From Lightning out of Heaven by Terryl Givens
seem born with faith. And many people die with a full complement.
own grandmother spent her last months pining for death because she was
the last of her generation, she “missed her people” to an excruciating
degree, and she grew more and more disconnected from a world she saw as
simply irrelevant. Faith did not seem a choice for her. It descended
upon her as naturally and irresistibly and encompassingly as the heavy
snowfalls on her upstate New York farm.
But such a gift I have not found to be common. And it would seem that
among those who are committed to the scholarly pursuit of knowledge and
rational inquiry, faith is as often a casualty as it is a product.
call to faith is a summons to engage the heart... with principles and values and ideals that we devoutly hope
are true and have reasonable, but not certain, grounds for believing to
I am convinced that there must be grounds for doubt as well as
belief in order to render the choice more truly a choice, and,
therefore, the more deliberate and laden with personal vulnerability and
The option to believe must appear on one’s personal horizon
like the fruit of paradise, perched precariously between sets of
demands held in dynamic tension.
We are... always provided with sufficient materials out
of which to fashion a life of credible conviction or dismissive denial.
We are acted upon... by appeals to our personal values,
our yearnings, our fears, our appetites, and our ego.
What we choose to
embrace, to be responsive to, is the purest reflection of who we are and
what we love.
That is why faith, the choice to believe, is in the final
analysis an action that is positively laden with moral significance.
Men and women are confronted with a world in which there are appealing
arguments for God as a childish projection...
But there is also compelling evidence that a glorious
divinity presides over the cosmos...
There is something to tip the scale, however.
something to predispose us to a life of faith or a life of unbelief.
There is a heart that in these conditions of equilibrium and balance—and
only in these conditions of equilibrium and balance, ... is truly free to choose belief or
cynicism, faith or faithlessness.
It is possible for someone to remain in a state of agnostic balance - poised between belief and unbelief, unable or unwilling to choose - for a long time: for years, decades, until overtaken by death...
This is better than embracing the secular mainstream of hedonic nihilism, but is seriously deficient, because it is to commit to weakness - because it is to reject any possibility of spiritual progress.
Certainty may come after choosing, but certainty does not compel choice - not in this world.
To wait for certainty before choosing faith is therefore a significant and substantial moral defect - itself a negative decision in the face of the human condition.
To fail to choose is a failure to engage the heart: it is a failure which is both self-revealing and self-defining.