Faith is a much misunderstood subject. Over the holidays I was reading a book on inter-religious literacy which characterised 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 vitriolic 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 discernible 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.