30 November 2008

thomas merton, conjectures of a guilty bystander

Magnificent lines from Barth:
"Everyone who has to contend with unbelief should be advised that he ought not to take his own unbelief too seriously. Only faith is to be taken seriously; and if we have faith as a grain of mustard seed, that suffices for the devil to have lost his game.”

-Dogmatics in Outline

This is one of the great intuitions of Protestantism. And, of course, from a critically Catholic viewpoint, one can find fault with it: but why? To say, "only faith is to be taken seriously" can be understood in the light of that Christian--and Catholic--humility which puts all its trust in God. Our "good works" are necessary, but they are not to be "taken seriously." The Catholic dogma of justification never told anyone that he had to take his good works seriously in the sense of trusting completely in his own righteousness, for to take one's good works seriously is to be a pharisee. Only faith is to be taken seriously because only the mercy of God is serious. And if we put too much emphasis on the seriousness of what we do, we not only make the judgment of God the most serious reality in our life, but we are in fact judged: we are judged as men who have taken seriously something other that His infinite mercy. He who takes mercy seriously will hardly sin seriously. He who takes his own works seriously will not be kept, by that seriousness, from sin. It is pseudo-seriousness. It is not good enough.

What about unbelief, then: if faith is to be taken seriously, it follows that unbelief is also serious. No, because in taking faith seriously it is God who we take seriously, not ourselves, not our faith. I do not take faith seriously as something which i definitively possess, but I take seriously God Who gives me faith and renews that gift, by His mercy, at every moment, in spite of my unbelief. This I think is one of the central intuitions of evangelical Christianity, and it it something which we all must learn. It is something, too, which many Protestants have themselves forgotten, becoming instead obsessed with faith as it is in themselves, constantly watching themselves to see if faith is still there, which means turning faith into a good work and being justified, consequently, by works. "To believe is to be free and to trust in Him quite alone" and to be free from every other form of dependence and reliance. This is true freedom, and from it springs the capacity for every good work, for it removes all obstacles to love in our hearts.

26 November 2008

lusaka, zambia

the pastor of apostolic faith mission church (left) dances during sunday morning worship

22 November 2008

lusaka, zambia

cynthia has been sick since 2005. since her husband died, she and her son, duma, have lived in her mother's two room house in the city. her eyes are tired, and the doctors are unable to tell her what t is that makes her and her son cough and burn with fever. we visited and prayed with cynthia, her brother, mother, and son. pray for them all.