it may chance) and sees a picture. There he sees that the I is embedded in the world and that there is really no I at all — so the world can do nothing to the I, and he is put at ease; or he sees that the world is embedded in the I, and that there is really no world at all — so the world can do nothing to the I, and he is put at ease....

But a moment comes, and it is near, when the shuddering man looks up and sees both pictures in a flash together. And a deeper shudder seizes him. [2]


Two recent developments are an index of our value-ignorance: Values clarification is “in”, and proverbs are “out”. What does this mean?

Proverbs are the summaries of the accumulated practical wisdom of the past, the experience of our ancestors. They are moral truths, half-truths sometimes, but truths. They describe real virtues. But we no longer believe in real virtues. Therefore we do not believe in proverbs. We believe instead in discussion, in moral ping-pong, in “values clarification”.

Values clarification is essentially the following. “Facilitators” (no longer teachers, for there is no longer anything true to teach) encourage students to state and clarify their own personal values by asking questions. This sounds like Socrates so far, but wait.

These questions are never about the roots or grounds of values, about principles. Instead, they are about feelings and reasonings, calculations. For example, if you were in a lifeboat with four people and there were only enough food for two to survive, what would you do? Such questions do not touch the roots of morality. They never ask questions about virtues and vices, about character, but ask only about what you would do, or rather what you would “feel comfortable” doing. A choice to have or not to have an abortion is put to the student in the same way, and with the same tone, as a choice between Christmas presents or foods. And tone is a factor that children (and the child in us) are very sensitive to.

The facilitator theoretically does not lead the students in any way. The one moral absolute in values clarification is that there are no moral absolutes, and the only thing forbidden is for the facilitator to suggest that his beliefs are true, or even to suggest that there is objective truth in the realm of values, for that would mean that some of the students are wrong, and that would be `judgmental”, the only sin. in fact, the very procedure itself teaches a nearly irresistible lesson: values are all up for grabs, are matters of individual or social taste; no one has the right to teach another here; values are “my” values or “your” values, never simply true values; values, in short, are not facts but feelings.

Many theorists in the movement will admit explicitly that the deliberate purpose of values clarification in schools is a social revolution to undermine the authority of parents whose values are felt to be regressive and repressive, and thus to pave the way for social change. These traditional values are never attacked rationally, directly, and honestly, whether because the theorists no longer believe in the value of honesty or of reason or, more likely, because they cannily foresee that thereby they will suffer a devastating defeat. Values clarification is not an angry stroke of a sword; it is a sly, knowing wink. After all, what can parents without Ph.D.'s in sociology possibly know?


There is a brilliant strategy behind teaching ethics without virtues and vices. This strategy is not an organized or conscious movement or conspiracy, at least not by human beings. But it is there and it has the effect of an inoculation. By a little ethics or pseudoethics we build up an immunity to the real thing, just as a weak dose of a disease germ such as cowpox builds up an immunity to the stronger disease of smallpox.

The immunity usually takes the form of thinking we already have the real thing and therefore scorning those who do, those who explicitly or implicitly criticize popular morality (the inoculation). It uses a powerful tool; the word fanatic. There is absolutely no word in our language which ostracizes a person from today's intellectual establishment more than this word, especially when combined with another dirty word to produce the supreme insult: “religious fanatic”. Of course, no distinction is made between religious fanaticism and traditional religious belief as such.

If you confess at a fashionable cocktail party that you personally love to play with porcupines, or plan to sell CIA secrets to the communists, or that you are considering becoming a Palestinian terrorist, you will find a buzzing, fascinated crowd around you, eager to listen. But if you confess that you believe that Jesus is God, that he died to save us from sin, or that there really are a Heaven and a Hell, you will very soon be talking to empty air, with a distinct chill in it.

This is why great sinners, who are not inoculated with a little morality, become great saints more often than “respectable”, inoculated people do. Ethics without virtue is “a little morality”. It is like religion without God, at least the living God. Dealing with the living God is a little like a nuclear war: it can upset your whole day.

But so can atheism. We dislike being upset by any extreme. Many people have been lured to theism by the honest and unendurable despair of the great atheists like Nietzsche, Camus, and Sartre. But the popular religion of a vague divine sense or “The Force”, as in Star Wars, is a wonderful consolation against both the terror of ultimate nothingness and the equal terror of ultimate goodness.

Those who are sick, said Jesus, know they have need of a physician, but not those who are well (or think they are). Those who obviously have no ethics, the Machiavellians, are ripe for conversion: Saint Augustine, Saint Francis, Saint Ignatius, Chuck Colson. Those who seem to have ethics but actually do not are comfortably ensconced in illusion.

Ethics without virtue is illusion. What is the highest purpose of ethics? It is to make people good, that is, virtuous. Without a road map of the virtues and vices, how likely is it that we will find our way home, especially if we are lost? And the one thing nearly everyone knows is that modern man is lost.

Meanwhile, while ethics languish, discussion of ethics flourishes. One of the most popular elective courses in high schools and colleges is ethics. But the kind of ethics that is usually taught is ethics without bite, without substance, without power, for ethics without a vision of what a good man or woman is, without virtues and vices, concentrates on doing instead of being, just as our whole modern society does. Such ethics never asks the two most important questions: What is man? and What is the purpose of his life on this earth?

C.S. Lewis uses the image of the fleet of sailing ships to show that ethics deals with three great questions, not just one. First the ships need to know how to avoid collisions. That is social ethics, and that is taught. In the second place, they need to know how to stay shipshape, how to avoid sinking. That is the question of virtues and vices, and that is not taught. Finally, they need to know their mission, why they are at sea in the first place. That is the question of the ultimate purpose of human life. It is a religious question, and of course it is not asked, much less answered.

An ethic without bite will offend no one. The one thing no teacher dares to do is to tell anyone he is wrong and needs to change. We dare not confront. There is not a single biblical prophet who would be allowed to teach in a modern public university or to talk on network TV today without being labeled “fanatic”, “authoritarian”, “reactionary”, “simplistic”, and probably “fundamentalist” (which combines all these horrible things). Jesus himself — the real Jesus described in the Gospels rather than the “meek and gentle Jesus” of the selective modern imagination, which is only a thin slice of him — would be the most radically unacceptable of all. He would be crucified a second time, in words.

Why have we reduced him to “meek and gentle Jesus”? Because we have reduced all the virtues to one, being kind; and we measure Jesus by our standards instead of measuring our standards by him.

But why have we reduced all the virtues to being kind? Because we have reduced all the goods to one, the one that kindness ministers to: pleasure, comfort, contentment. We have reduced ourselves to pleasure-seeking animals.

But why have we reduced ourselves to pleasure-seeking animals? Because we are implicit materialists. Our ethics are always rooted in our metaphysics, and modern ethics is rooted in modern metaphysics, the modern world view, which is the superstition that all that is objectively real is nature, which in turn we have reduced to matter.


How have Christians responded to modern man's loss of the knowledge of virtue?

  1. Modernist or liberal Christians in all churches and denominations essentially reduce religion to morality. This is why they specialize in morality. Christianity to them is essentially an ethic, a way of living in this world rather than a way of attaining the next. Christ becomes essentially our human teacher and example rather than God our Savior. (He is both, of course; modernist Christianity is half-Christianity, not non-Christianity.) Ethics thus becomes supremely important for the modernist. It's his “thing”, all he has left.

    The principle is obvious: the specialty shop does good work. Preaching, for instance, is supremely important for Protestants, and Protestants usually do a much better job of preaching than do the Catholics. Similarly, modernists usually do a better job at social ethics than do orthodox Christians.

    Yet even here, perhaps, they do not. Let us reconsider our principle of “specialty shops”. To isolate a part of a living whole is not only to miss out on the other parts but also to pervert the isolated part. Idolize any part of life — sex, money, drink, a hobby — and sooner or later you will lose the real enjoyment of it as well as of the rest. It becomes an addiction. So the modernist, idolizing social action, often perverts it by collectivizing, organizing, and establishing it to death. He is usually more or less socialistic; and socialists miss not only the greatness of the individual but also the greatness of society, for a natural and happy association of free and generous individuals is more of a society than a mass of organized, bureaucratic, and socialized charities.

    By overemphasizing society and underemphasizing individuals, socialism does injustice not only to individuals but also to society. Likewise, by overemphasizing ethics and underemphasizing religion, modernism does injustice not only to religion but also to ethics.

    Here's how that works. Ethics without religion means sin without salvation. Though modernists avoid talking about sin, their concentration on ethics really fosters the very thing modernism accuses its enemy, fundamentalism, of fostering: guilt. That's why the modernist is always busily do-gooding. He has the same problem Martin Luther had before he discovered the gospel. And the problem of guilt is even greater for the modernist than for the fundamentalist, for even if the fundamentalist overemphasizes sin, he at least offers hope of salvation.

  2. What has been the orthodox Christians' response to the modern values vacuum?

    Conservative Protestants, both evangelicals and fundamentalists, have not been able to fill the ethical needs of our time mainly because of their suspicion of a traditional natural law ethic of virtues and vices with a foundation in a rational knowledge of human nature. They are suspicious of this approach as pagan, Greek, Roman Catholic, humanistic, rationalistic, or naturalistic. They think it results in a two-layer cake, with natural virtue on the bottom and supernatural virtue on the top. One of the purposes of this book is to show the oneness of the two, like body and soul.

    One of the most serious faults in the evangelical and fundamentalist ethic is its passivity. Its adherents say, “The Lord will work it out.” Yes, and meanwhile the Lord has commanded us to act, not just to wait. The Lord is our heavenly Father, and fathers want their children to grow up and think and act for themselves. To insist that we take responsibility for ourselves and cultivate virtue is not to think that we work our way into heaven by piling up Brownie points with God. It is to see us as human beings rather than as wax dummies. It is to interpret the image of God properly (God is active and so are we). It is to see our proper response to God as a full and human one, and to distinguish justification (which is God's alone) from sanctification (which is ours and God's).

    Conservative Protestants are also often suspicious of traditional ethics for its reliance on human reason. There are two things to be said against this. The first is the theoretical point that reason, though fallen like the rest of us, is still part of God's image in us and is to be used, not despised. The second is the practical, tactical point that we can win battles using reason.

    To explain this second point, consider the problem of communicating with a non-Christian world if you abandon an ethic based at least partly on natural human reason. If we preach our ethics only from Scripture and faith and ignore God-given reason, then we have no common starting point and no common ground for dialogue with unbelievers on crucial issues like abortion and nuclear war. The case against abortion can be made on a purely rational basis, a basis the opponents will have to listen to, simply to be fair and reasonable, a basis they cannot fault as biased, a basis (reason) that will reveal their own position to be irrational. When we can clobber them with their own weapons, we are silly to retreat into our own weapon house, which they declare out of bounds. When we can beat them at their own game, we are silly to insist on playing ours when they will not. If anyone doubts that the case against abortion can be made definitively on purely rational grounds, I offer my own modest effort, The Unaborted Socrates, and, more systematic and complete, Steven Schwartz's The Moral Problem of Abortion.

    On the Roman Catholic side, some writers continue to write and argue on the basis of a traditional natural law and natural reason ethic with its scheme of vices and virtues; but many Catholic thinkers ignore this tradition and label it “pre-Vatican II”, as if Vatican II instituted a new ethic and a new religion. Many Catholic theologians, like their Protestant counterparts, have sold out to modernism. But the Magisterium (the official teaching authority of the Church) has not, nor has the current philosopher-king, a personalist-phenomenologist philosopher named John Paul II.

    Although this approach was common to mainline Christianity for nearly two millennia, both modernists and fundamentalists have abandoned rational ethics based on human nature, with natural as well as supernatural virtues and vices. Modernists and fundamentalists are really in agreement about the impotence of reason and the unknowability of human nature as it really is.

    Evangelicals are poised between these two options. Historically suspicious of the traditional Catholic approach, they are rethinking this opposition, as Catholics are rethinking their anti-Protestant Prejudices. A new alignment is being forged. Catholics are rediscovering the need for evangelism, and evangelicals are rediscovering the need for liturgy, sacrament, and church unity. The crucial issue of our day that is forging this new alliance more than any religious issue is the issue of abortion.

    Since evangelicals, like Catholics, usually believe in objective morality, they want to avoid the silliness of saying) “I'm personally opposed to abortion, but I wouldn't dream of imposing my morality on others.” There are only two places to look for the origin of this morality, God and human nature. Catholics look to both. God is the ultimate origin, and human nature made in his image is the proximate origin of morality. Natural law morality means both a morality known to natural reason and a morality based on human nature.

But a secular society will not look to God. Therefore if we will not look to human nature, we have no meeting place.

Why should Christians be afraid to look to human nature? It is fallen and defaced, yes, but a marred painting is still a painting. A sick man is still a man, with human needs. Both natural and even supernatural virtues are based on human needs, which are based on human nature — in itself, in its relation to other human beings, and in its relation to God. A full ethic has all three dimensions.

Let us sketch such an ethic.


  1. C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: Macmillan, 1943), 87-88. Back to text
  2. Martin Buber, I and Thou (New York: Scribners, 1958), 70-72. Back to text


Kreeft, Peter. “A Civilization at Risk: Whatever Became of Virtue?” Chapter one in Back to Virtue (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 19-36

Reprinted by permission of Ignatius Press. All rights reserved. Back to Virtue - ISBN 0-89870-442-7.


Peter Kreeft has written extensively (over 25 books) in the areas of Christian apologetics. Link to all of Peter Kreeft's books here.

Peter Kreeft teaches at Boston College in Boston Massachusetts. He is on the Advisory Board of the Catholic Educator's Resource Center.

Copyright © 1986 Ignatius Press

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Blessed Life

They wait for us
bulging with God's goodness.
ripe with His riches,
restless to be released
into empty, hurting lives
bringing wholeness and hope.
They are God's blessings,
eager to be believed and
received with gratitude.
Christ's blessings for hearts
open to heaven's best
amidst earth's worst
We are blessed, dear ones,
so eternally, incredibly blessed.
Beginning now

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2006

A Question for the Church

What are we saving for some
special occasion -
treasures of this earth
or treasures of the heart?
Do we hoard creative efforts,
extravagant love, costly truth?
Our special occasion is waiting
for Jesus walks among us within
hurting, needy hearts everywhere.
Let's break those vials of reserve
and spend lavishly until the enticing aroma of our sacrificial
love poured out for Him
draws in a whole lost world!
By this they will know we are His.
By this they will know who HE IS.

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2005

The Legacy of Jesus

Don't you understand, Jesus?
I don't want you riches.
I want YOU.
Don't leave me Your inheritance
Just don't leave me!
With downcast eyes I hear,
"And to my Precious children I bequeath
My love
My power
My peace
My Spirit
And lifted eyes rejoice to see
He lives to dispense His own will!
He lives to give His own all that He owns,
I am His legacy.

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2002

His Story - Our Story

Dipping His pen into the well of
His own life-giving blood
the Author of Life tenderly writes
salvation's transforming story
upon the tablets of our hearts,
the silently pleads
'Live transparently, My children,
this broken, hurting world
needs to read My
love and faithfulness
in the daily pages of your
trials, trust and triumphs.
Your life is the story of My love.'

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2008

Purpose for Living

When I lift you, my friend
my arms grows stronger,
When I give to you
my hand empties to receive
When I walk with you through
dark valleys,
my feet learn the way to Truth
When I weep with you,
my eyes wash clear to see
compassion's holy bond
When I lift you,
I am lifted.

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2008

Joy - The Serious Business of Haven

"Where can I find joy, Lord?
Does joy have an address?
Is it heaven?
Can I go there?"

"Only if you come with Me, child.
For I am joy's address.
Let's walk
You'll find Me all along the way."

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2002

The Pacesetters

I slammed the door.
Grace tiptoed in and smiled.

I fell hard.
Grace stretched out a hand.

I lectured myself.
Grace whispered love.

I pushed away.
Grace waited and prayed.

I walked on in joy.
Grace blazed the trail.

I looked behind.
Grace had a following.

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2001

The Unshakeable Kingdom

Though my world shakes,
I will not be shaken.
Oh how it hurts,
and oh how I care!
But I reside here
while I live there
in God's unshakeable kingdom.
A kingdom that is for everyone and forever.

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2002

Wisdom for Living

Wisdom is our
rock to build on -
truth to live by -
outstretched hand -
worthy goal -
word of hope -
united hearts -
path to purity.
leads to eternity
with God
Eternity begins now.

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2007

Tough Sayings for a Tender Heart

Dreams, speak your lovely imaginings
that everything is fine, just fine
But the Lord declares,
'Let the one who has my Word
speak it faithfully.
For what has straw to do with grain?
My word is like fire and hammer.'
So God's Living Word came and
spoke faithful words of truth,
planting the life-giving grain of
love, healing, hope and salvation
in the hearts of repentant sinners.
He also dealt rushing, burning
fire and hammer blows at sin
and those who cling to its pleasures/
'How harsh,' people said.
but is hard truth actually harsh when
spken by the Lover of our souls
the One who died in our place?
The Father said, and still says
' This is My dearly loved Son
listen to Him.'
Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2007

The Christian's True Idenitity

On the night that I was born
into Your family, Lord
did You dance upon
the rain-slicked streets,
full of grace and joy at the
potential and pure eternal life
You had birthed in me?
Dipping a sacred finger into
Your Son's sacrificial love, You
traced my from the
well of Your divine intention.
And then You called me
Your Beloved in Christ,
whispering that I would grow up
to be like Him one day.
Oh Father, can it be that
this is who I really am?

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2004

A Road Less Travelled

I tried to pretend
but the truth wanted in.
I tried to deny
but was living a lie
I kept running away
but there came the day
when I fell on my face,
and in that prone place
where pain and truth meet
I lifted my eyes and saw nail-scarred feet

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2001

Strong at the Broken Places

'God is fine for
people who need a crutch,'
say those who have never know His touch,
But I can tell them 0
perhaps you can too -
that's what God mends
becomes brand new.
No need to limp
or be propped up
when Light and Life
have filled our cup.
Christ came to throw
earth's crutches away,
and what He heals
is whole to stay.
Listen. Where His grace
remains the longest
will be the place
we are strongest.

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2005

Authentic Apprenticeship

Jesus, when did this world
decide You were
a religion
instead of a person?
Was it when we wanted
our way,
rather than
Your way,
Yet You declare Yourself
our own Way.
our radiant Truth and
our abundant Life.
Thank you for inviting us to
know You.
walk in Your love,
speak Your Truth,
and live Your life.
I'm hard on Your heels, Lord
I'm following

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2008

Rebuilding Broken Walls

Survey the land, weeping
Everywhere, lives are in ruin as
people huddle in fear.
broken homes and shattered dreams
the enemy clawing at their door.
Listen! Can you hear it?
Across the land, sweeping
the voice of God calls out
'Come's let's us rebuild the wall to
keep the Destroyer out!
Build upon my Rock of Salvation
with bricks of love and grace.
Keep the tool of truth in one hand and
the sword of the Spirit in the other.
Work faithfully nearest to where you live,
and rejoice, for we will march in triumph
upon this wall that one day
no more walls will be needed.'

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2006

The Great Divide

Love battles without equal
in enemy territory
What defence has evil's
raw, destructive rage
against Jehovah's
pure, sacrificial love?
Love speaks a different language
and marches on a different plane.
Evil parades avenging power
roaring deceit and darkness,
sin and separation
and finally eternal death.
Love descends to earth 'manger
yield to sin's cross then
bursts from death's grace in
victorious eternal Life.
Brothers and sisters, we are
more than conquerors
through Him who loved us
Love on!

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2007

The Church at the Crossroads

Whatever shall the bride wear
to wed the King of Everything?
The pattern has been laid out by
Christ and the early church
and it is white withing His righteousness and
flowing with His unifying, sacrificial love.
Our fitting room awaits
along with this message:
God won't change His Pattern to fit our church:
He will change the church to
fit His pattern.

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 1999

The Promised Holy Spirit

A beam of light
upon a corner of
secret sin -
A lexicon of language
expressing an
unspeakable need -
A drop of peace
to calm a
heaving heart -
A timely nudge
at crossroad of
chaotic choices -
The help of heaven
to lift us to our potential in Christ
Be amazed.
The Divine Counsellor
is at work

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2006

Life Convictions

'I'm floundering Lord, please help!'
Head bowed, I listen and finally hear,
'What do you believe about Me?'
A question when I need an answer.
'Well, You are the only true God, our Creator
powerful and perfect, holy and just,
abounding in love, mighty yet merciful...'
'What do you know of Me, child?'
This question interrupts my recital,
so personal it sucks the breath from me.
Slowly, through tears, I begin to tell back
the truth I have experienced in Him:
forgiveness that has set me free,
sacrificial love lavished on me,
promises proven through sunshine and rain,
mercy given with nothing to gain,
majestic beauty that lifts so high,
a constant Friend I can never deny.
Help is here because He is here.
I am convinced.

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 2006

Surprised by God

There is a place where the
wounded soul goes to hide
a place that cannot be reached by
human caring
though it nods at the effort.
It's a dark, retractable place,
without windows and doors;
a place where the soul would be
more alone than it has ever known
unless Someone -
Someone able to walk through walls -
was not already there waiting

Susan Lenzkes copyright © 1983

Friday, September 18, 2009

Belief and Faith

By: Jacques Ellul

Out of the single verb "to believe" come noun forms for two radically antithetical actions: belief and faith. However, when I wish to use a verb form to give expression to my faith, I still have to use "to believe," unless I happen to use an even worse formula, "to have faith."

Belief provides answers to people's questions while faith never does. People believe so as to find assurance, a solution, an answer to their questions to fashion for themselves a system of beliefs. Faith (biblical faith) is completely different. The purpose of revelation is not to supply us with explanations, but to get us to listen to questions.

Faith is, as Barth so often reminds us, in the first instance, hearing. Belief talks and talks, it wallows in words, it interpolates the gods, it takes the initiative. Faith takes an entirely opposite stance: it waits, remains on guard, picks up signs, knows what to make of the most delicate parables; it listens patiently to the silence until that silence is filled up with what it takes to be the indisputable word of God.

Faith isolates; belief (Christian or otherwise) brings together. We find ourselves joined with others in the same institutional current, all of us oriented toward the same object of belief, sharing the same ideas, following the same rituals, enrolled in the same organization, be it social or religious, speaking the same language. Belief is quite useful for the smooth functioning of society. Belief is the key to the consensus we look for, the one long proclaimed essential of communal life. Faith works in exactly the opposite way. Faith individualizes; it is always an exclusively personal matter. Faith is the personal relationship with a God who reveals Himself as a person. This God singularizes people, sets them apart, and confers on each an identity comparable to none other. The person who listens to His word is the only one to hear it; he or she is separated from the others, becomes unique, simply because the tie that binds that individual to God is unique, unlike any other, incommunicable, a unique relationship with a unique, absolutely incomparable God. God particularizes, singularizes the person to whom He says, "I call you by your name" (Isa. 45:4). Faith separates people and makes each of them unique. In the Bible "holy" means "separated". To be holy is to be separated from everyone else, to be made unique for the sake of a task that can be accomplished by no one else, which one receives through faith.

Faith presupposes doubt while belief excludes it. The opposite of doubt isn't faith, but belief. The "knights" of belief comply unfailingly with the law and the commandments. They are unbending in their convictions, intolerant of any deviation. In the articulation of belief they press rigor and absolutism to their limits. They unceasingly refine the expression of their belief and seek to give it explicit intellectual formulation in a system as coherent and complete as possible. They insist on total orthodoxy. Ways of thinking and acting are rigidly codified. This leads to a very high level of efficiency; the believer is a person who gets the job done, but all this activity is hollow at the core. Believers have so little internal reality of their own that they can live and express that reality only by and in a conventional established unit. They are the people of gatherings. Believers find encouragement and certitude in the presence of others ­ the certitude that those others really believe ­ and so community life fills up the existential void. Multiplying the number of liturgies, commitments, and activities gives believers complete satisfaction ­ in the midst of them they have no need of questioning the truth or reality of their belief; activity keeps them busy. But in this situation you can imagine how intolerable the diversity of beliefs becomes. There must be neither doubt nor uncertainty, for that would be radically destructive. So diversity cannot be tolerated. Diversity is always a source of further questions, of self-criticism, and thus of possible doubt ­ so belief is rapidly transformed into passwords, rites, and orthodoxy.

Faith is summarized in the words, "I believe; help my unbelief" (Mark 9:24). Faith constrains me above all to measure how much I don't live by faith; how seldom faith fills up my life. Faith puts to the test every element of my life and society; it spares nothing. It leads me ineluctably to question all my certitudes, all my moralities, beliefs, and policies. It forbids me to attach ultimate significance to any expression of human activity. It detaches and delivers me from money and the family, from my job and my knowledge. It is the surest road to realizing that "the only thing I know is that I don't know anything." Faith leaves nothing intact. The only thing faith can bring me to recognize is my impotence, in incapacity, my inadequacy, my incompleteness, and consequently my incredulity (naturally faith is the most unerring and lethal weapon against all beliefs).

Belief is reassuring. People who live in the world of belief feel safe. On the contrary, faith is forever placing us on the razor's edge. Though it knows that God is the Father, it never minimizes His power. "Who then is this, that even wind and the sea obey Him?" (Mark 4:41). That is faith's question. For belief things are simple: God is almighty. We normalize God. We get comfortable with God's power. It is faith alone that can appreciate the immensity of God, and His true nature.

The doubt that constitutes an integral part of faith concerns myself, not God's revelation or His love or the presence of Jesus Christ. It is doubt about the effectiveness, even the legitimacy, of what I do and the forces I obey in my church and in society. Furthermore, faith puts itself to the test. If I discern the stirrings of faith within me, the first rule is not to deceive myself, not to abandon myself to belief indiscriminately. I have to subject my beliefs to rigorous criticism. I have to listen to all denials and attacks on them, so that I can know how solid the object of my faith is. Faith will not stand for half-truths and half-certainties. It obliges me to face the fact that I am nothing, and in so doing I receive the gift of everything.

Belief relates to things, to realities, to behaviors that are raised to the status of an ultimate value that it worthy dying for. Belief transforms next-to-last human realities into ultimate, absolute, foundational realities. It turns everything that belongs to the order of the Promise, of God Word, of the Kingdom into epiphenomena, into sweet pious words, ways of making life easier, and a process of self-justification. Faith runs totally counter to this. To begin with, faith acknowledges the Ultimate in all its irrefragable truth, and so it depreciates and attaches little importance to whatever offers itself as a substitute for that Ultimate. It is not a matter of looking to some external ultimate reality; the Kingdom of heaven is (at present) in you or among you. As of now it is you who constitute it. Faith is the demand that we must incarnate the Kingdom of God now in this world and this age.

One never moves from belief to faith, whereas faith often deteriorates into belief. You can't get to faith by way of any old religion, or belief, or some vague spiritual exaltation, or aesthetic emotions. It is not "better" from a Christian viewpoint to "believe" than not to believe, to "have religion" than not to have it. There is no road from belief to faith. You can't transform a conviction of the value of rites into the act of standing alone in the presence of God. The reverse is true: every belief is an obstacle to faith. Beliefs get in the way because they satisfy the need for religion, because they lead to spiritual choices that are substitutes for faith; they prevent us from discovering, listening to, and accepting the faith revealed in Jesus Christ.

Kierkegaard argues that it is more difficult for people brought up on all the lore of Christmas, for those who have had all their little religious needs met by the church, to receive the shock of revelation, to discover the Unique One, and to enter into the dark night of the soul, than it is for those who have done nothing but search continuously without ever coming upon a satisfying answer. Belonging to Christendom and to one of its churches is the main obstacle to becoming a Christian. There is no path leading from a little bit of religion (of whatever kind) to a little more and finally to faith. Faith shatters all religion and everything spiritual. On the other hand, the passage from faith to belief is always possible and always a threat. It is the downhill slide to which the church and the Christian life are always subject. Faith is constantly degenerating into multiple beliefs. No phrase expresses this imperceptible change better than "to have faith." When we take possession of faith and claim to be the proprietor of faith, we naturally think we can dispose of it as we wish. The only thing we are really entitled to say is that "Faith has me." The rest is mere belief.

Faith is neither belief nor credulity, neither a reasonable acquisition or an intellectual achievement; it is rather the conjunction of an ultimate decision and a revelation, and bids me bring about the incarnation of the ultimate reality today, the Kingdom of God present among us. I am summoned by a Word that is eternal, here and now, universal, personal. I accept this summons. I am willing to act responsible; I enter upon an illogical adventure, knowing neither its origin nor its end. Such is faith.

Apologetics tries to prove that Christianity is true, that it is superior to other religions (which of course leaves us arguing on the religious level), and that it answers all human questions. We can show that Christianity makes a reasonable case, but these debates among intellectuals are utterly sterile: nobody ever succeeds in persuading anyone else. No apologetics have ever brought any unbelievers to faith, even when they could see that they had been beaten by their adversary's rhetoric. There is no intellectual road to the attitude (and more than the attitude ­ the life) of faith. The logical, intellectualist approach winds up in a ditch. The intellect does not call forth or show the way to faith.

Belief is a refuge and flight from reality. It is seized upon as protection, as a guarantee or insurance policy. Faith is taking risks, leaving behind safety and security, scorning guarantees, stepping out of the boat onto the Sea of Galilee. If we live by faith there is no need to plead with Him to save us from danger. It is enough to know that since He is there, even if the danger should prove mortal, whatever God's love wishes is being done and will be done in us, no matter what.

Why believe? (Using "believe" for participating in faith.) We have no answer for it. Believe for what? With an eye to what? To achieve what? To get what? We believe for nothing. There is no objective reason for faith; you have to live it. Faith has no origin or objective. The moment it admits of any objective, it ceases to be faith. If you believe in God in order to be protected, shielded, healed, or saved, then it's not faith, which is gratuitous. This will prove shocking, especially to Protestants, who have talked so much about salvation through faith, about faith as the condition of salvation, that they end up saying you believe so that you'll be saved. But we have to keep coming back to grace and its gratuitousness. If God loves and saves humankind without asking any price, the counterpart to this is that God intends to be believed and loved without self-interest or purpose, simply for nothing. It is scandalous, and yet so easy to understand when you think of love. The moment that a man and a woman love one another for something, whether it be for money or prestige or beauty or job, it is no longer love. Love is without cause and selfish interests; love is without reason.

Faith is constant interplay; it never stagnates or settles down. One cannot incarnate faith in some static, definitive fashion. Faith is the perennially new critical point. Faith therefore implies the continual presence of temptation and an ever clearer vision of reality; it implies criticism of Christian religion, of civilizing missions, of Christian moral codes imposed from the outside, of a Christian truth that excludes claims to it from any other area of human culture. Faith is the point of rupture (not with our fellow human beings) but with religions. Faith must proceed to criticize, to judge, and radically to reject all human religious claims. We have to be careful here; it is not people who are being judged or criticized here; it is their will to power and the expression of that in religion. But faith's critique of religion can be rooted only in its critique of itself.

Faith leads me to take part in everything, while at the same time it shows me everything in a light that is not that of reason, experience, or common sense. This is not a intellectual operation, but an existential attitude. Faith brings about the "new person" manifested in love and lucidity.

The faith of Christians in the church today has gone astray. Their obsession with the contents of faith (theologians quarreling over technical terms) instead of with the movement and life of faith is what has triggered our worldwide crisis. But the unchangeable remains unchangeable. The Ultimate One, the Unconditioned, the Wholly Other has not changed. Faith is our responsibility to see to it that the Transcendent, the Unconditioned, the Totally Other Being, becomes an active reality here and now. Faith moves mountains only when it speaks to the omnipotent Creator, and when it also accepts its role of hearing the word of faith.

From: The Living Faith: Belief and Doubt in a Perilous World. San Francisco: Harper and Row, Publishers. 1983. This synopsis is taken primarily from the chapters entitled "Traditional Misunderstandings," "Believing for What?", and "Critical Faith." It is recommended that the reader acquire and read the entire book.