January 27th, 2007

the-gi het-gi gi-het(heat) get-hi hit-eg

Plagerism is GOOD. Credit Given.

Samuel H. Miller
MAN THE BELIEVER - ABINGDON PRESS Nashville and New York 1968

For John Lord O`Brian
In whose friendship one grows stronger and wiser

PREFACE (pages 7-8)
The eye of the storm in revolutionary eras such as our own is in the region of faith. It may appear calm, but the danger is close at hand. The most intense and intimate contradictions occur there, and to write of them puts heavy strain on one`s integrity of insight, that rare honesty which clings to uncertainty as tenaciously as to certainty. The epigraph which Albert Camus quoted from Hölderin for the French edition of The Rebel expresses this profound irony well: “And openly, I dedicated myself to the grave and suffering earth; and often, in the sacred night, I promised to love it, with its heavy burden of fatality, faithfully and without fear, and to scorn none of its enigmas.” This is where the contrarieties clash as in a storm over the vast sea. This is where the enigmas split the heart asunder and yet in pain elicit man`s love. For to believe is to love.
In a sense, faith is precisely that act of love which takes place without scorning any of the enigmas which thunder and crash about it on every side. To believe without blotting out the sight of tragedy; to believe without ignoring the brutal indifference of the world; to believe without hiding the fragility of faith`s foundation-all this is difficult, to say the least. Surely nothing emasculates the strength of religion in the churches so much as the all too human tendency to make faith seem strong by a wilful blindness to everything which denies it. Believing comes to full power only when it is conscious of its radical questionableness.
In these brief essays, we move into the troubled waters of the human heart much as a small boat moves into the crosscurrents of a riptide. Keeping our head up into the wind, our eye unswerving, will test our strength at many points. We may swerve and clip and twist under the force of honest reflection, or careless handling, or sudden ignorance. Work with the old words of faith under such conditions may appear clumsy and ill fitted for steering precisely and firmly, yet they cannot be discarded gibly. There is still an ancient wisdom, old handholds in their rough shapes, and we can ill afford to lose them. They pointed to great affirmations which we still need amid the violent derangements of our time.
In a region of such intimacy, where insights and understandings are derived from a thousand sources, some hidden, some forgotten, it is rather futile to try to unravel the tangled skeins and follow to their origins all the experiences one owes to others. One can only be grateful that life is so varied, and that grace is so suprising that the multitude of its mercies continue to flow from the common day as if God were still busy-as he is-with the unfinished work of his creation.
I am grateful to the editors of publications in which some of these chapters first appeared, and to the institutions where I was privileged first to speak them. For the work with the many details of the manuscript, I am particularly indebted to my secretary, Mrs. Florine Blanco.


CONTENTS
11 Man the Believer
19 The Blue Guitar
33 The Authentic Self
42 The Gospel of Insecurity
50 Courage to Become
62 Exists Everywhere
74 Burnt-out Case (Gregory Terrance Crockatt`s DOB)
86 O n Hearing the Word
95 On Seeing Miracles
105 Beginning to Believe
118 Faith and the Fear of Reality
130 Three Dots-and Death
141 INDEX

MAN THE BELIEVER

Today the assumption is widespread the be-lieving has fallen on evil days. Modern man has brushed the cobwebs from his mind, cast off ancient illusions, and looks now with honest realism at the world in which he lives. His sophistication is antiseptic, washing everything clean of any superstition or superfluous meaning or religious inference. Science has trained us all to be wary of overtones or exaggerations; we believe only what we can prove-the rest is sheer self-deception. This is the age of unbelief!
There is plenty of evidence to buttress such a position. For a century or more we have heard of the “death of God” in such a chorus of voices philosophical, religious, and literary that only a bishop could have made a bestseller out of the news; and if God is dead, what is there left for a man to believe? Moreover, the great structure of Christian dogma has fallen into ruin during the past three centuries, having been demolished by the sciences through a series of relentless at-tacks on all sides until the only hope of the faith is to cast off its mythological garb and assume an existential pose; so if the grand scheme of Christian truth is no longer valid, what is left for believing? And on top of all that, it is being assumed in many quarters that we have now reached the time when the church is no longer necessary for religion, inas-much as the world has grown up and can read the signs of grace in history without the supporting council of the church-churchless Christianity, it is called, now a popular movement in Japan but with not a few followers in many other places. The stage is swept clean, and we are ready for another act; but what part the believer is to play in it is not plain. He would seem to be little more that a quaint anachronism.

I

That the believer is embarrassed in this modern world is rather obvious. Both the innocence of ritual and the ritual of innocence have been lost in the sharp teeth of our hyper-critical faculties. We have probed and penetrated, observed and analyzed, tabulated facts and gathered data, until it seems that whatever escaped us could be scarcely more than a shadow, perhaps no more than the shadow of our own hands, but certainly nothing real. No one has ever put it more simply that did Freud: If science cannot discover it, it just isn`t there!
Certainly the strain on believing is heavier that ever before. We have pushed the structure of relationships farther in all directions; we understand more than ever before; we will not rest content until we can corner the obscurity, X-ray the darkness, and discern the connections. We are impatient with mystery, sceptical of anything we cannot measure or isolate. All of which means we do not like questions framed in such a way as to make it difficult for us to find answers; we turn the questions around to fit the kind of answers we can find. As for the naïve language of space and power by which we once described God, it leaves us embarrassed now, yet we find no easy substitute. The radical subtlety of re-ligious realities puts a new burden on believing.

II

But these very facts-our clear seeing, our fundamental realism, our sceptical judgement, our loss of innocence and repudiation of credulity, our mature sophistication and refusal to be taken in-all are the very factors which make it increasingly impossible to confuse real believing with its counter-feits. The profoundest belief comes only with the most sophisticated minds. There is no better example of this than Soren Kierkegaard, whose penetrating analysis of the in-adequacy of Hegelian rationalism is accompanied by the most passionate believing. Or, similarly, the astute genius of a Pascal, whose clear distinctions still provide us with profound perspectives. Or even better, the example of Christ Jesus. Here one can only measure the most penetrating scepticism about the contemporary convictions of his day by the amazing simplicity of a profound faith. In our day the very factors that seem to have made this an age of unbelief are those which support the integrity of believing. Believing has be pushed from its false premises to a frontier where the contrast is stronger and the decision clearer.
If we continue to regard belief as a kind of variable, fluctu-ating with age, rising and falling like the tide, the truth is, it seems to me, that we do not understand the situation in regard to man`s believing. Believing is as much an integral factor in man as eating and sleeping. It is intrinsic to his nature. He neither gains nor loses faith; he merely changes the object of it.
Indeed, he believes in the most outrageous things. Under the mixed signes of romanticism and reason he has believed in Utopia, in the French Revolution, and in Brook Farm. Be-lieving is as inevitable as breathing. One way or another he believes, negatively or positively; if not in heaven, then in hell; if not in God, then in fate; then in law; if not in law, then in aimless chance.
Under the charismatic Führer he believed in Aryan su-premecy and the mass extinction of the Jews. He believes in vegetarianism, reincarnation, the existence of people on other planets, ouija boards, infallible scriptures, salvation by psilocybin drugs, free enterprise. There is little or nothing that man, even modern man in all his supposed sophistication, will not believe. Man is simply an inveterate, incurable, inevitable believer. Sometimes what he believes in makes sense, and at other times it does not. No matter: he must believe. And if not in a reality that reason points to, then in a fantasy that his reason will rationalize. Believing is the act by which he relates himself to history, the act of inter-penetration, the act most human whereby he invest himself in the meaning he perceives or imposes on the stream of events which bear him down the stream of time. Nor does he hesitate to “mythologize” science, politics, race, or business.
Indeed, utterly wrong, it seems to me, is the traditional no-tion that man begins his relation to the world and history in reason, and that when reason can carry him no further and he still seeks to extend his experience he relies on faith. Be-lieving is prior to reason; it is fundamental to it and sustains it. Man is basically a believer, and only as he is a believer is he a reasoner.

III

Probably the most radical problem if our time is no0t so much the efforts to demythologize the New Testament as the far-advanced demythologizing of man himself. Those di-mensions of his own being which correspond to the nature of myth in the tradition of faith have been held in contempt and have rapidly fallen into atrophy. Other levels of experi-ence have become so favored, the traffic of idea and activity has become so channelled, the energies have been so attracted and expended in special ways that the larger perspectives and magnitudes of thought and sensibility have been evacuated, and great stretches of roads and towns, once busy with life, are now empty except for the hollow echoes of ghostly memory.
Another way of saying this is to draw attention to the in-teresting way in which the center of believing has moved from the focused center ogf the church to the more generalized area of secular activity in the world. Nowhere is the more in-tensely and blatantly illustrated than in the sphere of politics. Believing, in its most serious sense, which has been associated traditional with heresy and orthodoxy, is no longer bitterly contested in the religious realm; heresy and orthodoxy are not sharply discriminated, and they no longer arouse intense anger or fanaticism in the religious community. But in politics they do: tolerance and humor tend to vanish; angry citizens draw up petitions demanding the dismissal of professors who dare to sponsor a candidate of the opposing political party. As for the conflict with communism there is no limit to either the paranoid suspicion or the fanatic hatred which it has en-gendered. Believing, in the political arena, has become the act of absolute judgement, of heresy and orthodoxy, of demonic fears and inquisitional ethics. Read in the list of older events in ages of absolutism, the political trials, confessions, and manipulations take on an entirely new aspect; all the symp-toms and syndromes are there but inder political signs. Be-lieving has become secularized, or politicalized. It has its own mysterium tremendum, its own numinous aura, its own sanc-tity and blasphemy.
There is a great mystery in man the believer. He does not so much believe when the way is open and made easy. It is only in the pinches, when life forces him against the wall, when all the odds are against him, when there is no reason at all to believe, that he does believe. He believes when every-thing is against belief. One is reminded of Camus` remark about the existentialists. “It is strange,” he says, “that works like those of Kafka, Kierkegaard, and Chestov…completely oriented toward the Absurd and its consequences-should in the long run lead to that tremendous cry of hope.” Call it hope if you will; it is faith, too. It is the cry which evinces man`s freedom, his reach beyond despair, his believing-the sign and gesture of transcendent reality in himself. Man simply cannot submit to the Absurd as the final dimension in reality; his own voice utters a word beyond the Absurd-a word of mystery, to be sure; of a dignity always; and in truth the celebration of a joy that reverberates through the silences of sea and sky until creation itself gathers new meaning. Man the believer is the second Adam who discovers in Christ the positive reach of the atonement, in which the highest and the lowest, the sublime and the common, the ultimate peace and the deeper suffering are all brought together.
Man becomes believer in the exercise of his freedom. But this is an onerous and weighty burden, if it is accepted critical-ly and creatively. It means that man must stand at the edge of uncertainty, where the dark dims the sureness of his sight, and he must still find a solid stone for a forward step. It means that a man must do more than add this to thing in a precarious pile, but find a way to fit them together with a sense of their inherent design and interrelatedness. It means that man must put himself in the large, unwieldy formula and find a destiny that does not wilfully destroy or wickedly distort the other factors in the situation. It means the risk of affirmation, the sacrifice of clarity, the need of criticism, the anguish of failure, the terror of delusion, the dread of ridicule, the threat of error, the deceit of appearances. But it also means the possibility of a larger truth, the epiphany of reality, the reward of wisdom.
To be sure, man the believer has no ground to stand on, strictly speaking. No ground to stand on, and in the bargain his believing is light as air, spun like a web without weight, a net of gossamer threads binding this and that and a thousand things distant and dim, dusty and dumb, together. His believing is like his freedom; indeed, his freedom is the reason for believing. It is the open door, the invitation to share in the fulfillment of existence, the chance to lure reality within reach. It is the act by which man proves himself human, daring to stretch the stubborn contradictions of existence until the make sense.
In our time believing has become fanatical and neurotic, largely because it has been set over against the pretensions of reason and the spurious claims of overconfident science. Be-lief is reason itself moving in a larger perspective than logic or arguable truth. It is the effect of a confident and promising relationship with reality. It is, in short, essential to the develop-ment of man`s full nature and a necessary requirement for the unrestricted disclosure of reality.