Faith is not inconsequential

Faith is a much misunderstood subject. Over the holidays I was reading a book on inter-religious literacy which characterized Christianity as a doctrinaire path. But in the process what shone through for me was the (Buddhist) author’s unreflective equation of faith with doctrine. In other words, his inter-religious literacy was far from complete.

Of course, Christians themselves contribute much towards misunderstandings like this. The vitrolic denunciations of ‘works theology’ by Evangelical leaders can indeed leave the impression that actions, practice and lifestyle (beyond the narrow field of family ethics) are unimportant. That is, that faith is about inner experience and head knowledge alone.

Scripture however paints a different picture. “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds” says James. Faith is discernable by the fruit of the Spirit. We are saved by faith alone, I agree, but heavenly faith is not without worldly consequence.

My wife has a favourite illustration of this. The scenario is an office fire. A person runs in yelling “Fire! Fire!” Now, the person who trusts the fire is real doesn’t just sit there basking in the glow of that knowledge. The person of faith gets off her ass. The person of faith acts. Lack of transformation, therefore, can be taken as a sign of counterfeit faith.

This has real world application when it comes to the task of selecting a Christian teacher. What marks a person as a genuine authority on Christ and Christianity? In my experience it is rarely the loudest voice. It may not even be the most doctrinally astute. Rather, it’s the one who is most Christlike, who evidences peace, patience, grace and charity in their life. Where you see a transformed life, look there for authentic training on faith.

3 thoughts on “Faith is not inconsequential

  1. I love John white’s discussion of faith in his classic book, “The Fight.” He refers to faith as “a response to God’s promises.” Based on his argument, faith absolutely requires action because until it is put into action, it is merely belief.
    I’d also like to note that there is another couple definitions of faith that people often forget:
    6. the obligation of loyalty or fidelity to a person, promise, engagement, etc.: Failure to appear would be breaking faith.
    7. the observance of this obligation; fidelity to one’s promise, oath, allegiance, etc.: He was the only one who proved his faith during our recent troubles.
    It’s from these definitions that the word “faithful” derives its meaning. So when discussing faith it is important to ask what does it mean to be loyal to that in which we place our faith.

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  2. Very astute Jarred. Loyalty and allegiance are both aspects of faith I place a lot of stock in. When I say I have faith in Jesus, I’m declaring where my primary loyalties lie. Thus, were I to obey my boss (or Prime Minister) when his directives go against the grain of Jesus’ teachings, I would be showing a lack of faith, even if the situation was quite secular at face value.

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