Brian’s Reflection: Friday, August 12, 2011
Faith is not belief.
Belief is passive.
Faith is active.
Edith Hamilton, classisist, mythologist;
she was born on this date, 1867.
I think that Edith Hamilton got my imaginative life (and therefore what I think of as my “real” life) going. I was quite young when I read “The Greek Way”, “The Roman Way”, and “Mythology”. Though I did read “Peyton Place” under the covers with a flashlight, I was more likely to be reading Hamilton. And I think I will start reading all three again. (I’ve just downloaded “The Greek Way” to my ipad.)
Hamilton is, I believe, correct. “Faith is not Belief.” I’ve been a priest for nearly 40 years. For most of those years I have detested the Nicene Creed barging it’s way into the Sacred Liturgy. I have always thought of the Liturgy (the Holy Eucharist) as a great mythological poem weaving us into the life of the great Mystery we call God, enlivening us as part of the whole matrix of Being, and shaping us into active living epiphanies of Divine Love. The Nicene (or Apostles’) Creed, with its beginning “I/we believe”, always seemed to me an intrusion of politics, proclaiming our club membership and ensuring our loyalty to a 4th C definition of the institution of the “Church” (a definition I always find suffocatingly narrow and dry).
Not only is Faith active rather than passive, it is dynamic. It changes and grows, and pushes, entices us to grow and change as well. “Belief” seems to me designed to fixate us forever in one dead place. To my mind, this is particularly evident in World religion today. Belief is often exclusive; Faith is inclusive.
The “Hellenization” of the Christian story is often decried. Personally I give thanks for Paul of Tarsus’s Greek grounding, and his faith in the universal Mythic Christ. It lifts us Christians into unity with the eternal God in whom all human beings find our Glory.