A faith statement

This short essay was written for a panel discussion with our First-Year Seminar class, to open a discussion of faith and life. It's a pretty good description of where I am as of 10/22/2004.

Every week I eat the Body and drink the Blood of Someone who died 2000 years ago. I say the same words in worship every single week--when I can, I do it every day. Oh, and I'm a scientist.

How does all this fit together?

Let's start with "scientist" because it's the easiest to explain. Science explains a lot about the world--but it does it by limiting itself to the easy stuff. The really hard questions are not part of science--and I find that I can't get along without answers to those questions.

I grew up Roman Catholic. When I married a Baptist, we sort of met in the middle, in the Episcopal Church, which is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. It's Catholic enough for me and Protestant enough for her. She's changed more than I have; she now finds Baptist worship unsatisfying.

I think that the most important part of worship is to meet the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist, the sacrament of His Body and Blood. This has been part of Christian tradition since the beginning, and there's strong Scriptural warrant for considering the Lord to be really present in the Sacrament. That's not to say that the sermon isn't important. But for Catholics it cannot be the centerpiece; the centerpiece of worship is encountering God.

I love liturgy, a formal order of worship with written prayers. Rather than concentrating on putting one word behind another, I am free to encounter God in words written by some of the greatest wordsmiths in history, letting God speak to me rather than sweating to find the words to speak to Him. Anglican liturgies were designed for daily use, by laypeople. I am grateful that I can pray every day with people all over the world: the idea of Common Prayer is that, by using the same liturgy, Christians are present to each other, though we are far apart. Even if I say the Office alone, I am audibly part of the Communion of Saints.

Tradition gives us the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood; Tradition gives us the liturgies that we pray; Tradition gives life to the Church. It covers every aspect of our relationship with God and with each other, and allows us to interpret Scripture in ways that are harmonious with the believers who have gone before us. I'm prejudiced in favor of the Tradition of the Church, because being a scientist has given me respect for settled opinion and the power of the collective to discover the Truth. That's not to say that tradition can't be changed. But we should be reluctant to do so.

Professor Nisly has asked me to say something about where I am right now. Where I am was described by philosopher Mortimer Adler when he said that, while he was convinced of God's existence, taking that conviction seriously demanded too much time. I'm working on making the time for it, and asking God for help.

Copyright © 2004 by Daniel J. Berger. This work may be copied without limit if its use is to be for non-profit educational purposes. Such copies may be by any method, present or future. The author requests only that this statement accompany all such copies. All rights to publication for profit are retained by the author.

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