Last Sunday we had a wonderful service in church with a baptism. The parents and Godparents stood and affirmed their faith and trust in Jesus. Then the whole church stood to affirm with them the Christian faith. This ended with the wonderful words "we believe and trust in one God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit."
It is a funny word "believe" isn't it? I've said it to one of my children, standing in a swimming pool, teaching them how to dive. "I believe you can do it" i said, despite all previous evidence demonstrating they couldn't, which is why my encouragement was needed. I've said to another "I believe it's that way" when slightly lost half way down a mountain but hoping that I was right and they would take confidence from my certainty.
Is that what belief in God is? Doggedly holding on to some belief when all the evidence points to the contrary? Or perhaps, when we're unsure where life is taking us, just holding on to something, on the basis that one way is as good as another and you just have to follow it to the end to find out?
Like many of you I also read blogs, and I was in intrigued by the title of one I saw earlier this week. It was called "I believe in breadboards." I was intrigued. It was written by a Professor of Physics from the University of Oxford, who often writes on faith and science. This is how he starts off:
As anyone who has done it will know, one of the standard experiences of the holiday house is the search of the kitchen for the items you need at mealtime. This year I was looking for a breadboard. You know: a flat wooden board on which to cut a loaf of bread. There did not appear to be one. But there were two marble boards which were plainly cutting boards. I then made a remark to my dear companion and wife Emma, I said,
“I think maybe the owners don’t believe in breadboards”.
This turn of phrase came quite naturally to me. It is a way of speaking that has been common in english for a long time, though it is less prevalent now. As I say, this way of speaking has a long history and it is not about abstract questions of existence. It is about practical questions of usefulness. If someone says:
“I believe in breadboards”
it does not mean
“there is some doubt as to the reality of breadboards, but I think they are real.”
What it means is:
“I think breadboards are useful; I think they help; they are a Good Thing.”
If someone says:
“I don’t believe in breadboards”
“I don’t think we need breadboards; they don’t help; we can cut bread another way.”
I am interested in this way of speaking because I am interested in what is going on when Christians recite, as many do, the summary statements called creeds, which mostly begin with the phrase “I (or we) believe in God, the Father almighty, creator …”.
Intrigued? It's a really good blog that is thoughtful and insightful. Have a look at it here.