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Spiritual Living

True Faith is a Mystery
Believing by Candlelight
By Leonard Sweet, Ph.D.

Part of the journey from modern to postmodern is coming out of a fluorescent consciousness back into a candlelight faith. The year 1877 is when Edison made the shadows reel with his invention of the electric light. When moderns took it further and installed overhead lighting, the artificial light banished every shadow from the room as ruthlessly as modernity drove mystery from faith. In the words of biologist Richard Dawkins, who is one of the world's leading Darwinists and is himself stuck in the modern paradigm, "The ultimate goal of science is to remove all mystery."

But there is a reason for the shadows. A candlelight consciousness reveres mystery, revels in marvels, avows awe and is not afraid of measured hemmings and hawings. We can cheerlead the most uncheerable because we respect the shadows: we are aware of life's startlements; we find companionship in lilies of light and nimbus shadows; we never know what is lurking in the corners of someone else's life.

A deep spirituality is not afraid to let the mystery shine: the mystery of why a spotted animal can have a striped tail, while a striped animal cannot have a spotted tail; the mystery of why people with weak bladders prefer window seats on airplanes; the mystery of a "love, so amazing, so divine, [it] demands my soul, my life, my all."

"A deep spirituality is not afraid to let the spirit shine..."

Even when my beliefs are at their surest and strongest, I'm full of uncertainty, riddled with the mysterious and crammed with weakness. Protestant Reformer Martin Luther wrote to his friend Justus Jonas, pointing to Paul as an exemplar: "I don't think [Paul] believed as firmly as he talks. I cannot believe as firmly either, as I can talk and write about."

That's why I try not to have convictions. The word convict is the root of that word conviction. Convictions can be prisons that keep you locked into cages and prevent others from getting to you.

I try to have confessions, not convictions. If it isn't anything-outright gospel, I have confessions about it. I am more interested in relational prepositions than in doctrinal propositions. Relational prepositions are words that draw people into/within/among/between/amidst a divine connection. Doctrinal propositions separate people into categories and camps and positions. It's the difference between faith as a set of ideas about Christ to be believed or a relationship with Christ that is lived.

Rather than a dealer in dogmas, why not be a dealer in love?

from Learn to Dance the Soul Salsa by Leonard Sweet, PhD