// stasis and perpetual motion

An interesting question from Krish Kandiah this week: does reading the Bible cause us to be more active in our faith, or does being active in our faith inspire us to read the Bible? Is it a question that you can ever get to the bottom of?

The puzzle, he says, derives from an Evangelical Alliance survey, which shows that:

“The more time an evangelical Christian spends reading the Bible each week, the more active they are in other areas of their faith. They are more likely to volunteer, to give money, to pray frequently and talk about their faith.”

You can read the article over at Krish’s blog, and I’d advise you to do so – it’s expanded upon in more depth there.

The idea of being in that kind of perpetual motion is one that’s always appealed to me on a conceptual level – being in “a perpetual cycle of appetite and action, feeding yourself and feeding others”.

One of my favourite illustrations for this actually comes from a tutor who taught me for my undergraduate degree. We spoke in one tutorial about stasis, and he told me that our idea of stasis, as it has been commonly understood, is born out of a fundamental misunderstanding. It’s not the point of peace reached because of a lack of stress – it is a kind of peace born precisely because of it.

Stasis, he said, is the point at which two opposing and equal forces meet – the point of stillness born out of tension in the middle. When we talk about peace, he suggested, we are not talking about passivity or uninterrupted comfort – we are talking about activity, that active peace that exists in the midst of an irreconcilable tension.

I wonder if that’s part of what Paul meant when he talked about “the peace of God, which passes all understanding”, too. The madness of continually laying yourself down and continually taking up God – whether that’s in thought, word or deed – sounds nonsensical from the outside, until you live it at least.

You don’t need me to tell you about the scholars who have asserted that Christian faith (or indeed any faith, perhaps) is a retreat into ignorance. But I don’t think it is – at least, it’s not a retreat into the quiet life. It is a choice to live in a place of active peace; laying down what you feel and picking up what God says to be true; laying down selfish ambition and picking up a better way; and, at times, laying down comprehension and picking up trust.

That is a continual decision, and it is arguably one that will never stop. And after all, isn’t that what Christianity should be about? “The glory of God [in] man fully alive”, as Iranaeus once put it?

Continually being filled in order to give, continually giving in order to be filled, and fully alive in whatever situations we are thrown into – through honour and dishonour, through slander and praise, sorrowful and yet always rejoicing, poor but making many rich – and, in short, having nothing but possessing everything?

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