Wednesday, November 03, 2010

More on believing and being

A question that keeps coming up in emerging theology circles - and others I suppose is, 'When did faith become an assent to a set of doctrines?' It's a good question. Can I only be a Christian if I believe certain things? Let's put aside the belief in the centrality of Jesus and the cross, for now - although there are some who don't even see that as necessary. Does it matter whether or not I believe in substitutionary atonement? The virgin birth? The priesthood of all believers? Surely being a Christian isn't a matter of ticking the right boxes on a doctrinal multiple choice paper?
But then, many of these same people to convince you in theological discussion will say, 'it all depends on how you see God. What is your picture of God?' And this is also a good question. Absolutely, how we see God affects our behaviour, our lifestyle, our faith.
But our picture of God depends on our beliefs about God and that comes back to doctrine. So faith IS an assent to certain doctrines - starting with our picture of God - whether we see him as a God of love or punishment or suffering or whatever. Which boxes about God did you tick?
Maybe questions about the virgin birth don't seem so relevent. But ultimately, what you believe about God is going to affect your behaviour, lifestyle etc.
The trouble is that in the past people have simply ticked boxes without applying it to their brains and their lives. They could tick boxes - know what they ought to believe - but not translate it into actual belief and therefore lifestyle change.
Faith is belief (doctrinal assent) that results in relationship with Jesus and a changed lifestyle.


Thomas O. Scarborough said...

Don Fleming defines faith as “people’s trust in, or dependence on, God and his works”.

David Barbour said...

I quote John van der Laar in his book "The hour that changes everything": "...creeds, rather than offering us ideas to agree with, describe truths by which we are called to live." So for example the Virgin birth helps us acknowledge that God works through ordinary people and this helps us live accordingly. I think this makes sense for me. It provokes us into living what the truth holds. Yours early in the morning...

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Thanks Thomas - I like your way of describing faith that you've used before - about faith in the goodness of God rather than that all will go well. It sort of adds a new dimension to the definition that I was aiming at.
David - I like that. I am just starting John's book. I'm trying to work out why I agree with John more than I used to (theologically I mean). I suspect that we have both taken our belief systems apart and are putting them back together and finding more common ground. Which is both good and interesting!

Steve Hayes said...

I agree with Thomas -- faith is trust in a person, not intellectual assent to a set of propositions. Modernity was responsible for the view of truth as being expressed primarily in propositional terms, and appeared especially in Western Christianity as a result of the Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment. It seems to me that before that doctrine/dogma was seen as far more integral with the way one lived and related to God. "Holistic" is a modern word to describe it. The old word was "catholic" -- "according to the whole".

Jenny Hillebrand said...

Thanks Steve. I agree that faith is in a person, but what I (and people like Phillip Pullman I should think) struggle with is do why do we have faith in God? Because he is the omnipotent being? Does he deserve our faith even if we were to believe that he was morally corrupt? Faith also has to innclude the idea that God is good - and that is doctrine. The thing is to keep everything in its place. Belief in the goodness of God is something that Satan has too.