What Faith Is Not – Part III

The Owl continues unfolding the post “What the Owl Is Trying to Say” using its five main terms: Faith, Covenant, Love, Freedom, and Obedience, for an outline, under the title “What Faith Is Not. The negative approach is necessary to challenge people who think they know what it is. As some wise person said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that’ll git you; it’s what you do know that ain’t so.”

So far, the Owl has said faith is not religion; it is not spiritualism; it is not a belief system; and it is not an inner psychological state. Now we will go the rest of the way: Faith is not moralism, and nor humanism. Remember, throughout all this, God has the initiative. Faith is God’s gift to us. If it can be found in our insides, that is because God put it there.

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Authentic Humanism

Renaissance altarpieces were not created only to be monuments to the donors’ taste—although they were that—, nor to glorify the human spirit, nor to celebrate capital-A Art as something transcendent. They are used to bring the subjects, saints and sacred events, into the worshipers’ presence. Or, to put it the other way around, to put the worshiper in the saints’ space. The depict that space by devices of perspective, by the fondo d’oro, or by the monumental poise of the figures. This space is not an optical illusion of some kind, but a sober reality, in its way it is more real than the space occupied by the worshiper in front. From their space the saints bless the whole company of faithful people, even beyond the church, to the town and surrounding fields. There is a radical difference between a generous, godly faith, and the counterreformation histrionics that are meant to elicit the militant sentimentality of that later time—and too often in ours as well.

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