Friday, February 08, 2008

The Nature of Faith

Recently I've been thinking a lot about faith. Like, what is faith, really? My thinking has been spurred by a couple recent events. One, a young Christian couple I know is struggling with everything in life since giving birth to a severely handicapped child. Another is a young Christian woman with whom I've had a mentoring relationship, who has pretty much decided to reject Christianity because it has too many reasonableness problems. These three people are now talking about "losing their faith."

I'd like to have the theology that embraces eternal security. That's what I grew up with, and there certainly is some evidence of that in Scripture. But when I observe cases like this (as well as certain other places in Scripture) I begin to wonder. I mean, if by grace we are saved through faith, and we no longer have faith, then maybe we are no longer saved. Ah, the old Calvinism v. Arminianism debate.

As I woke up this morning pondering the nature of faith, I remembered this verse:
I Corinthians 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly;
We crave reasonableness, we crave things to be "right," we crave to get what we deserve. But, really, we don't see the whole picture. There might be reasons for a handicapped child, I don't know. There might be reasons for things we don't understand in scripture, I don't know. Is faith nothing more than assenting to God to do something I don't understand?

Scripture also tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. He doesn't demand good works, a good attitude, or good understanding. No, he asks for something much harder--faith.

That chapter in I Corinthians goes on to say, "There are three things: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love." I wonder if my three friends are losing faith and hope because they have not experienced enough love.


eclexia said...

I've begun to think that "I don't know" is the theme song of my life. For whatever reason, in that place my trust in God has grown. But it's not easy and it's not flippant. And there are days where it seems very precarious. Almost like the precarious places are what give shape to the boundaries and extent of my faith. But the precariousness also gives me understanding and deep compassion for those who are either sliding out of faith or consciously choosing to turn away from it. It's hard for me to judge, even while my heart longs for them to keep holding on, because I understand the pull. And I understand how faith, well, how it just doesn't make sense, in its very nature.

I'm currently reading Stumbling Toward Faith. Why does the author keep stumbling towards faith, when it is so excruciatingly hard after all that she suffered "in the name of Christ"? Why has she not stumbled AWAY from faith? I don't know. Her story gives me hope, but also causes me to grieve with her, and with others from whom faith seems to much to ask.

Praying for your friends, and also for you. Sometimes I have found that it does make a difference for a friend to hold onto faith for me, even when I can't. Not that they can actually vicariously do that, just when I can't see it for myself, they can hold out enough life to keep me hoping and holding on and trusting, when I thought I couldn't. Maybe that's what you mean about the love part being so essential to having the faith and hope. I'd never thought about the connection quite in that way before. But it makes a lot of sense to me now.

Anonymous said...

A few years ago (seems like yesterday of course), my wife died from a recurrence of breast cancer. Like your friends with the handicapped child, the "WHY??" questions came naturally and repeatedly.

A verse that helped me a great deal comes from Paul when God answered him regarding a great trial he was enduring (and Paul was a much better Christian than I'll ever be), "My grace is sufficient for you."

I don't know the answer to the "Why" question and won't until that day when all questions are answered (and I see my dear wife again) but I did learn that God does provide the grace we need to bear up under whatever comes our way.

May we always find that God's grace is sufficient for us!!

-- Ishmael