Sunrise Magazine Online

Fanning the Fires of Faith [image]

By Kurt Reineman

In the Fallbrook Enterprise, a weekly newspaper published in a Southern California community, there appeared the following editorial:

Four Old Faiths
A Southern railroad has been carrying on a regional advertising program of a very unusual nature. The advertisements say nothing about the railroad, and make no attempt whatsoever to attract business. They are totally non-commercial. They are built around these four ideals:
Faith in God; Faith in Ourselves; Faith in Our Fellowmen; Faith in Freedom.
These are old ideals, you may say. They represent copybook maxims. They are neither novel nor startling. They don't involve a new and revolutionary approach to the way we live as individuals and as members of society. All that is true — for these ideals are as old as Christianity, and they have met every challenge that the centuries of recorded history could offer.
The blackest and cruelest periods the world has known have occurred when nations have scoffed at these ideals and abandoned them. Wars, oppression, reigns of terror, the enslavement of people, the destruction of the most fundamental human liberties, the degradation of the individual — all have followed. And our own era, advanced as we may consider ourselves, is no different from those of the past. When we stray from the ancient faiths, we imperil all that is best in civilization, all the finest achievements of mankind.
Today this nation is the leader of the forces of freedom in the bitter conflict with the forces which would enslave the world, subject us all to merciless, all-powerful government, and bring on another dark age. If we are to survive victoriously in that contest, we must never forget the old faiths, the old ideals.

What is faith? What did the term originally convey some two thousand years ago when the foundations of Christianity were laid? What was that mysterious spiritual power which, acting on the physical bodies of the men and women who came to Jesus for help, often "miraculously" healed them — when He said to them: "Thy faith hath made thee whole"?

In those days the Greek word pistis — later to be translated as fides in the Latin Vulgate, and subsequently as faith in the English re-translation — surely signified something far more deep-seated than mere belief. Did it not stand, not so much for an intellectual acceptance of an idea or set of ideas, as for a fundamental realization of deep, abiding trust and confidence — something that perhaps would be more correctly expressed by the term "I know" as against "I believe"?

Probably the most striking example of faith of this type is to be found in a child towards its parents. Here is no room for doubt, fear or worry. Its parents stand to the child somewhat in the relationship of a "god," in the sense of a superior, apparently all-wise and all-loving being who is worthy of full trust and confidence, worthy indeed of complete "faith."

The adult human being who succeeds in attaining and maintaining, in the spiritual sense, a corresponding relationship toward his "Father in Heaven," discovers within himself a central haven of refuge which the storms of life can never reach. More than that: such a person finds himself becoming a channel for the outflow of divine influences which bring a blessing to everyone that he contacts.

All too often we find that what we call our "faith" is nothing but a part of the mask of respectability that we all habitually wear, like the mores of daily social behavior, or the code of ethics of business. Such a "faith" is like a tree with shallow roots, which under the stress of human existence gives way and crashes down. A far cry indeed from the faith which in all times and circumstances has served as a "rock of ages" — ein fester Burg, "our refuge and our strength."

In his inspiring book A Faith for Tough Times, Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick points up a fact, often overlooked or even denied by unthinking people, to the effect that man's truly spiritual experiences are fully as real and, indeed, quite as capable of proof as are his experiences of the material universe. The complete faith of the research worker in the truth of accepted scientific principles; his certainty of the validity of known laws governing the universe — these have their counterpart in the faith of the scientist who weighs and tests the evidence he obtains of the existence of the non-material universe and of the laws that govern it. It is through actual experience that he, too, arrives at conviction, trust, confidence; in other words, at that faith — pistis — ; which wells up from the depths of his own being as truly an inner knowledge.

Jesus' oft-expressed feeling toward the "Father" is the exemplification of unshakable trust in the divine love and a perfect confidence in the divine wisdom: "I and the Father are one; he who hath seen me hath seen the Father."

But what of the four expressions of faith set forth in the Enterprise? How do we measure up to them?

Faith in God: Whatever type of religion a man professes, recognition of Deity as the ultimate First Cause is usually the fount and origin of his faith. If there is one point where all of us can safely agree in placing our trust, it surely is just here. Faith in God is a natural faith, one that flows like the unfailing waters of an artesian well out of the very depths of man's being. How seldom, alas, can we say with the utter sincerity of Jesus: "Not my will, but Thine be done!" When at times we do rise to the higher levels of our possibilities, how rarely do we realize that it is not we but "the Father who doeth the work"! Fearful of losing something that we cherish, we are ever loath fully to live up to the implications of our faith. Why can we not see that it is precisely in the full acceptance of the guidance of the divine will, that man not only does his highest duty, but finds also the most complete fulfillment of his own individual needs as an evolving son of the Most High?

Faith in Ourselves: Does not this imply a similar trust in the divine spark that resides at the core of our being, of which our human self is the child? Is it not the natural, unspoiled feeling that every "son of Man" has for its divinely-origined "Father," its own essential Self?

It must have been in recognition of this sacred relationship that Socrates prayed: "This day may the inner man and the outer be as one." A prayer that every thought and act would mirror forth the influence of the inner, divine essence — of the Logos, the "Word" in our heart. It was this noble concept that made the ancient Greek philosophers seek ever to express, in all that they felt, thought or said, "the Good, the Beautiful and the True" — and, above all, the Sublime.

Faith in Our Fellow Man: Once a man has faith in himself, it follows naturally that he will have faith in his brother. Realizing that both alike are toiling upward on the long path of evolution, he will not expect anything like perfection. To take into account human limitations in ourselves enables us to exercise our faith in others with wisdom and prudence; and the more completely we hold to this rational faith, the more do we find our faith justified by other men's treatment of us. The situation here parallels that of the physical scientist who, realizing that he lives immersed in a universe of matter which he is able to contact only within certain limits, nevertheless finds by experimentation, by actual experience, that this same universe runs so in accord with immutable law that he knows he can have faith in its unerring operation. So too does experience in the spiritual relationships prove to us that therein lies a reality worthy of a man's complete trust and confidence — a realm about whose real existence and operations he can say, quite as truthfully as can the scientist: "This I know."

Faith in Freedom: Any freedom worthy of the name pertains equally to all men. "Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves and, under God, cannot long retain it," as Abraham Lincoln put it. A point of view of fundamental importance. Freedom is a positive state of being, a condition wherein men are left free to pursue certain greatly-to-be-desired goals. As a German philosopher has pointed out, men need always to be free for something and not merely free from given limitations.

John Foster Dulles, in a timely message to the National Council of Churches in Denver, Colorado, declared that "our people are not imbued with the righteous and dynamic faith which gives them a sense of mission and purpose. . . . The essential need is to recreate that." When we speak of "faith in freedom," we mean faith in free men and in those institutions that make men free. This faith reposes in the very opposite of all that makes for regimentation of the individual. Whatever deliberately fosters ignorance and blind obedience is the enemy of that faith.

"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." The present time demands of our capacity for faith the utmost of which it is capable; for in the last analysis not even the ghastly, overwhelming power locked within the hydrogen bomb can give us the victory in this unsought struggle for men's minds and hearts and souls. That victory can come only through the impact on human minds and hearts of the spiritual forces generated by the faith of free men everywhere.

All of which boils down to the simple truth that we must rekindle the fires of our faith so that knowing the truth, we may find that freedom of the Spirit which is our birthright.

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