Like many others today, I found myself “chasing belief.” Past university days, through two seminary degrees, that search continued as a part of my life experience, whether in social work, the arts, family, or the communities of people in which I live and move. Reading. Thinking. Trying to understand this deepest of human experiences and its meaning for me.
Faith, in general terms, is a trust in underlying principles of our existence. Belief is the acknowledgment that such principles exist and have power. But that acknowledgment and subsequent trust engenders unhealthy consequences when disconnected from the reality and lived experience of our world.
. . . even as mainstream seminaries and religious education teach the need for a metaphoric understanding of traditional language, that instruction rarely translates into the communications relayed by spiritual leaders. These metaphors do hold a truth, just not the literal one. Teasing out the meanings of these metaphors is what theology in our time should do. So often, however, the argument is left in the hands of those from both religious and anti-religious reductionist groups who view things from a literal perspective. Though theologians and philosophers may decry the anti-intellectualism and the nonreflective nature of what those groups hold as truth, for the most part religious and spiritual communities are left with a muddle.
Time to take seriously the implications of the metaphorical nature of religious scriptures.
The old familiar forms of conscious thought have gone as far as they can go and it is time to create new, transformed concepts emerging, as it were, from a chrysalis of crisis to a paradigm that thinks and believes both scientifically and religiously. The first part of this book is meant to “harrow” the ground, to turn over, break up the “old models” and thought patterns, to pull “weeds” of preconceptions, both in religious language and ideas and in the evolution of our scientific understanding of the world. In this way we can prepare for the seeds of new ideas, ways of looking at the world, to be planted.
The ground from which a metaphysical basis for existence can find meaningful content, I believe, is in a sense of the underlying, interconnectedness of all reality which not only underlies religious sensibilities but also is a part of our modern, quantum understanding of the universe. Life, as we are coming to understand it, has a complexity with resulting implications for both physical biology and metaphysical concepts. What we perceive grossly through our unaided senses differs markedly from what is actually happening in the particle or quantum realm. At the same time, though our mind and thought is not affected by each individual particle making up our physicality (as an organism we could not develop the ability of orderly thought if this were not the case, and orderly thought is the basis of perception and observation), we are made up of individual cells that in themselves operate as an integrated democracy of sub-lives (cells) whose additive nature produces a unity consciousness. . .
The question of language and theology for this reconceptualization, or really transformation, is not whether this rethinking of the divine is understood differently from church orthodoxy (frankly, I am sure it is in a number of ways) but whether this conception is so different as to remove it from its most basic and fundamental claims, the deeper principles at play underlying the tradition’s attitude toward the divine—the deeper intentions.
Certainly the picture painted here is different from tradition, and beyond the conception of the forebears of the Christian tradition. But it is important not to exaggerate those differences, either. Conceptual representation and revelation are not the same thing, and cultural context is important to the honest representation so that present-day attitudes, understandings, toward science, divinity, and humanity are also considered. . .
Chasing Belief is not written as a finished theological work. My interest was not with the logic or essence of theological thought so much as with a consideration of modern lived, experienced existence. Thus I did not attempt a defense or apologia of specific creedal tenets. The disconnect between the “words of faith,” the theological constructions, and our existential questioning, though often intellectually avoided or denied, has actually created an inability of the religious or spiritual language to make sense.
The task in Chasing Belief is to find a way toward meaningful expression of spirituality—spiritual experience—in the modern context. I believe that God (Spirit) disclosed in Christ is not a “new” thing suddenly created or appearing, but a clarification, a statement of “re-revelation,” if you will, of what the divine has always been. Finding an intelligible ground for that discussion—a metaphysic—and the “tools” to excavate that ground was and still is the continuing task.
Praise for Chasing Belief
“As a Unitarian Universalist of many years, I applaud Krefting’s refreshing and inclusive ideas in Chasing Belief. That our belief in science can and does exist alongside our belief in a divine spark of creativity—however that is defined—is a hopeful message in this book. In addition, Wayne has presented arguments in a manner satisfying to me as a former university teacher of argumentation.”
—Martha Sozansky, retired Adjunct Professor, Department of English, Linguistics, and Writing Studies, University of Minnesota Duluth
“Krefting has undertaken a courageous study, mercifully free of in-group jargon, that grapples seriously with the crises of faith many present-day Christian believers privately are encountering. His survey of the literature is widespread and fair-minded. … Whether or not they share his particular point of view, thoughtful students of Christian theology willing to live dangerously by facing challenges will, like me, … find his work stimulating and strangely encouraging.”
—Owen Christianson, retired ELCA pastor
About the Author
Wayne L. Krefting, a graduate of Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota (MDiv and MTh degrees), continues to chase belief and its efficacy for our modern world. Foregoing pastoral call, Wayne spent over a decade in social work before becoming a stay-at-home dad and professional puppeteer, performing locally, nationally, and internationally over the past thirty years. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with Peggy, his wife, and a lot of books.