Belief: A Choice

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To begin with, you should know that I am an Orthodox Christian.* More importantly, I am a believer. I believe in One God, Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. If you do not recognize that phrase, it is the opening line of the Nicene Creed, which is the essential expression of the core beliefs of the Orthodox Church.

The title of this page indicates what I wish to convey in this essay, that belief in God is one’s to choose, not something to be imposed. Yes, you may quibble by suggesting that raising a child in your faith is an imposition of belief, but all parents have a need, an obligation even, to provide their children with the tools and knowledge necessary to make their way in the world. Certainly, given that the majority of the world’s population holds religious beliefs, ignorance of religion, with or without belief, is a significant handicap.

Free will is, in the Orthodox Christian faith, absolutely essential. This is in opposition to the materialist view that everything and everyone is at the mercy of the inexorable laws of nature. In the material universe, there are no accidents, no coincidences, no lucky ~or unlucky~ occurrences. All is determined from the very beginning by the interactions of the multitude of atomic and sub-atomic particles created in the big bang. We only lack complete knowledge to predict everything that will happen in the future.

Free will changes all that. We become responsible for our actions, for the choices we make, for what we believe. And there are ramifications. Along with free will, we believe that God wants us to love Him, and to do so freely.** A side effect of this belief is that it makes it futile to prove the existence of God.

The material universe is still bound by the laws of nature. Thus, when Isaac Newton observed the apple falling, it did not take a random direction. Obedient to the force of gravity, it fell to the ground, as does any dropped object. We, however, are the intersection of the material and spiritual realms. While our physical body will fall, our spirit is not so restricted. To fully love God, we must be free to choose. That being so, it must follow that not one atom of the material world can have been arranged to force our belief. Evidence of God’s existence abounds, if you choose to recognize it, but that Q.E.D proof that would force the logical thinker to believe simply cannot exist.

Now I did not come to Orthodoxy as most do, that is, by birth. For the “cradle Orthodox” all the beliefs and habits of the faith are ingrained. For me, it has been a long learning process. It is possible to reason one’s way to faith, but as I have demonstrated, there is a point at which that “leap of Faith” is necessary. Reason will take you to this point, but not beyond.

All this does not fully explain why I choose to believe. If it is not possible to reach a hard logical conclusion that compels a choice, then there must be more than mere whimsy involved. Indeed that is so and there are benefits that accrue to the individual as well as the society. Most important of these is the foundation for morality. Without God, we can only be regarded as so much animated mud. In this state, even though a moral code can be constructed, in the end it fails and degenerates to a question of power. In it each individual can do whatever is necessary to survive and to prevail. The society then must impose the moral code all the while knowing that it is in the end entirely arbitrary. With no higher authority to answer to, the inevitable outcome simply resolves to who has the most power. Put God in the picture and there is at least some restraint on behavior and an understanding that there is a morality that exists in all time and every place.

Thus, I make my choice. Πιστεβω I believe.

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*You will find that Orthodox Christians often call themselves simply, Orthodox. I have had the experience of being thought to be Jewish because, of course, there are Orthodox Jews. And since Christianity is divided among the Orthodox, Catholics, Protestants and more, it is better to keep the Christianity in Orthodox.

**In referring to God, it has been fashionable to argue that God is not specifically male. This is erroneous, I think, as Jesus prayed to Him as Father. Moreover, the Trinity is the expression of God as Father, as well as Son and Holy Spirit. However, unless it is clumsy to do so, I try to refer to God as GOD, to avoid the more biological image.

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