Last time, the topic was our aspirations in life, especially a yearning for God to fulfill our lives. Writers, like Feuerbach and Freud, have criticized Christianity for representing wish-fulfillment. Freud called belief an illusion. We desire eternal life, but fulfillment is not possible. God does not exist; He is merely a projection of our desires. When we look up into the heavens, we are seeing an image that we, and we alone, have invented.
Christians do not see things this way. God and His Word are not illusions, but come to us from the living Lord. How do we prove that this assertion is true? There is no conclusive way. Each individual must believe or not believe. We have no choice but to choose. The Holy Spirit either stirs us or not to believe in Christ. Revelation comes to us primarily through the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. Reason points to the existence of God; but, to believe in the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ, and other doctrines requires Revelation.
In the case of Jesus Christ, the truth of the apostolic witness provides a convincing argument for God’s reality. The apostles were neither madmen nor liars. Christian testimony does not rely on the testimony of a single individual, but a multitude. Their brave witness in the face of adversity is an example of their reliability. Not too many people suffer and die for a false Messiah, making a false claim.
We Christians trust the Promise found in the Word of God. Faith is the means through which we trust in what God has done and said. It is through faith that we believe Christ is our Savior. We serve God through our neighbor in need. The sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world and the sacrificial nature of our service entail faith in God through Christ and love for those around us. Martin Luther explains this dynamic of faith and love in his Postils (Sermons for the Church Year) and elsewhere (e.g. The Freedom of a Christian).
‘Feelings of absolute dependence’ (Schliermacher) are not the basis for our belief in God, though they may contribute. The primary ground for our belief is the reality of God that we know in heart and mind–the living God that has created us, delivered us from sin and all evil, and given us the Holy Spirit so that we may believe.
Belief in God is not a private fantasy or delusion, but is exhibited in the public environment of the Church, where we confess in worship, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit throughout, and especially in the ancient Symbols of the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. The apostolic faith, preserved in the witness of many generations, has continued through the ages. Faith is both our belief in God through Christ and confession of our beliefs in creedal statements.
It is this faith that stands at the center of Christian worship. We take the Word of God, rightly divided into Law and Gospel, from the community to those who remain in death and darkness. We hope others will see this great Light, as we have. We share our common faith with gentleness and respect.
Michael G. Tavella
November 14, 2021
25th Sunday after Pentecost