To be a Christian means to believe in the ridiculous. Of course one who is a Christian does not see belief like this. They view the ridiculous as normalcy and, in turn, the world views them with contempt for their sheer lunacy.
Abraham, that champion of faith, was chief of the ridiculous lunatics.
"… he stood there, the old man with his only hope! But he did not doubt, he did not look in anguish to the left or right, he did not challenge heaven with his prayers. He knew it was God the Almighty that tried him, he knew it was the hardest sacrifice that could be demanded of him; but he also knew that no sacrifice was too hard when God demanded it—and he drew his knife."
We stand daily in the light of certain ridiculousness—a paradoxical combination of certitude and unknowing. The writer of Hebrews spells it out for us.
"The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see." (Hebrews 11:1, The Message)
As one on the inside of ridiculousness, I view belief and faith in the same light. The world, however, views belief as separate from faith. Faith to the world is radical adherence to religious dogma and belief is that aspect of faith, which moves a person from onlooker to participant. The world views the holding of beliefs as helpful, but not as true.
How do you view belief? Faith? Is your Christian perspective founded upon what Kierkegaard refers to as a “remote possibility?”
Or do you live daily like Abraham, drawing your knife?
Our daily vision for work and life will either soar or flail depending on the veracity of your belief. Do you live like it is true, or merely helpful—a crutch to get you through the muck of life?
Once you and I pass over into the land of belief, action predicated on doubt is no longer an option. “Abraham had faith and did not doubt. He believed the ridiculous.”
*Exerpts and ideas from this piece were drawn from Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling and C.S. Lewis’s essay “Man or Rabbit,” which you can find in the collection God In The Dock. I’d also like to thank the mystery writer of Hebrews for writing one of my favorites books of Holy Scripture.
Timothy Willard is the author of five books, including Longing For More: Daily Reflections on Finding God in the Rhythms of Life and the forthcoming The Life-Giving Adventure of Chasing Beauty (Eerdmans, 2019). He has collaborated on over 20 books and has written, consulted and served as spiritual director for organizations such as Chick-fil-A, Catalyst, Q Ideas and Praxis Labs. When he’s not riding the trails in the Appalachian mountains you can find him by the fire with his three daughters and his wife making up stories about Tom the back yard badger. He lives somewhere in the south Charlotte woods.