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Posted June 8, 2011

Book: Theological Graffiti: Writing on the Wall of Belief
Author: A. Deacon
Vintage Press, New York. 2010. Pp. 68

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

In Theological Graffiti: Writings on the Wall of Belief, A. Deacon challenges those Christians who, while enjoying the fruits of twenty-first century science in their day-to-day lives, deny its findings relative to our origins and history as Christians and Jews.

Specifically, Deacon challenges several key tenets of the Christian faith tradition requiring belief in the ‘supernatural’ for justification. These terms, he contends, inhibit our ability to understand fully the beauty and usefulness of human experience contained within them.

Yet as he also notes, our human nature demands that we know not only the ‘how’ but also the ‘why’ of our existence. “For this,” he states, “science can be of little help. This knowledge can best be acquired by examining the lessons learned over the centuries by those who preceded us.”

To support this groundbreaking thesis, Deacon marshals words and thoughts of such noted theorists and theologians as Hans Kung, Karen Armstrong, and Michael Shermer in discussing, among other things, ‘Original Sin,’ ‘The Evolution of Ethical Behavior,’ ‘Sacred Scripture,’ ‘The Relevance of Faith. . .

An Excerpt from the Book:

The Relevance of Faith

“Faith allows us to acknowledge the dangers and uncertainties of life, while empowering us to strive for its joyful fulfillment.”

As I look back to my childhood, I remember finding a great sense of peace in the fact that I had a strong sense of being part of a large extended family, which had a close relationship with the Catholic Church. Never for a moment did I have any doubt as to who I was, how I related to others, and what my place in the universe was. Family and Church were institutions that were at my disposal should I need support in dealing with any form of adversity. All I had to do was ask for help, or use the insight of family and religious values to guide me through any challenge confronting me. On many hot summer days during my youth I found comfort, and refuge, in the cool interior of my parish church. For me, my parish church represented the ultimate ‘safe haven,’ or ‘sanctuary’, a memory I carried into adulthood. I am not saying that I became a very pious person, but rather that I became so grounded in my faith tradition that it became a great resource for me during my military service, my law-enforcement career, marriage, parenthood, and senior years.

In his book Does God Exist? Hans Kung describes a concept called ‘fundamental trust,’ which I believe shares many of the attributes which are linked to the concept of faith — faith being defined as: ‘Trust, confidence, complete acceptance of a truth which cannot be demonstrated or proved by the process of logical thought.’

While Kung distinguishes between the two concepts and does not link them together, he does indicate that others do see the two being related to one another. He defines ‘fundamental trust’ as follows:

Fundamental trust means that a person in principle, says ‘Yes’ to the uncertain reality of hims3elf and the world, making himself open to reality and able to maintain ths attitude consistently in practice. This positive fundamental attitude implies an antinihilist fundamental certainty in regard to all human experience and behavior, despite persistent, menacing uncertainty.

Both these concepts share at least one particular component. Each is based upon the possession of a particular attitude that reflects a belief that the glass is half full. This is an attitude formed upon the foundation of human experience through time. We could call it acquired ‘wisdom,’ which has as its foundation all the prior experiences of mankind. This acquired wisdom rejects the nihilistic belief that we die into oblivion. As in fundamental trust, it acknowledges the uncertainties of reality, accepts them, and marches on in daily life with head held high, rather than yielding to the darkness of nihilism. A religious faith based in reality can respect, a sense of self-worth, fulfillment, and hope. Yes, while we might be likened to fleas on an elephant (our physical reality), we rejoice for having the opportunity to share this journey through time and space.

Table of Contents:

1. The beginning of physical reality

2. Evolution

3. What distinguishes us from other life forms?

4. Original sin

5. The evolution of ethical behavior

6. The relevance of sacred scripture

7. Jesus

8. From Jewish sect to Christianity

9. Early faith disputes

10. The role of women in the early church

11. The issue of Jesus’ nature

12. The relevance of faith

13. Other religions and faith traditions

14. Prayer

15. The Trinity

16. The concept of evil

17. Life after death

18. The veneration of Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Marisnism)