Sunday, August 8, 2010

Paradoxes of faith

An acquaintance recently posed an interesting question about the paradoxes we encounter in our faith. I'm sure that paradoxes are a common part of most faiths--but they seem to be an intrinsic part of Mormon faith, in particular. (Terryl Givens, a professor of English at the University of Richmond and a faithful member of the LDS church, has even written a book on this, People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture.)

One paradox: Balancing faith with submission. For instance, we're encouraged to have faith to move a mountain (or to exercise faith sufficient for healing), but we're also told that we should submit to God's will. How can we at once exercise faith in healing, for example, while submitting to God's will that an individual not be healed? (Personally, I think we negotiate this particular paradox by trying to listen carefully to the Spirit--we need to have faith, yes, but we need to also try to be sensitive as to how we should exercise that faith. Not, of course, that this makes it easy).

Another paradox--and one that I've been thinking of quite a bit recently, is the tension between standing up for your own values and still allowing others agency. One of our articles of faith maintains that we believe in the right of worshipping God according to the dictates of our own consciences--and that we allow others that same privilege. And as members of our faith, we are encouraged to stand up for the values (particularly moral ones) that we believe in--but how do we both uphold a particular value (for instance, the sanctity of life, or moral purity outside of marriage) and still allow others to act according to their own belief systems, which might include behaviors that violate our beliefs? How can we be both accepting of others and still maintain firm moral standards? This is one that I'm still working out for myself.

What about you--what are some paradoxes you find yourself confronted with in your own (or others') practices of faith?

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