Open Faith, Take 2

A few days ago, I asked the following:

How do you understand “open faith”? Is it the same for everyone? What must it involve? What must it not involve?

Not surprisingly, I didn’t get any responses. For one, it was just a few days before Christmas and I know how busy the holidays are. Also, it’s a tough question to answer “off the cuff.” So, I thought I’d try to spark the conversation again with my initial thoughts on “open faith.”

As I said before, this is a tough question. I have spent a lot of time thinking about it and keep coming back to a picture that my wife took while we were on a date in downtown Charlotte a year or so ago.

While I certainly think that an “open faith” should be accepting of all and should be more concerned with people than with doctrinal statements, this picture represents, for me at least, a large aspect of what it means for me to have an “open faith.”



7 thoughts on “Open Faith, Take 2

  1. Religion deals with morality, which is based on the notion of objective truth and reality. If you accept all explanations of truth and reality even though they conflict, you must leave objective reality behind for the convenience of subjective reality. However, man is wholly inadequate to explain his entire existence. If you question that conclusion, ask 10 people to explain their purpose and meaning for existence, and you’ll get 10 different answers.

    You prefer to comfort yourself in inclusiveness, but your belief is filled with contradictions. Truth is exclusive by nature. There are no conflicting truths, just lies. If we are to find truth and hold what we find to be accurate, we must do it to the exclusion of all other ideas held while judging them to be wrong.

    1. My issue with your stance on objective truth is not that you think “truth is exclusive by nature,” though we do disagree on the necessity of that. The issue I have is that there is no room in your view for the potential that you may be wrong. To be sure, I believe what I believe whole-heartedly, but I leave open the possibility that I may not have it all right.

      Further, how exactly is my belief filled with contradictions?

  2. Speaking for myself, there is plenty that I’m willing to “give” on. Beliefs must be challenged in order to obtain a more accurate understanding of reality. A belief that can’t stand scrutiny is one that isn’t worth having. And the truths I have come to accept, I hold to the exclusion of all other opposing views because they have to proven to me personally. However, I disagree with acceptance of other views of reality, secular or religious, that are radically different and contradict each other. Acceptance of cognitive dissonance is no path to truth. Here is an example of opposing beliefs that cannot be reconciled with each other:

    “two religions could [not] differ more radically in their metaphysics than Judaism and
    Hinduism. That which Hinduism claimed to be the ultimate illusion and the ultimate obstacle to wisdom and enlightenment was precisely that which Judaism claimed to be ultimate reality and supreme wisdom. If a Jew said to his rabbi, “I just discovered that I’m God,” the rabbi would rend his clothes and cry, “Blasphemy! Insanity! Arrogance! Idiocy!” But if a Hindu said that to his guru, the guru would smile and say, “Congratulations. You finally found out. Welcome to the ranks of the enlightened.”

    – Peter Kreeft

    1. “A belief that can’t stand scrutiny is one that isn’t worth having.” This is a point on which we whole-heartedly agree. I took this position in college and have since disregarded many things that I believed prior to that and added things I did not believe prior.

      Further, it seems that you are arguing for Absolute Truth, but your statements sound rather relativistic to me: “And the truths I have come to accept, I hold to the exclusion of all other opposing views because they have to proven to me personally.” So, is your point just that as long as something has been proven to be personally that it doesn’t really matter what it is as long as I hold it to the exclusion of “opposing” views? Where does a universalist fit in here, in your understanding? As I see it, a universalist believes that all go to heaven, no matter their beliefs or lack thereof. Further, their belief is certainly opposed to many other beliefs, but their belief also necessarily encompasses those that believe differently, maintaining at the core that belief doesn’t actually matter. The same could be said of one who asserts that orthopraxy is to be favored over orthodoxy. That is, everyone who does the right things (lives a good, moral life for instance) will be saved, not people who believe the right things. This, then, gets at your earlier point that morality is “based on the notion of objective truth and reality,” but that is not necessarily so. As we study the history of humanity and watch societies and cultures change we see morality change with them. That which was considered moral in a Polynesian chiefdom is not necessarily considered moral today. Thus, while those holding to certain standards or morality may think that their standards of morality are based on “objective truth and reality” it is apparent that they are actually based on other factors, such as economics, politics, power struggles, etc.

      Finally, the quote in the picture does not say that I think all religions are “right.” It simply says that I am uncomfortable judging their worthiness. It is a statement of humility.

  3. Paul had something to say about this in Romans 14.

    While many folks use the passage to urge parishioners not to curse or drink in front of ‘weaker’ Christians, it’s a much more rich and interesting passage.

    Effectively, Paul undermines our self-assurances of our own positions (in this case meat-eaters vs kosher vegetarians but applicable to a wider audience as scripture is ought to do) and reminds us that it is very presumptive to hand down verdicts on God’s behalf.

    14:17… “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.”

    I’ll follow Jesus and be a passerby when it comes to handing down verdicts about objective truths.


  4. First you take issue with an alleged rigid view. And I quote: “The issue I have is that there is no room in your view for the potential that you may be wrong.” Then you complain that I’m being relativistic. And I quote: “your statements sound rather relativistic to me:” On both accounts, you view me in the extreme.

    When you ask me where the universalist fits in, to me, you are asking a similar question comparable to the “open faith” question. Acceptance of conflicting truths seems to be part of the “open faith” concept and the universalist concept. I appeal to the laws of logic, rationality, and intellectualism. A duck can’t be a brick. Neither can love be hate. You cannot be me, and I can’t occupy the same space that you occupy. Why should we take an un-intellectual, illogical, and irrational approach to religion or faith? We are already ridiculed for truths we believe and hold staunchly. To surrender logical ground at this point in time, or any point in time, only discredits what we say. (Alas, we have already given up ground many times before.) Some truths must be held to with conviciton and vigor. These are the truths that change our lives completely, the ones that give us a greater understanding of reality, God, and salvation. Issues that are part of tradition, or ceremony, or borne out of fear (like the ones Sam talks about) should be thoroughly argued and be kept with the knowledge that we might be wrong. If you understand the difference, good. Hold fast some things, and loosely hold others. But, don’t enter into a faith or religion that holds no concrete definition. When something can be everything and nothing all at the same time, it is empty, void, meaningless and can only provide empty, void, and meaningless ways of life to people who don’t want to think for themselves or make unpopular decisions.

    1. Again, we agree on some points, but not on others. I was pointing out the apparent relativism to show that your belief too could contain contradictions.

      Further, you claim to “appeal to the laws of logic, rationality, and intellectualism,” yet you believe that what the men who had the power over a few hundred years wrote down in what we today call the Bible encompasses a complete understanding of God and that they in no way could have simply misunderstood God or could have outright fashioned a God that fit their needs the best. I highly value logic, rationality, and intellectualism, but I am also honest about its limits. I do not claim to be a fully logical, rational, and intellectual person because that would preclude faith in any divine being. So, lecturing me on the lack of logic in my belief while maintaining belief that is not logically or rationally honest is at best misguided and at worst hypocritical.

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