“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Confession of faith

In efforts to make a determination of whether an individual is or is not a Christian, people will attempt to determine whether or not an individual has made a "confession of faith." Ostensibly, this confession of faith implies that the individual in question has made statements to the effect that, "Jesus is Lord," or "I believe in Jesus," or something the the effect that "Jesus died for my sins." Each of these affirmations are good and proper. One might indeed infer that those who make such claims are Christians. However, one must also be careful about considering this form of confession as the exclusive manner in which a confession might be made, or even the most appropriate form of confession.

When someone makes a verbal confession, the underlying assumption on the part of those "receiving" the confession is that the requisite understanding of the principles underlying the confession are present. However, unless described specifically, the hearer has little idea of what has been the thought process which has led the confessor to his statement?

For example one might say "Jesus is Lord" in the same manner as someone might say "Dachshund is dog." That is, a dachshund is a kind of a dog, or that although a dachshund is a dog, I don't want a dog. One might also say, "I believe in Jesus" in the same manner as one would sway, "I believe in gravity." In this case, Jesus is some individual in the background of history that I believe existed and was by all accounts a good man. One might even say "Jesus died for my sins" without an understanding of what Jesus did, or what my sins are or mean. The point is that verbal confession although useful, should not be considered the exclusive confessional form.

Might one evidence a faith committment without the typical outward croppings of a reasonably described understanding of faith and the accompanying verbal confession? Obviously if one was unable to speak, she could not tell her story, although perhaps she might be able to tell in written fom. Yet, what if one could not relate one's confession in verbal or written form, due to disability, or other circumstantial reasons?

Imagine one having made the "battlefield confession" and then dying as a result of the enemies skill in marksmanship. A confession would have been made, ostensibly to God, to whom it most importantly must be made, but there was no opportunity for others, other people to have heard the confession.

I know an individual who all her life has been somewhat wishy washy in regards to where she stands in relation to Jesus. Neither I or anyone around her have heard her make the basic confession of faith one might consider essential to being a Christian. That is, no one has heard her say, "Jesus is Lord," or "I believe in Jesus." As she approaches the close of her life she is experiencing compounded disability. In addition to the typical pains of old age (particularly of being in one's late nineties) she has had a broken arm, a broken hip and a broken leg, each separate instances over a two year period. Additionally, she woke one morning to find she was completely blind. Because of these disabilities, she is now experiencing the ignominy of limited freedom in a very controlled environment arranged by her care providers. My most recent memories of her include entering her room, with largely blank walls. Only the hospital type of curtains provide some semblance of privacy. Additionally, only the clothes on her back and a tin of peppermints reflect a life which until recently was filled with typical posessions. Interactions with her range from borderline hysteria and paranoia, "You are all trying to make me out to be crazy. No matter what I say, you will turn it around,", to clear, intelligent and engaging discussion, to crawling around on the floor of her room in search of her cane (which due to her disability she couldn't use should she find it).

In the midst of these interactions there are times when she lies on her bed and sobs saying, "God, why are you doing this to me? What have I done that was so wrong that you are doing this to me?"

The question that might be asked, is whether these pleas are a reasoned affirmation of faith? Also, what is a more reasoned affirmation of faith? That of the "reasoned" thinker who says the correct words, or that of the desparate person in their last days of life, calling out to "God," if only with questions. The question of which is the more reasoned is perhaps the wrong question. Perhaps it is better to ask what are indications of a real faith in God? I am glad I am able to leave it in his hands.

McNair (Happy 17th birthday Amy!)

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