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Karma, Escapism, Strength, Order « called to fish

“Karma kar, phal ki chinta na kar.” I’m sure most people reading this will recognise at least one word there- “karma“. A large part of the world’s religious philosophy is built around that concept, of doing good works for one’s spiritual well-being. The line in italics means “Do your duty, do not worry about the fruit of your works.” It is advice from the Bhagavad Gita, one of the greatly loved Hindu texts. When I was younger, I was much inspired by Gandhi’s version of this verse, and I used to scribble it inside my notebooks and diaries (as if it was the secret source of my strength.. lol).

Do read all of this excellent essay about the “Grace vs Law” question. I think a lack of understanding of these questions can present some of the great stumbling blocks for Christians and non-Christians alike. Diana provides some good talking points – and answers!

It is kinda hard to believe in something we’ve never heard of, in someone we’ve never known. Can a 5 year old believe in algebra? Can we love, really love for life, a person we’ve never met? Why do you believe in algebra, anyway? Why do you believe that love exists?

If we creatures can’t even believe in other creatures without having heard, being taught, why would we not put at least as much effort into our education about God?

Here is what the Bible says about Faith, and study:

Romans 10:8-17 (King James Version)
8But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;

9That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

11For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

12For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.

13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

14How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

15And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

16But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?

17So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Matthew 6:24-33 (King James Version)

24No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

25Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

26Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?

27Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

28And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:

29And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

30Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?

31Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?

32(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

33But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

If anyone reading gets Channel NRB (it is 378 on our satellite), Ravi Zacharias will be on at 8 PM Central tonight.  Well worth watching, he is unsurpassed as a Christian apologist – even if you don’t believe,
I think you’ll enjoy the intellectual exercise.

If you miss the show, his website is here, with radio schedules and also some podcasts are available there. Enjoy! 🙂

Excerpt from “Doubt and the Vain Search for Certainty” by Alister McGrath:

To believe in God demands an act of faith—as does the decision not to believe in him. Neither is based upon absolute certainty, nor can they be. To accept Jesus demands a leap of faith—but so does the decision to reject him. To accept Christianity demands faith—and so does the decision to reject it. Both rest upon faith, in that nobody can prove with absolute certainty that Jesus is the Son of God, the risen saviour of humanity—just as nobody can prove with absolute certainty that he is not. The decision, whatever it may be, rests upon faith. There is an element of doubt in each case. Every attitude to Jesus—except the decision not to have any attitude at all!—rests upon faith, not certainty. Faith is not belief without proof, but trust without reservations—a trust in a God who has shown himself worthy of that trust. To use a Trinitarian framework: God the Father makes those promises; God the Son confirms them in his words and deeds; and the Holy Spirit reassures us of their reliability, and seals those promises within our heart.

These points are reflected in the American writer Sheldon Vanauken’s account of his mental wrestling before his conversion at Oxford. He found himself caught in a dilemma over the role of proof in faith, which many others have experienced.

“There is a gap between the probable and the proved. How was I to cross it? If I were to stake my whole life on the risen Christ, I wanted proof. I wanted certainty. I wanted to see him eat a bit of fish. I wanted letters of fire across the sky. I got none of these … It was a question of whether I was to accept him—or reject him. My God! There was a gap behind me as well! Perhaps the leap to acceptance was a horrifying gamble—but what of the leap to rejection? There might be no certainty that Christ was God—but, by God, there was no certainty that he was not. This was not to be borne. I could not reject Jesus. There was only one thing to do once I had seen the gap behind me. I turned away from it, and flung myself over the gap towards Jesus.”

There is indeed a leap of faith involved in Christianity—but it is not an irrational leap into the dark. The Christian experience is that of being caught safely by a loving and living God, whose arms await us as we leap. Martin Luther put this rather well: “Faith is a free surrender and a joyous wager on the unseen, untried and unknown goodness of God.”

Read it all here.

Touchstone reports “the death of historian (and Touchstone contributing editor) Elizabeth Fox-Genovese on January 2, 2007 at the age of 65. Author of many books on a dazzling array of subjects, including most recently a massive and definitive study of proslavery ideology coauthored with her husband Eugene Genovese, Betsey also was an adult convert to the Roman Catholic Church, being received in 1995. (Gene soon followed his wife, returning to the church of his youth.), This conversion seemed especially remarkable, at least on the surface, given her former visibility and influence as a lioness of academic Marxism and feminism. But in fact, there was a striking consistency in her life’s pattern, albeit one that runs so completely against the typical academic’s grain as to be unintelligible to those who think in conventional ways.

“She has told the story of her conversion in an article in the April 2000 issue of First Things (where she also was a contributing editor), and a reading of that account is a necessary starting place for assessing the background to her change. But anyone who followed the track of her published work knows that the change was not nearly as great as it might have seemed.”

Excerpts from her story:

“Although as predisposed as any to respect the claims of difference, whether of sex, class, or culture, I increasingly found this moral relativism troubling. It seemed difficult to imagine a world in which each followed his or her personal moral compass, if only because the morality of some was bound, sooner or later, to clash with the morality of others. And without some semblance of a common standard, those clashes were more than likely to end in one or another form of violence.”My more wrenching concerns, however, lay elsewhere. Thinking and writing about abortion had led me to an ever greater appreciation for the claims of life, which were so often buried beneath impassioned defenses of a woman’s right to self–determination, especially her right to sexual freedom. When I began to think seriously about the issue, my commitment to women’s right to develop their talents predisposed me to support the legality of abortion, at least up to a certain point. Even then, I found it impossible not to take seriously the life of the fetus that was being so casually cast aside. The emerging discussions of assisted suicide only intensified my discomfort, as I found myself worrying about one human being deciding whether another’s life is worth living. “How do we know?” I kept asking myself. “How ever can we know?”

“Today, it is easy to see that I was instinctively revolting against a utilitarian or instrumentalist understanding of the value of human life. For I did understand that as soon as we admit as a serious consider–ation whether our obligations to others are inconvenient, the value of any life becomes negotiable. At this point, as you will note, my internal struggles still unfolded within a secular framework, although I fully appreciated that devout Christians and Jews viewed reverence for life in its most vulnerable forms as a divine commandment. Indeed, I was slowly coming to envy the certainty that religious faith afforded, and I began to think seriously about joining a church. At the same time, I knew that no matter how noble and well–intentioned, worldly preoccupations were not an adequate reason for doing so.

“As if barring my path to church membership stood the figure of Jesus Christ. The churches I most respected all required that prospective members affirm their personal faith in Christ as Lord and Savior. I did not question the legitimacy of the requirement, but nothing in my previous life seemed to have prepared me to meet it. To the best of my knowledge, I had no personal experience of religious faith and no real grasp of its nature.”

Be sure to read it all at First Things. I’ve known a couple of people from within acadamia who converted, and they often speak of having “made a decision to live as if it were true” as the beginning of their journey into faith.

“…In the year after 9-11 I was diagnosed with cancer, and I was treated successfully. But during that whole time I read about the future resurrection and that was my real medicine. In the last book of The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee wakes up, thinking everything is lost and discovering instead that all his friends were around him, he cries out: “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead! Is everything sad going to come untrue?”The answer is YES. And the answer of the Bible is YES. If the resurrection is true, then the answer is yes. Everything sad is going TO COME UNTRUE.Oh, I know many of you are saying, “I wish I could believe that.” And guess what? This idea is so potent that you can go forward with that. To even want the resurrection, to love the idea of the resurrection, long for the promise of the resurrection even though you are unsure of it, is strengthening. I John 3:2-3. Beloved, now we are children of God and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope purify themselves as he is pure.” Even to have a hope in this is purifying.

Listen to how Dostoevsky puts it in Brothers Karamazov: “I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, of the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, of all the blood that they’ve shed; and it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify what has happened.”

That is strong and that last sentence is particularly strong…but if the resurrection is true, it’s absolutely right. Amen.”

Read all of this beautiful sermon.