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Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Ultimate Test of Any System of Belief

The ultimate test of any system of belief is does that system provide reliable encouragement to humanity.  We have ample sources of discouragement from relatively trivial ones to death itself.  The central challenge is to maintain the feeling of significance in the face of forces that have no regard whatever for mankind.  Just this year, for example, I have witnessed floods and fires that destroyed the life work of people—all their significant memorabilia—without any regard at all; events that through their utter indifference mocked the noblest aspects of man and all that is most dear to him.  The fragility of health presents a similar challenge.  Mocking forces not only are constituted by natural disasters but forces systemic of societies—like widespread unemployment, poverty, and crime.  A successful belief system must not only give encouragement, but reliable encouragement in the face of these forces that would lead to deadening nihilism.

A successful belief system must be ruthlessly realistic and not paper over the challenges we face.  Without this characteristic it will be seen as little more than useless, fanciful thinking—a cheap and unhelpful form of escapism.  The belief system must have access to man’s sense of meaning.  In other words, it must involve not only facts, but symbolism that resonates in the subconscious; for it is not only facts that must be understood, but feelings and images that must be mapped.  I am, of course, crafted by my own experience.  I have found Christianity unblinking in its assessment of human nature and the world yet offering a profound sense of hope and purpose.  It is completely understandable to me that some regard my faith as out of sync with modern man.  But from my point of view the need for salvation is an old yet ongoing fact of life.    

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