The Examined Faith

PREFACE: This is the transcript of an address I gave last year to a church group.  I wanted to make the point that faith is not merely the blind acceptance of theological propositions, but is instead a much more robust process that has more in common with the traditions of philosophy and sceptical thinking than might at first be supposed.

Nearly two and a half thousand years ago, the philosopher Epicurus said that the unexamined life was not worth living.  By this he meant that any life in which there was no capacity for growth, development, or change on the basis of critical self-analysis, was a life wasted, a life effectively without point or purpose.

In this light, I would like to suggest to you that an unexamined faith is not worth having.  By this I mean that any understanding of faith which is limited to thinking of itself as the unquestioning acceptance of doctrinal propositions, and which is not grounded in the tradition of philosophical and intellectual enquiry underpinning that faith, is a faith wasted, a faith without point or purpose.  Continue reading “The Examined Faith”

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John 1:29-42

In the canon of church music, there is that curious beast known as the “hoary old hymn”.  We all have our own candidates for which hymns should be placed in this category, and we all think we recognise the type.  Generally speaking, however, “hoary old hymns” are those hymns which, because they are so old, so familiar, so well known to us, they seem almost to have been part of our whole life of faith.  Indeed, their familiarity runs so deep, it can almost be said that their memory extends to the molecular level, so ingrained are they in our reverences and worship. Continue reading “John 1:29-42”

Matt 2:13-23

If the name Elie Wiesel is a familiar one, it is possibly because he is person who has accomplished much in life. Wiesel is a renowned author, a respected academic, and a Nobel Prize laureate. He is also a survivor of the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald, camps that claimed the lives of his parents and one of his sisters. Much of Wiesel’s literary output has centred around his experiences in the death camps, and in posing two significant questions: how is it that apparently ordinary, decent people can be co-opted into the perpetration of horrendous crimes; and why was it that some Holocaust survivors never lost their faith in God, whereas others became angrily alienated from faith?  Continue reading “Matt 2:13-23”