What Do They Tell Us? Of What Relevance of Can They Be to Us Today?
Every generation has had its own stories, specific to each clan, culture, nation and time. Over the last several hundred years, evidence of such stories has become more widely known.
Perhaps one of the most dramatic and ancient stories is that of Neolithic man, told in cave paintings. In the Mesopotamian area, certain ancient constructions have long been noted, but until recent centuries, they were not closely examined and interpreted in the light of archaeological, linguistic, or literary sciences. That new learning has aided scholars in the translation of cuneiforms and other ancient writing in that area. Archaeological digs have revealed many artifacts relating to life in those ancient times, including materials found at burial sites indicating those things and images that had particular meaning to the individual in that culture, such as tools, gods, goddesses, and other figurines; things that are surmised to indicate an early expectation of transition from decaying physical life to a future life.
In the last century the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, together with many other ancient texts preserved in whole or in part. Literary criticism was applied to determine the relationship of such documents to the documents that we now consider authentic, for example, indicating that the Bible didn’t just drop directly out of the sky from God to us.
Scientific inquiry has revealed to us that one of the smallest living things, a virus, adapts to new circumstances by evolving. Archaeological discoveries of ancient life, such as mammoths that do not exist today, have similarities to life forms that we find today. Large earthmoving machines used in the construction of highways, for example, reveal not only stratification of the Earth’s upper crust, but often also reveal skeletons, artifacts and other evidences of life long ago.
That leaves the faithful Christian, for example, with questions concerning how these discoveries, this learning, impact our understanding of present life and of the authority of books and documents upon which our faith has been established. There are several possible responses. Among them are to deny the validity of those new discoveries; to admit they exist, but attribute them to some form of subterfuge, perhaps Satan’s ingenious devices to lead us astray; to accommodate that which we have learned with that upon which we rely as authoritative, such as the Bible, so that we can retain our faith without the threat of new learning; to allow ourselves to be enriched by the learning, which necessarily means to grow our faith and beliefs with the confidence that our faith is richer for it, deeper, and more interconnected with others; to use that knowledge to attack the faith of others and to support the superiority of our own; or even to discard all faith as though it were destroyed by science, leaving the individual with either agnosticism or atheism.
If one allows one’s faith to change, to grow, what difference does it actually make in our living? Are we the product of our physical environment, of our genetic inheritance? If these things are mere influences, to what degree can we choose to nourish one or an array of what we perceive to be positive elements and minimize those that we perceive to be negative or threatening? If we believe that God has a plan for us, imposed upon us, what impact will that new knowledge have on the way we live? If we believe we are mere automatons, will we act in any way other than reactionary? If we believe that we can choose to be whatever we choose to be, and we can get whatever we choose to get, without regard to others, how will that impact our living?
As I consider these questions, two prior postings come to mind:
- Eric Fromm’s definition of religion and its function holds that a vital faith is necessary to a mentally healthy, functional individual: religion is that which gives one a sense of orientation and an object of devotion.
- The American Indian story of the two wolves fighting within each one of us. “Which one wins, Grampa?” “The one that you feed.”
Eric Fromm addresses the function of religion in an emotionally healthy individual. I am also aware that such a commitment to a functionally solid sense of orientation and an object of devotion, requires faith. Faith is uniquely, intensely personal. If I am going to discuss faith, it must be in a sense of sharing, not of conversion. I intend to respect the faith of each person who may read this blog, and to share my own, not in battle, nor for purposes of conquest, but to enrich and deepen the faith of all.
That is my intention. That is my conviction.
The divine, the transcendent is revealed throughout the world.
Would you please share your own faith story?