The Foundation of Faith

The foundation of my approach to faith, to spiritual truth, to “that which is beyond,” is to say there is no foundation. There is no foundation to faith, spiritual truth, or to “that which is beyond.” There is no basis of “belief.” No authoritative “ground” upon which the edifice is built. The edifice is built right out of the air, on the air! Which is true of every religious/spiritual edifice that was ever built, but this is one of the few places where it is declared to be so.

The foundation of faith is nothing. It is faith for no reason. We trust ourselves to our concept of reality, to our understanding of how things are, because our concept, our understanding, is as trustworthy as any concept, as any understanding. We trust ourselves to ourselves, to one another, and to our future.

There is no reliable system of beliefs—no dependable set of doctrines—no authoritative formulation regarding the unknowable who, what, when, where, why, and how. There is no objectively verifiable way of determining what the deal really is, or if there is a deal at all. We don’t know what it’s all about. We make it up, right out of our imagination. We decide what makes sense to us, and we live on the basis of it, even as we revise it in light of evolving, emerging, experience, information, reflection and realization. We live toward that which makes sense, that which works, even as we re-frame it, reformulate it, rework it.

What makes sense to me is to say that we are to live together in ways that are helpful, in ways that endeavor to merge the best interest of the individual with the best interest of the group, of the community—to live together in ways that serve the idea that what is good for one is good for all, and what is good for all is good for one.

How can we live together in ways that support the individual and the community? How can we help each other, and all others, find what we need to do what needs to be done in the here and now of our lives? What is helpful? How do we know? Where do we draw the line? Some kind of help is helpful, and some is not. All we have to do is figure out which is which, and go with the former while avoiding the latter.

Another way of formulating this approach is to say, “What’s good for you is good for me. And what is good for me is good for you.” My best interest is served when your best interest is served, and vice versa. When we live in a community in which the best interest of the individual is served, we all have a better chance of having our best interest served than when we live in a community in which individuals disappear in a collective that does not care about them, or in one where individuals are pitted against individuals in an eternal fight for the “biggest piece of the pie,” and more for me means less for you (and vice versa).

In a community that lives to answer the question, “What is in our best interest as individuals, and as a community?” the size of our piece of the pie is irrelevant. We are not out to have more than the next person. Our value does not depend upon the amount of stuff we have, or upon the size of our income, or upon any of the ways that society currently ranks its members. In the right kind of community, our worth does not flow from our net worth. In the right kind of community, we live to help one another in light of what is helpful to the community as a whole, and we live to serve what is helpful to the community as a whole in light of what is helpful to each individual within the community. Our work is that of imagining, and becoming, the right kind of community—the right kind of place for everyone to be.

The path is living together in ways that are good for—in ways that are helpful to—the individual and the community. There will likely be aspects of that path that sound like something the Quakers are doing, or like something Gandhi did. Jesus walked a path that was labeled blasphemous, heretical, and satanic by his detractors. Some paths are like that. We cannot worry about the labels. Our focus is how to live together in ways that are good, in ways that serve the interest of the individual and the community.

What is good for the individual may, or may not, be good for the community, and what is good for the community may, or may not, be good for the individual. Our focus is how to live together in ways that make sense to us, and work in terms of serving the good of each person, and of the whole, and exhibiting the best that can be imagined. Our focus is on how to be helpful, on how to live with one another in ways that are good for one another and for the whole.

What is good is good in the eyes of the people over time. The good, like truth, will shine through, will stand out, will become obvious in time. The good, like wisdom, is vindicated, justified, by her children, and sometimes by her grandchildren. In the moment of our living, we live toward the best we can imagine, toward the good we perceive to be good, and see where it goes. Perhaps we are wrong. If it becomes evident that we are, the task is still the same task, to live toward what we perceive to be good in that moment, and see where it goes.

We have to be true to ourselves, to our vision of what counts, matters, makes a difference—to our idea of what is truly important—an idea that is continually being revisited and revised in light of experience. The foundation is our vision, our sense of what is worth our life, and our willingness to reexamine it in light of our experience over time. The most important thing is the formulation—and reformulation—of our vision, our sense, of what is important.

Who is to say what is important? We are! We say what is important! No matter who tells us what is important, we accept what they say, or reject it, or say something else instead. We determine for ourselves what is important. It only remains for us to recognize our role and consciously embrace it—and examine it regularly to see if it remains valid over time.

Jesus’ questions to his disciples and to the Pharisees are not emphasized as focusing us on the central matter of what we say when it comes to determining what we will believe and do: “Who do you say that I am?” and “Why don’t you decide for yourselves what is right?”

We are the ones who declare what is worthy of us, and live in light of it. We make it up, right out of out imagination, and revise our estimation in light of our experience. We live toward the best we can imagine, and re-envision the vision in light of what happens. This makes us the foundation of our own lives. We decide what is, and is not, valuable, what is, and is not, worthy of us. We decide where to draw the line.

In order to do what is ours to do, we must talk frankly with one another about what makes sense to us, about what we think is important, about what we think is worth believing, about what we think is good, about what we think is helpful, and how that is all working out in our life. Our perspective is enlarged, expanded, deepened by the conversation, by the shared perspectives of others. In this way, we help one another live in ways that serve the good of all.

Published by jimwdollar

I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing. I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.

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