Faith Meets World

Reflections on faith in a messed-up but beautiful world

Category: Faith (Page 2 of 2)

Essentials and non-essentials

Here are some things I used to believe were essential components of the Christian faith. By which I mean, if you didn’t believe them, you weren’t really a Christian:

– A literal six-day creation
– A world that was little over 6,000 years old
– A pre-tribulation rapture
– The “inerrancy” of scripture
– “Hell” as essential conscious torment
– The penal substitution theory of the atonement
– Revelation, Matthew 24 and Danielic prophecy as yet to be fulfilled

Funny thing is, the older I get, the less I realise I know with any degree of certainty. If you asked me what I feel is critical for me to believe now in order to be saved, it would probably boil down to something like this:

– The sure knowledge that I am a pitiful sinner, utterly reliant on God’s gracious initiative for salvation
– Faith that Jesus is God’s messiah, and that he gave his life and rose from the dead to free me from sin and death and offer me eternal life as part of his body

I think that about sums it up. Simple, when it comes down to it.

All of my mind

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?”

So he answered and said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.”

And He said to him, “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.”

(Luke 10:25-28)

We spend a lot of time in our minds: processing situations, trying to work out what things mean, planning, creating, imagining, scheming, worrying, remembering. It has often been said that thinking comes before doing. In other words, before you do anything, you have already thought about doing it – consciously or subconsciously – in your mind. If that is true, then we ought perhaps to spend more time thinking about how we think.

I think a lot. There’s something in my nature that’s driven to seek, to gain knowledge, to understand. It’s why I’ve always been a lover of books. It’s also why, after watching a film or TV show, I like – much to my wife’s annoyance – to discuss and deconstruct it from various angles: what it meant, what was good and bad about it, whether I liked it and why, and so on.

Read More

Faith versus belief

Greg Boyd has a new book out called Benefit of the Doubt, which looks very good. I’ll resist the urge to buy it, as I would only have to add it to my already overly large reading pile and would probably get onto it some time in 2015. However, having read some reviews, and having already read and listened to quite a bit of Greg’s stuff on the interwebs and read one of his books, I can comfortably recommend it to anyone.

At his blog Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight has this to say by way of introduction to Boyd’s book:

Certainty-seekers need to hear what Greg Boyd offers in his book Benefit of the Doubt, where he defines what “faith” means. Faith, first, needs to be distinguished from what most mean by “belief.” Belief is a “mental conviction that something is true.” […] On the other hand, faith is “a commitment to trust and to be trustworthy in a relationship with another person”.

I think this is a crucial point many need to understand today. We have confused the meaning of “faith” with the meaning of “belief”, and this has caused untold damage. In fact, I would say the word “faith” has been ruined for many modern western believers, precisely because we so often interpret it as being synonymous with belief.

Faith is not about facts. There are some facts we must believe in order to be saved – specifically, that Jesus is Lord and that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9). But having faith in God is not the same as believing these facts.

Many Christians like to point out that Christianity is about relationship, not religion. To which I say, amen. It’s all about getting to know God and living in dynamic relationship to Him. But in any relationship, there comes a point where, if that relationship is to grow and deepen, one person says to the other “Trust me”, and the other person has a decision to make. Do I trust this person? Will they keep their word? This is the point at which we have to decide whether we are prepared to take the risk of trusting someone without knowing whether they are trustworthy. And the only way to find out whether they’re trustworthy is to take the risk of trusting them.

We often call this kind of situation a “leap of faith”, for good reason. And that’s what faith is: trusting someone when your own experience has not yet proved beyond doubt that they will deliver on what they’ve promised. I find it much more useful to think of faith in God as this kind of risky trust, rather than as mental assent to a set of facts. And the good thing is, it’s not really risky at all, because God is absolutely faithful to His promises. There’s never been one on which He’s failed to deliver, and that’s never going to change.

Jesus in my doubt

bench_header_trust[…] my doubts do not sum me up any more than they did Thomas. And my doubts are no reason for me not to follow Jesus. I follow Jesus not because I don’t have any doubts. I follow Jesus because in my doubt, He has always been tender with me. And when I’ve needed it badly enough, He has always given me a body to touch.

— Jonathan Martin, Prototype

It’s so easy to seek security in certainty. I guess it’s a normal thing for humans to do. The trouble is, if we’re not careful we can end up trusting in doctrine or theology rather than in the person of Jesus. I’m reminded of some wonderful words from a recent homily given by Pope Francis (emphasis added):

In ideologies there is not Jesus: in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always. Of every sign: rigid. And when a Christian becomes a disciple of the ideology, he has lost the faith: he is no longer a disciple of Jesus, he is a disciple of this attitude of thought

Lord, help me not to lean on the security of my own understanding, but in all my ways to acknowledge You and trust in Your everlasting love.

Why it is called faith

Risk all for love, Jesus tells us, even your own life. Give that to me and let me save it. The healthy religious person is the one who allows God to do the saving and the leading, while I do my little part to bring up the rear. It always feels like a loss of power and certitude at the beginning, which is why it is called faith, and why true Biblical faith is probably somewhat rare. God is always the initiator and mover. All we do is second the motion.

— Richard Rohr, adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations

That Friday feeling

Sometimes, “that Friday feeling” means we feel the pressure lifting as the working week draws to a close and we eagerly anticipate the space of the weekend just ahead.

But sometimes, Friday comes at the end of a long, hard week, with a long, hard month and maybe even a long, hard year before it. On these Fridays, it can be hard to be optimistic; perhaps the best we can hope for is to feel a sense of relief that we’ve made it through another week.

People find all kinds of ways to motivate themselves: things will be better when I have more money, when the kids are older, when I have a new boss, when I can afford a holiday, when I finish my studies. I’ll feel so much better if I can just lose a bit of weight. Or if only I can kick that bad habit I’ve been feeding for years. Or maybe I’ll win the lottery.

The thing is, with each problem we solve and each challenge we manage to tick off our list, another one tends to come along. It’s a bit like playing the children’s game Whack-A-Mole: each time you bash one mole on the head and make it disappear, up pops another one in its place. If we pin our hopes on these kinds of milestones, we end up always living for the next holiday, the next achievement, the next promotion, the next success. This is an elusive and fleeting kind of hope. It gets very tiring, I can tell you.

No, I need something much more substantial and reliable to set my hope on. Something that doesn’t depend in the slightest on how well I perform, how I feel or what I achieve. This is what I’m setting my hope on today:

For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Romans 8:38-38)

Happy Friday, people.

On the far side of despair

Often trust begins on the far side of despair. When all human resources are exhausted, when the craving for reassurances is stifled, when we forgo control, when we cease trying to manipulate God and demystify Mystery, then — at our wits’ end — trust happens within us, and the untainted cry, “Abba, into Your hands I commend my spirit,” surges from the heart.

— Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust: The Ragamuffin’s Path to God

Page 2 of 2

All content on this site is copyright © Rob Grayson 2013-2016 unless otherwise indicated