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Book extract

When we confront the questions that go to the very core of our faith and will not go away we inevitably find ourselves at a crossroads. Put very simply, stretched out before us are three options.

Option one is dogmatism. We reinforce our faith stance against any doubt by shoring it up with points of evidence and appealing to external authorities or learned figures. Metaphorically, we dig our heels in and ignore any evidence to the contrary as we hold onto our faith, believing what we have always believed, despite the emptiness or shallowness these beliefs now convey.

Far too often this is the road to growing inner resentment and a closing down to much of the reality of life. It is also often the path continually chosen – question after question, by the most vocal stalwarts of faith in EPC churches. Having chosen not to explore their own questions they remain the most unwilling to allow the questions of others to be heard.

The second option is a form of reactionism where the power of doubt and the lack of answers take over and the tenets of faith are cynically abandoned. People who had grown up in churches and may once have believed in God in an orthodox Christian sense, now reject such a belief taking on a new fundamentalism regarding their new non-theism which can now often be held as strongly and rigidly as the Christian fundamentalists they ridicule. The options for dogmatism or reactionism represent two polar extremes.

There is a third option. It is the decision not to retreat to simple answers (dogmatism) or non-answers (cynical withdrawal) but to live with the discomfort and the tensions of not knowing. In this direction lie gateways to the wonder of mystery and a paradoxical faith. It is the way of Ricoeur's second, or willed naivety. It is the way of mystery. A mystery that holds powerful, seemingly opposite truths together.

I have been going to the same spiritual director for six years. He has been an ordained Catholic priest for 40 years. I've come to respect him greatly as a man of faith and huge insight. He has said to me more than once: we all face our own set of doubts and in them people of faith often seem to follow one of two paths. Either they become the ‘rule keepers' or the ‘people of mystery'.

extracted from Called Again: In and beyond the Deserts of Faith

by Alan Jamieson

Philip Garside Publishing 2004. p53.

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