It may not have generated any comments at Students of Jesus, but one sentence from Monday’s Mediation on Faith garnered 20 comments over at Facebook. It was either a really poor sentence or we’ve got more to explore about the essence of faith.
I use Facebook to promote Students of Jesus, so I posted a provocative statement along with a link to this blog. The offending statement?
“I want nothing to do with a definition of faith that requires agreement with propositions, I want everything to do with a faith that requires me to hope and trust in the Father's promise.”
Here’s a sampling of comments from people who lined up to take issue:
- I'm also having a tough time understanding your use of "propositions."
- I am wary of and adamantly against leapfrogging over propositions and intellectual understanding: Very strange ideas of "faith" tend to emerge as a result.
- I do not say this in rancor, but in honesty; I wonder at how you will maintain your denominational position.
- When you downplay the importance of intellectual pursuit and propositional truth, people just believe what they're told.
- Where do we see, scripturally, that "doctrine has very little to do with faith"?
Somewhere along the way, faith has morphed from knowing Jesus to knowing about him. I’m writing today to suggest a possibility: what if faith is relationship--relationship with a living, thinking, feeling, Person--what if faith is relationship with God?
The Apostle Paul points to Abraham as the father of our faith. Romans chapter 4 suggests that we come into right relationship with God by trusting Him: in Abraham’s case he placed his trust in God’s promises. In our case, we can place our trust in God’s gracious initiative to us in Jesus Christ. Abraham was not required to agree with any doctrinal statements about God. Instead, God invited Abraham into a relationship. And what a relationship they had! Based upon that relationship Abraham trusted God’s guidance with respect to where to live, how to plan his family, even whether to perform human sacrifice! In a society littered with a multiplicity of gods, Abraham turned his back on every god except some strange God without a name, a God without an image and without any religious structure. God invited Abraham into a relationship.
God spoke to Abraham about the stars in the sky, the sands on the seashore, and about how the two of them could become friends. Abraham had no religious traditions, dogma, or culture to which he had to subscribe. He was simply God’s servant, and eventually God’s friend. Faith and doctrine are two different things. What doctrines did Abraham agree with?
When Jesus called the twelve to follow him, he asked of them a great deal: within the only monotheistic religion in the history of the world, Jesus told his followers, “if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” He said, in effect, to know him was to know the Father. The way to the Father was relationship with the Son, and it still is because the Son is the exact representation of God’s nature.
Hebrews 11 is faith's "Hall of Fame." What doctrines required agreement of those whom are lauded for their faith? Verse six says simply that "he who comes to God must believe that he is, and he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him." That's relationship, not information. In fact, relationship is the surest way to to know the truth about someone: No one can deceive me with “facts” about my wife because after 26 years together I know her: I know her ways, her words, and in many cases I know her thoughts before she thinks them. This is my guarantee that no one can deceive me about my wife, and the same can (and should) be true in our relationship with Jesus.
Faith and relationship will lead us to sound teaching, but teaching will not lead us to intimacy, relationship and faith. People who affirm correct doctrine are not guaranteed relationship with the Father, Son, or Spirit. “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life,” Jesus said in John 5:39. “These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
One final Christmas example: when the Magi came to Jerusalem they inquired about the birth of the new king. The Scribes (masters of doctrine) answered the question correctly (Micah 5:2) yet not one went to bow before the new born king. Which would have been better that first Christmas: to know all the answers about Jesus, or to bow at his feet?