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Faith or Fate
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins

Should I follow faith or fate?

Your question hides part of the answer.  You cannot follow fate -- it controls you.  That is, if you believe in fate, you believe that everything is set and you cannot escape what is "written."  Of course, some people may use the word "fate" without that meaning, but then, what does it mean?  Not "fate" as the word is normally used!

Faith -- in What?
Faith -- the question becomes faith IN WHAT?  Faith is simply a reference to trusting in something.  It comes down to this:  Does what you believe really have power to change the forces affecting your life?  Where you go in following "faith" depends on what you are believing in and trusting in.  You may trust either actively, you may trust passively -- what you are trusting is that which you allow to be most important in your decisions.   

So what you trust, either actively or passively by what you allow to be most important in your decisions, simply comes down to whether what you believe in is really a power that can change the forces affecting your life.  So where you go in following "faith" depends on what you are believing in and trusting in.

Salvation through Faith
The individual human certainly cannot remake reality, or control the forces of the universe, though it is clear the decisions we make do have real and sometimes immediate consequences.  And what we do affects others, also, who were not involved in our decisions.  But I prefer to trust the ultimate power of the universe, and try to stay in tune with It/Him/Her, through faith in RELATIONSHIP, not in KNOWLEDGE.

This is why we speak of being saved through faith.  (Even our genderizing God diminishes his sovereignty, since the Bible declares definitively that God is not human, not physical.  Thus female and male both encompass aspects of God, since it was Humanity that was created in the image of God.  The Hebrew word "Adam" means "humanity."  "He created Humanity; He created them male and female."

The Danger of "Doctrine"
Faith saves.  Knowledge cannot save you.  A doctrine of an unfeeling, uncaring, inevitable fate cerainly cannot dod you any good.  Because humans also have limited knowledge, knowledge definitely cannot save you, despite the common fundamentalist belief that "doctrines" are the most important thing in "faith" or religion.  Focusing on "doctrines" makes faith or salvation a matter of pride.

The common tendency to focus on our ideas, our doctrines, our mental concepts, is actually a version of the Modern western Rationalism, comingout of the Enlightenment.  Do you trust intellect, reason more than having faith in some Divine guiding, caring power?  Faith focuses on elationships, on values like promises, faithfulness, love and care for others.  This seems a more productive way to approach life.

Pride in believing the "right things" shifts the focus from believing in the One True God.  Focusing on "doctrine" makes beliefs ABOUT God more important than belief IN God.  Tying the concept of salvation to "correct doctrine" creates a pride of the mind, while true salvation depends on repentance and focus on the Divine.

Faith is Relationship
Faith is trust and relationship -- following, not knowing, though learning may be a part of faith.  All languages and cultures have a word for the Creator, or some universal power beyond us, which accounts for what exists that you and I certainly did not put in place.  In English the common word is God, and the same word in various forms is used in the other Germanic languages.

In Tune with God
Various people have different ideas of how you get right with God, or get in "tune" with God, and that is why there are "religions."  Religions are not the same as faith, but usually involve an aspect of faith.

I believe it is in trusting the Creator, who I understand to have only good intentions for us, that whatever he "leads" to will be better than what I in my limited knowledge of the forces of the universe could have decided.  I believe this is most clearly shown in Jesus of Nazareth, who was called the Messiah.

But this is an ACTIVE faith, not just passively waiting for whatever happens.  It is a faith which tries to CREATE and ENABLE good.

Faith and Free Will
Fate is not something you can follow.  It can be described as blind, as "fate" is just a word for a pattern that everything is determined, and you cannot change things.  A concept of fate has no place for free will.  Fate means you cannot control what happens to you.  Some people, however, in reality, may actually use the term "fate" when they don't actually mean that.  

In western societes, a basic guiding principle for society in the concept of the individual, and the free will and responsiblity of each individaul in society.  Can people believe in fate and still believe in Free Will?  Out of this concept comes the idea of individual rights, personal justice, and the idea that rulers are responsiblity for good government.  The modern European concept of human rights and the accountability of rulers is contradictory to the concept of Fate.

"Free Will" is a general concept, of course, that expresses our experience of decision-making, and our awareness of options.  We all live within a limited range of choices, however, and each choice precludes some options and creates new ones for the next step.  Any philosophy of reality muct realistically take into account this universal sense that there is some sense of personal involvement, responsibility and control over the circumstances we find ourselves in.

But we must also acknowledge that different human cultures and their worldviews have different concepts of how the individual and the community fit into the ultimate scheme of reality.  Some societies have an idea that they can proactively control more of their environment and possiblities.

Others see the world as alive and unordered, chaotic and at the whim of unseen forces or spiritis.  Thus they tend to have more of a passive attitude toward their environment and are more accepting of conditions around them, even "fatalistic."

I prefer a sense of openness and possiblity, a worldview that allows for a concept of the free will that we feel and experience.

The idea that there is a benevolent, purposeful living entity at the base of reality makes more sense to me than a blind sense of meaningless drudgery of inevitability.

Also related
Why Should I Believe in God?


Originally written in an internet discussion in 2000
Finalized as an article and posted on Thoughts and Resources 27 November 2006

Copyright © 2006 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

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