Gilead Quotes, Part II

Briefly, the right worship of God is essential because it forms the mind to a right understanding of God. God is set apart – He is One, He is not to be imagined as a thing among things (idolatry – this is what Feuerbach failed to grasp). It is sacred (which I take to be a reflection of the sacredness of the Word, the creative utterance which is not of a kind with other language). (p. 138)

I thought at the time it might have puzzled a few people, but I was pleased with it. I even wished Edward could have heard it. I felt I’d clarified some things. I remember one lady did ask me, as she was going out the door, “Who is Feuerbach?” And that made me aware of that tendency of mine to live too much in my own thoughts. Your mother wanted to name the cat Feuerbach, but you insisted on Soapy…

It could be true that my interest in abstractions, which would have been forgiven first on grounds of youth and then on grounds of eccentricity, is now being forgiven on grounds of senility, which would mean people have stopped trying to see the sense in the things I say the way they once did. That would be bar far the worst form of forgiveness. . . I’ve probably been boring a lot of people for a long time. Strange to find comfort in the idea. There have always been things I felt I must tell them, even if no one listened or understood. And one of them is that many of the attacks on belief that have had such prestige for the last century or two are in fact meaningless. I must tell you this, because everything else I have told you, and them, loses almost all its meaning and its right to attention if this is not established. (pp. 143-4)

There are two insidious notions, from the point of view of Christianity in the modern world. (No doubt there are more than two, but the others will have to wait.) One is that religion and religious experience are illusions of some sort (Feuerbach, Freud, etc.), and the other is that religion itself is real, but your belief that you participate in it is an illusion. I think the second of these is the more insidious, because it is religious experience above all that authenticates religion, for the purposes of the individual believer… (p. 145)

It seems that the spirit of religious self-righteousness this article deplores is precisely the spirit in which it is written…

There is indeed a note of sinful pride in the confidence with which the majority of people expressed their ideas about heaven. For although the Bible has much to say about final judgment, it offers no definitive picture of life after death…

I conceal my motives from myself pretty effectively sometimes. (pp 145-7)

Now [predestination] is probably my least favorite topic of conversation in the entire world…

[About theology,] to conclude is not in the nature of the enterprise…

I have always dreaded having to talk theology with people who have no sympathy for it. I’ve been evasive from time to time, that’s true. I see the error of assuming a person is not speaking with you in good faith. It’s not respectful, I know that, and don’t do it often. (pp. 150-3)

I believe I have tried never to say anything Edward would have found callow or naïve. That constraint has been useful to me, in my opinion. It may be a form of defensiveness, but I hope it has at least been useful on balance. There is a tendency among some religious people even to invite ridicule and to bring down on themselves an intellectual contempt which seems to me in some cases justified. Nevertheless, I would advise you against defensiveness on principle. It precludes the best eventualities along with the worst. At the most basic level, it expresses a lack of faith. As I have said, the worst eventualities can have great value as experience. And often enough, when we think we are protecting ourselves, we are struggling against our rescuer. I know this, I have seen the truth of it with my own eyes, though I have not myself always managed to live by it, the Good Lord knows.  I truly doubt I would know how to live by it for even a day, or an hour.  That is a remarkable thing to consider. (p. 154)

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