David Yount column, 12-28-12: Faith is a gift

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Not so long ago, people respected age not just in wine and antiques, but also in other people.

We revered our elders not for leading faultless lives, but because they had survived their mistakes and gained a wisdom to impart to us.

Today, people are more inclined to consigning their elders to nursing homes than to listening to them.

In place of experience, many people now prefer novelty, not least because youth is vital, and new fashions in ideas have not yet had the time to reveal their flaws.

When Christianity appeared two millennia ago, it was a captivating novelty. Two thousand years later, we acknowledge that plenty of mistakes have been made in the name of faith.

Over the years, the church and its people have twisted the Sermon on the Mount to justify war, violence, bigotry and lies.

Lust for power and pleasure have found refuge under the mantle of religion and, even now, there are places where Christ's church is infested with bureaucrats more committed to budgets and spreadsheets than to devotion and compassion.

But these persistent flaws only illustrate that Christians, although redeemed, have not yet been transformed. Our beliefs have not been tried and found wanting but have yet to be tried.

Despite the abuses of believers, the gospel is the same good news revealed by Jesus in Galilee. Our redeemer still lives and will live through endless tomorrows.

Despite our sins, we are loved and are hopeful. Through God's amazing grace, we can dispel doubt, grow in faith, exult in our common hope and live in love. All it takes is a little confidence.

When I write about matters of faith, I try to be neither defensive nor argumentative. Christianity's strengths have been manifest for 20 centuries and do not require another wordsmith to rally the troops with the old cry, "Onward, Christian soldiers!"

Nor do I attempt to persuade my readers of the truth of the faith, but only to remove some rubble from the path to conviction, and to affirm that confidence is not misplaced.

No one but God could have invented Christianity -- or even imagined it -- so our faith is manifestly plausible.

Religious skepticism too often masquerades as intellectual humility, when it is only vanity -- an aversion to any truth but one's own. I believe it unlikely that God would create creatures in his own likeness only to leave them in the dark about his intentions and their destiny.

In any case, faith is a gift.

If Christianity could be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt, there would still be room for indifference to God.

Confident believers reject indifference once and for all, while acknowledging that their faith must coexist with doubt until they are taken up into the new creation.

(David Yount is the author of 14 books on faith and spirituality and may be contacted at P.O. Box 2758, Woodbridge, VA 22153 and dyount31@verizon.net.)

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