Faith: Radar in the Fog

I confess to being a bit of a rationalist. I love apologetic arguments for the Christian faith. I’m attracted to philosophical debate although I’m not that sophisticated in engaging in it myself and, lastly, I have had a lifelong interest in the interface of science and religion. Yet I live in a culture which seems to have rejected its Christian roots and foundation. In recent years it has been hard work engaging with a general public that seems indifferent and sometimes hostile to the Christian faith. Suddenly however, in the midst of this pandemic I am noticing a renewed interest in spiritual things and an unexpected positive response to messages posted from Church representatives. I myself have had correspondence from the most unexpected places in regard to one of my contributions. So what is going on?

Sceptics might say that this is nothing more than a knee jerk response by panic stricken people in the midst of a crisis. I largely agree with this but disagree that the concept of “faith” is childish or irrelevant to human living and well-being. As in all things it is not the quality or quantity of faith itself that matters but the object of that faith. At this Easter time and in the midst of this pandemic the rational justification for faith is secondary, at least in the short term. Let us rejoice in the power of the Christian proclamation to bring hope to those who hear it. Yes we are to love God with our “mind” and well as our hearts and it will be the case that rational argumentation will in time help solidify and firm up the faith of those who experience the life-changing presence of God during this crisis. However, at this moment in time let’s thank God that we humans are not like the fictional character Spock (a Vulcan) in the TV series Star Trek who can only engage in “logical” things. The Gospel is primarily a medicine for the heart and the soul…the intellect often follows afterward.

It has been a long, wet winter, depressingly so. On top of that we are now dealing with this Global crisis. It is all very waring, worrying and wearying. In the midst of this we need hope and hope requires faith. The following story is illuminative for us.

Florence Chadwick was the first female to swim the English Channel in both directions. She also swam across the Straights of Gibraltar and on another occasion across the Bosphorus. In 1952, she took on another major challenge. She attempted to swim from Catalina Island to the Californian Coast. This was a distance of 26 miles. Unfortunately, on the day she did this the channel was inundated by one of the famous fog-banks that the area is well known for. Visibility was dreadful. After sixteen hours in the water Florence gave in and was taken on board the support vessel. She only had one mile still to go and her Mother had tried to encourage her to keep going. At the Press Conference later she was asked about this, and why she had stopped so close to the end. Her reply was “If only I could have seen the shore.” Two months later she attempted the crossing again but the weather was exactly the same. Nonetheless, this time she kept going and although she couldn’t see the shore in the midst of the fog she still managed to beat the male record for the crossing by two hours. The key to her success second time around was imagining the “shore” in her mind as she swam through the darkness. There is a lesson here for us about faith. It was Corrie ten Boom, a survivor of Ravensbruck Concentration camp who once said “Faith is the radar which sees through the fog.”

In the 1980’s as a student attached to a Hospice in Edinburgh, I met a wonderful lady there who had terminal cancer and who presented me with a little booklet of poems she had written. One of them was so constructed that words represented the figure of a lantern and it simple read “The night is dark until we train our eyes to see.” I found that incredibly challenging and humbling then and still do. In a similar vein the Apostle Paul writes:

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair;
persecuted but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed….
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away,
inwardly we are being renewed day by day….
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is
temporary but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4: 10,16,18.

The Easter experience which Paul shared with the other early followers of Jesus was the foundation of his hope and the source for these words of challenge and comfort. May the God of Easter grant us a faith such as this and the skill, creativity and passion to share this message with a broken world.

by Rev Dr Russel Moffat

5 Responses

  1. /April 8, 2020/ by Paul Hicks /

    Interesting that you’ve noticed a renewed interest in spiritual things during the pandemic crisis. To take up the picture of being in a fog, perhaps Covid-19 is God’s “fog-horn” to people who are stumbling around in the murk of a society and culture that has lost its bearings when it comes to “norms”? It certainly brings “end-of-life” considerations into sharp focus! Easter is an excellent opportunity for us to present a story of hope in the midst of darkness and despair.

  2. /April 10, 2020/ by Russel Moffat /

    Hi Paul
    Thanks for your comments. I like the metaphor of God’s fog-horn. Very apt. Perhaps we should follow that up with Paul’s use of a trumpet - “..if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, then who will get ready for battle?” 1Cor 14: 8. Perhaps as well as God having a message for the world in this he also has a message for the Church. Post Covid -19 we are going to face both great challenges and opportunities and we need to arise from our slumber, and the complacency, weariness and lack of confidence and purpose that has been on display in recent decades. This is a double wake-up call to the outside world and the the people of God.  May we be fit for the mission ahead.

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