Tonight I’m in the midst of what is becoming a long and interesting conversation with a mate about ultimate reality, faith and meaning. We have agreed that we will be happy to allow for robust argumentation and that we will not be ‘arguing for a win’ but for truth. Below is a small excerpt from the conversation …

‘This is probably not what you are saying, but we need to be clear that it’s inappropriate for a person to attempt to ‘go and get faith’ so that they can then have meaning. Better to remain honest and without faith and meaning than to have a faith that’s what has been called a ‘noble lie’. For example, the person who says, ‘I wish I could have faith’ is totally misunderstanding how it works—and I have heard Christians talk about it this way, which to me seems rather oxymoronic.

The fact is that—contrary to what some educated believers might suggest—faith is not normally the outcome of reading a series of good books and then reaching some tidy logical conclusions, it’s something that normally happens after an extended time of shy information-gathering via pain at home, love affairs and arguments, book-readings, tragedies and/or joys, and maybe a war or two thrown in along with a stunning concert, and then—at some moment of curiosity, desperation or mischief when no one’s looking (along with a dash of courage and/or stupidity)—we quietly open a spooky little door and get an interesting surprise!

It’s not always a happy surprise, but at that moment we are in no doubt that there is such a thing as the mystery of a personal being called God, and if we wish for anything after that it’s likely to be either that we had never opened that little door (cause you now have this inconvenient problem of being convinced and are stuck with this dreadful and captivating presence who you can’t get enough of, but who also kind of frightens you and at the same time seems to demand and expect things of you. And weirdly—seems to be the one who has found you. On the other hand, it might be that you wish desperately for more and more of this amazing being of grace and life and joy—but either way you suspect that from here on your life is going to be more dangerous, more interesting and definitely much less under your control—damn it!/bless it!

As far as what happens after that: some believers seem to reach this place and never move away from it, others move away and never come back, and others seem to have to come back to it again and again. Some have a clear memory of the first time this happened and others say that they have always been there as long as they can remember.’

[these thoughts owe much to my own personal experience, the New testament, GK Chesterton, George MacDonald and CS Lewis]