Summary of Chapter 12, “To Walk Humbly with God: A Case for Faith and Religion.” by Anton Jacobs

A Case for Faith and Religion

Summary, Chapter 12, “To Walk Humbly with Your God: A Case for Faith and Religion,”
Religion and the Critical Mind: A Journey for Seekers, Doubters, and the Curious (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010) by Anton K. Jacobs

Three options

  1. Egoism: “the commitment to order one’s personality and center one’s life around the pursuits of one’s own individual interests” (p. 172).
  2. Secular humanism: “Secular humanism, claims Paul Kurtz, involves a commitment to ‘reason, democracy, and freedom,’ and promotes additionally the ideals of free inquiry, separation of church and state, ethics based on critical intelligence, the importance of moral education, religious skepticism, and the practice of science, among other things” (p. 173).
  3. Open-and-critical faith: “…orientation to a transcendent reality but without the spiritual arrogance of claiming absolutely correct or infallible truth that views other faiths as mistaken or even necessarily inferior. It is open to its own inadequacy and to new truth while still affirming the practice of faith” (p. 174). Excluded are any authoritarian or tribalist option—sectarianism, nationalism, racism; i.e., any creed that would elevate “some historical and particular reality to godlike status” (p. 174).

Ten principles of a critical-and-open faith

  1. There is inherent in human experience a sense of the sacred. “…the experience commonly called mystical, which seems to be fairly universal, remarkably similar from one religion to another, and found even in secular contexts” (p. 176)
  2. The Holy is ultimately incomprehensible. “…the Sacred Transcendental Reality is ultimately unknowable in a cognitive sense, even according to religions themselves” (p. 177).
  3. Religion is a social institution. Religion is “the social expression of the sense of the Holy Other. As such, it is the institutionalization of stories, symbols, and ritual designed to give voice to the collectively shared recognition of a transcendent, sacred, and ultimate reality. Religion, like other institutions, manifests itself in culturally and historically conditioned forms” (p. 180).
  4. Faith is a matter of ultimate concern. “…faith is the organizing principle of the human personality. Faith involves centering one’s self around some object of faith. Faith gives our life direction and meaning. Most simply stated, it is an issue of what is of ultimate importance to us” (p. 180).
  5. Faith is a matter of letting go “Faith is also just as much a matter of relaxing and letting go” (p. 180). “Letting go is the reverse side of the concept of centering one’s personality around God. We can see, then, that trust is better than belief as a synonym for faith” (page 180)
  6. Faith grows best in a community. “ …overall a vibrant faith requires a community. It is the rare individual who can maintain a worldview and strive for its realization without social support of some kind” (p. 181).
  7. Belief (i.e., theology) is a journey, not a destination. Spirituality includes humility, which is a matter of “recognizing the inadequacy of our beliefs” (p. 183) and “accepting one’s humanity and finitude” (p. 183). For the growing, developing human being, beliefs will change over time.
  8. Worship is a matter of the heart. Worship is a matter of “the heart, not…the style of ritual” (p. 185).
  9. The experience of the Holy gives rise to a sense of incongruity between the Sacred and the world that calls to action. “…religious experience leads to the feeling that something is amiss—not only with one’s self but also with the world we inhabit” (p. 185). “…it engenders in one a drive to go forth with a mission to do something about it” (p. 185).
  10. The experience of the Holy gives rise to a sense of solidarity with all of humanity. The numinous experience of the Holy leads to a sense of union, a sense of deep relatedness not only to life and the cosmos but by extension also to humanity. One experiences intensely one’s own finitude but also one’s participation in the sea of finite human beings” (p. 186).

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