Sunday, April 16, 2006

'...he is not here.'

A final quote from David Cunningham's book Reading is Believing, an introduction to the Apostles' Creed via the writings of Iris Murdoch, P. D. James, Dickens, Shakespeare, Toni Morrison, Barbara Kingsolver and others.

Writing about the sixth article of the Apostles' Creed ('...he ascended into heaven'), Cunningham makes the surprising assertion that our faith is superior to that of the original witnesses of the Resurrection.

'Since Jesus is not here [any longer after the Ascension] as a single, fully human, fully enfleshed being, this implies that our Christian faith is not compelled by God. God does not force us to believe by means of a physical presence that would, as it were, quiet all our doubts.

Our freely given faith is, in some sense, superior to the faith of those who, like Thomas, seemed to have little choice in the matter. (In John 20:29, Jesus says, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet come to believe.")


The physical presence of another person is an overwhelming experience; no longer does our relationship to that person require much action or initiative on our parts. We are almost compelled to acknowledge the existence of the other by that person's sheer physical presence.

In that person's absence, our faith and love are put to the test; now it will require an act of our own will, a determined decision, to bring the other person to mind, and to place our trust and devotion there. Our belief in the ascension of Jesus is a sign and seal of the depth and breadth of our faith.'

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