Faith and Belief

I just finished reading Brother David Steindl-Rast’s lastest book, Deeper than Words: Living the Apostle’s Creed. The Creed expresses faith in Christian terms, and Brother David doesn’t try to suggest otherwise. What he does suggest, however, the basic human faith expressed in Christian terms in the Creed is no different than the basic human faith expressed in Buddhist beliefs (or the beliefs of other religions) and the book is his effort to “make our divergent beliefs transparent to the one faith we share.”

I spent twenty years of my life as a Buddhist before returning to Catholicism. Although I consider myself a Christian and neither a Buddhist-Christian nor a Christian Buddhist, there is much I bring back from my Buddhism to my current Catholicism and one of the books I’m currently writing adapts Tibetan Buddhist analytic meditations for Christian pray-ers. Thus, efforts to explore the underlying dynamics that operate across different faith traditions are something I have great interest in. What Brother David does so skillfully in this books is to “dig down to the roots of basic human faith – the trust in Life we share with all our brothers and sisters in the human family – and from this perspectrive to understand the particular Christian expression of that shared faith.”

Nothing I could say about this book does would do it sufficient justice. Perhaps the simplest thing I can say is that the book has greatly deepened my appreciation of the Creed even as it has challenged me to think about some of the lines differently than I had done before. I recognize that some people will find it too great a challenge; Christians wedded to a view that only the Christian expression of faith is true or valid will be critical of Brother David’s efforts. But I believe the Dalai Lama is correct in the conclusion he expresses in the book’s Forward that Brother David succeeds in demonstrating “how it may be possible for someone to remain perfectly faithful to a Christian and Western monastic commitment and yet be enriched” by the understanding and experience of other faith traditions.

If you are looking for a worthwhile book to bring along on vacation, this would be a good choice.