The Many Languages of Faith

Christianity is the faith-language we use here in encountering the Divine, but there are many such languages. It would be nice if there was a single, simple answer, but faith never provides a single answer, let alone a simple one – how could you have such an answer with an infinite God? You can’t write a symphony with a single note, and God’s Creation is far more complex, extensive and wonderful than any symphony! Our faith-language, combined with many others, are sung by the great choir that extols the greatness, diversity and immensity of an infinite and loving God, who loves each of us for who we are, just as we are – treasuring the unique and special gift that each of us is – a gift from God to all of Creation.

VT_2007_03_ 015Our faith is like a language, a framework that helps us explore, express and deepen our relationship with the Divine. Everyone has a faith-language, whether we are Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Shamanists … even Atheists (since even non-relationship with the Divine is still a type of relationship).

We use this framework to understand and express our faith. It shapes how we look at the world around us: how we see our relationships with each other; and how we interact with each other; how we perceive the world is organized, what the purpose of Creation is (if any); and the purpose and limits of our own existence. Our faith-language is a lens we use all the time – not just in encountering the Divine, but in dealing with the everyday realities of life.

Our own faith language is Christianity. How we experience and express our faith is influenced by our familial roots, education, relationships and life experiences, the choices we’ve made in life, and many other factors. They all affect how we see and express the relationship we have with God and our relationships with each other. These relationships and experiences are uniquely ours, never to be repeated.

We all have a unique relationship with the Divine because our faith tells us that God values and loves us as and because we are unique and distinct individuals.  The faith-language share binds us together as a community in relationship with each other, and with God.

And, Christianity works well for us (I hope!): we are familiar with it. It is part of the “cultural wallpaper” of our lives. It’s a tool that we constantly use throughout our lives: developing, strengthening and exploring our relationships with each other and with God. But, that does not mean that Christianity is the only faith-language for everyone, or even anyone, else. In fact, it can’t be.

Continue reading “The Many Languages of Faith”

The Languages of the Eternal

Our Faith is a language: the language we use to explain and explore our relationship with the Eternal.

What’s both wonderful and  annoying about being a Divinity Student is that you are always thinking: thinking about the next paper, this morning’s lecture, conversations in the cafeteria, email exchanges with friends, etc.  It is a constant learning experience, both inside the classroom, and outside.

You are (or at least I am) always ruminating upon the implications of the things we are learning.  I am always seeking to tie my latest revelations into that tapestry that is the sum of what I’ve learned to date in the long and rather meandering path I’ve taken through life.  I also love to write and to discuss these thoughts with others. So, voila, time for a blog.

My viewpoint from a pastoral / theological point of view is this: that our faith is for each of us like a language.  It is a language that helps us explore and express our relationship with the eternal.  Everyone has such a language, whether we are a Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Atheist, Shamanist or we (as our Australian Aboriginal cousins do) walk in the Dreaming.

Our Faith is a language: the language we use to explain and explore our relationship with the Eternal.  A major interest of mine has always been to learn more about our own “eternal language” and those of others.

The “eternal language” I use to explore my own relationship with the eternal, with God if you will, is Christianity.  That I am a Christian is in large part due to the confluence of my origins as a child born and raised in the Reformed Protestant tradition, my deep familial roots in New England, my education, and the choices I’ve made in life up to this point.  Christianity works for me.  I am familiar with it.  It is part of the “cultural wallpaper” of my life, and I find that the concepts it embraces and expresses are excellent and familiar tools as I explore and learn more about my relationship with God.  This does not mean that I feel Christianity is the right “eternal language” for everyone, or even anyone, else.

When meeting speakers of languages like German, Spanish, Tagalog or Warlpiri, we do not condemn such people for not speaking English.  (At least, I do not!)  We (hopefully) recognize that their language is an integral part of who they are, how they view the world, and how they relate to the culture in which they were born and (probably) still live.  Their language helps define who they are and their place in this everyday world we both share.

Similarly, one’s faith defines one’s understanding of who we are and where we stand in relationship to the issues of eternity.  Faith answers questions like “Why are we here?” and “Where do we go when we die?”  Faith is the language we use to explore the eternal world, it also shapes our view of that eternal world, shapes our relationship with it, and is how we communicate our views on such issues when talking with others about them.

Therefore, every Faith has value.  Every one provides a viewpoint on issues of eternity – a viewpoint that can be a new perspective that helps us more fully understand both our own faith and how we relate to eternity.  So, I am always looking to learn about the faiths of others, so that I can more fully appreciate where they stand, and because I find that learning more about their faiths enriches my understanding and appreciation of my own.

Our faiths are the sum of the millenias-old legacy of thought and belief that has been passed down to us.  What I find both interesting and distressing about this is how so many of us (including myself) are often ignorant of that legacy.  In that ignorance, we often do not think-through the implications of what we believe, whether the reasons for a particular belief we have has relevance any more, or how our beliefs impact, or are viewed-by, others.

My goal in this blog is to explore Faith both in the general and in the particular: exploring my own views on Christianity and how it relates to my day to day experiences in this world, and reaching across the boundaries to explore the faiths of others.  I also hope to help both myself (and you) better understand other faiths and how their understanding of the eternal can shed light on our own understanding.

This blog is therefore an exploration and a learning experience.  I am glad that you have taken the time to journey on at least part of this path with me, hope you’ll share your own thoughts as we go along.

Copyright (c) 2009, Allen Vander Meulen III, all rights reserved.  I’m happy to share my writings with you, as long as you are not seeking (or getting) financial benefit for doing so, and as long as proper credit for my authorship is given (via a credit that mentions my name or provides a link back to this site).

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