Monday, 3 December 2012

3rd December 2012

In the search for meaning in life, belief in God presupposes assent to facts impossible to verify empirically. The content of belief is a working hypothesis relied upon to guide our attitude and relation to God. It's always subject to critical review and amendment. What cannot be shown to be false when experience is tested, we choose to rely on and trust in. This is the core of what believers call faith.

The prophet Isaiah was a prime advocate for trust in God as a foundation for hope that the fortunes of his people would be restored. He confidently used poetic and anthropomorphic imagery speaking of divine activity and relations between creatures and Creator. Yet, he could declare candidly the unknowability of the One he reached out to in trust: "Truly, thou art a God that hidest thyself." He prayed longingly for a manifestation of God: "O that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down!"

He was no stranger to visions and exalted experiences: "Woe I am undone for mine eyes have seen the Lord of hosts!" However, more important to him than individual experiences were unfolding events that revealed divine providence in action, changing peoples' plight by ending slavery and suffering. This vindicated the personal faith he placed in God.

Like other prophets he struggled and suffered striving to know God. He turned inwards only to refresh himself to keep turning outwards, looking for God and the divine will made known in his time: "Those who wait upon the Lord renew their strength."

Personal survival beyond death hardly featured in the thinking of Isaiah's day, although the dead had their proper place, where they were confined to the background, outside time in shadowy nothingness, disconnected from the community of the living. Their idea of annihilation was being erased from the community's memory. 

Mediums might conjure up departed spirits (though how scripture doesn't say), but the ensuing interaction is reported to be of advantage neither to the living nor the dead. The dead lived on in stories told by the community descending from them. This made having offspring to inherit one's story as well as one's wealth was vital for every generation.

Isaiah and the prophets waited upon God in hope to restore their peoples' collective fortunes. They appealed to God above all to remember them. In this was the key to giving life meaning - being part of something greater than themselves.

Today's culture emphasises individuality and self-awareness. Our identities may be shaped by belonging to more than one community. Few of the billions who've ever lived can be famous, universally remembered, and not everyone's self awareness is fully developed. Yet, the longing to 'be forever', secure from being lost and forgotten amidst the 'changes and chances of this passing world' haunts us all in different ways.
For the heart of faith, only One who is author of our being can make this so.

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