On reflection, there are probably some logical contradictions in my last post.
Firstly, if you decide to believe only what you feel able to believe ‘for now’, aren’t you tacitly admitting that this small portion of belief is actually part of a larger schema, which you’re putting to one side for the moment? In my case, I seem to be saying that, at this time, I can give my assent to (say) the existence of a good God, the ‘truth’ of the core Gospel message, and the ‘rightness’ of the Catholic sacramental worldview. But there are other things that I don’t feel able to assent to right now: such as (say) the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, life after death. But if I admit that this larger schema exists, and my current tentative slither of belief is part of it, aren’t I allowing the possibility that I could one day believe it, which is tantamount to accepting its believability? And isn’t it logically inconsistent to hold back assent from something which you think is essentially ‘believable’?
Secondly, isn’t my little portion of belief actually dependent on that larger picture, making it logically impossible to assent to one without the other? Isn’t it inconsistent to believe in the goodness of God and the rightness of the Gospel message without accepting the faith in the Resurrection and eternal life which is an essential part of that message and on which it depends for validity? Doesn’t my approach come close to an a la carte or pick ‘n’ mix approach to ultimate truth?
Furthermore, isn’t there a question of authority here? On what authority, on what grounds, do I accept that the ultimate reality of the universe is ‘good’ and that the morality proposed by the Gospels is ‘right’? Why shouldn’t I believe (say) that there are many gods, or that the creator of the universe is an ogre? If you accept that some claims made by a particular authority (e.g. the Church) are true, on what grounds do you reject others?
In his book Faith of our Fathers, Eamon Duffy argues that to be a Catholic is essentially to believe in the ultimate goodness of the universe. When I first read this, I found it extremely reductive, as if Duffy were trying to wriggle out of all the difficulties of contemporary faith by shrinking it back to an easily-believable core. But on reflection, I can see that this ‘core’ belief is actually impossible – illogical even – without all the other ‘difficult’ stuff. There are no grounds for believing that the universe is ultimately good, unless the Christian revelation is essentially true.
So it may be that the things I thought I could begin by believing – the things that seemed easy to believe, such as the existence of a good and loving God – are actually the result of faith in the things I currently find difficult, such as the divinity of Jesus and the authority of his message.
So where does that leave me?