I found Carl McColman’s great Website of Unknowing last week, and something really wonderful he was saying about belief attracted my attention immediately. Carl was quoting from his first book, Spirituality:
[the word Belief] stems from an Indo-European word, lubh-, which means “to hold dear” or “to like.” … the same ancient root from which love originates. This connection between belief and love suggests that belief has something to do with being in relationship. To believe means to trust and to love. To believe in the Sacred means to love the Sacred — and to be the Sacred’s beloved. To believe in God means to trust, depend on, and rely on God. Belief is not a matter of certainty or lack of doubt. Belief is a matter of emotional openness. Belief grows out of such characteristics of spirituality as willingness and vulnerability.
This is all very well. But what of those beliefs which cannot be transformed into this sense of active love, trust, and embrace? This attitude of heart and mind which Carl calls belief I have long known as ‘living faith.’ And I’m wondering how far this quality of loving activity which he writes about will aid me in drawing a useful distinction between beliefs which can and cannot be fit objects for faith.
Take for example a belief like that which the creed asks us to hold about the virgin birth of Jesus. The incarnation itself is clearly a divine gesture whose present meaning and value overcomes my resistance and draws me into an attitude of service and love. But I can’t say the same thing for the virgin birth. Belief in Mary’s virginity seems to be more of a statement about the technique of incarnation, a detail that is over, past, and done, and this is beyond my power of response. But if a belief cannot be acted upon, realized, lived into, how can it attain to trust, reliance, love?
Take on the other hand a New Testament concept which we don’t find in the creed – that the risen Lord has bestowed a Spirit of Truth, a divine Comforter, upon the world. Now this belief about a spirit of adoption which may be apprehended in prayer and in life is something which I may certainly act upon, verify, realize (or not) in contemplation and action. And this has all the hallmarks of a religious concept which can be a proper object of faith – trust, reliance, love. It can be truly “embraced” in more than a merely subjective way.
Anyway, I’m still mulling over the differences. The original discussion may be found here