PT5: Faith for Lay Guys_The FAITH
Updated: Jan 1
There is a body of information out there called The Faith. It stands alone a a document which outlines what Christians believe. It is not an action word, but a noun.
If you were to put all the stuff about Christianity on a target, with red being at the core of what we believe in the center, and the blue and yellow rings comprising things like eschatological theories, whether its right or wrong to wear albs and stoles, or eucharistic theology, The Faith would lie at the smack-dab center of the target.
The Faith is expressed through a series of ancient creeds. They were created in part because there were so many splinter groups, each with its own spin on the Gospel, that something had to be created to describe a single cohesive descriptive of what we believe. It is an essential part of our belief and contains everything a person needs to be saved. In my faith tradition (Anglican) we declare it every Sunday. It's just that crucial to understand.
That being said, this Faith is not the "faith" that God is calling us to live into.
God invites us into something much richer, much more adventurous than a belief system, or a bullet list of orthodoxy. His call is all about a living expression - no, a sacrificial response - to a lifestyle whose Kingdom life co-mingles with ours. This is far from an intellectual ascent to a two-dimensional document document written thousands of years ago. Anyone can believe that and not know God from Adam.
So what does The Faith (creed) have to do with the activity of the faithful? In short, it frames it. Much like Holy Scripture, our creeds provide an anchored stability and safe-harbored boundary wherein we do life. It anchors us in Christ, and frames our activities by providing boundaries wherein we it is safe to live and move and have our being. For example, if a person living in faith believes he is being invited by God to say something ridiculous like, “Thus saith the Lord. I have not one but many Sons, all living within me and the Spirit. I’ve sent one to redeem you, but your concept of the Holy Trinity is just to limiting for me …” That’s where The Faith steps in and calls that heresy. Indeed any activity of the faithful preaching anything in contrary to the creeds should be judged as heresy.
This is a very different aspect of the faith than what Jesus is inviting us into. While we will always be guardians of The Faith, he has asked us to move beyond all that, into the risky adventure of living faith, which is all inclusive of that same "The Faith."
That in part is what’s behind Jesus’ insightful advice when he says, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3. See also Mark 10:15) Children can’t intellectually grasp the tenants of the faith anymore than an earthworm can dissect the soil it lives in. But they can step into the awe and wonder of belief and action. Like when the formally-crazed man who lived in the tombs and was gloriously delivered from a slew of demons went back into town and shared the good news to his family with only his experience and encounter of Jesus to go on, children have the assurance that God is out there, with nothing else to go on.
I find it refreshing that Jesus sent (still sends) people out into the harvest field with little or no experience of seminary, or having been in a disciple making relationship for “x” amount of years, or even after had reading books on how to reach the post-modern world.
The simply went. And they still go.
Sometimes faith in The Creeds doesn’t take it far enough. God is inviting you and me into the actual joy, wonder, experience of Kingdom life. Even well-writes books and theological education can get in the way of that Invitation!
When I became a Christian I was so happy. I daily carried the joy of forgiveness, freedom of shame, and a heart to see everyone I knew come to Christ. I did a lot of things wrong. I stood with uplifted hands in church while everyone else was kneeling. I used swear words when praying with people (especially against the devil), and I often did other stupid things out of my own (how-be-it innocent) religious fervor. But things got done. People got saved. Many of them are in ministry today.
One day one of the parents of my youth group asked me something about “Calvinism.”
"‘Calvinism?' What is that?"
All I knew was my Bible in one hand and guitar in the other. So I decided to check it out. I took off for Fuller Theological Seminary and learned all about that stuff. It was a rich experience which challenged me on many levels and has been essential in my formation into the man I am today.
Yet through the years something subtle began to edge it’s way into my childlike passion. It was fascinating at first, even enticing. But through the years it began to overbalance my faith adventure and form itself into a dry, inntelecually-based faith. In short I had backslidden into a state where The Faith had become my faith.
This became clear to me after almost 30 years. I was sitting in a prayer meeting meditating on the Father-hood of God. In a vision Jesus lifted me in his arms and carried me up a series of marble steps (not unlike the Lincoln Memorial) and laid me in the lap of a most wondrous living being. From the moment I was set down I felt nothing but pure unconditional love buzzing all around me. I was lost in his robes and the unbelief that I was actually as special as I felt. Looking into his face, his gaze was all consuming, all loving, as if I was the only person in the world. He knew me. And I was happy to be known by him. My eyes filled with tears - not for pain or regret, but for how wondrous a Father he was. Just looking into his eyes I was recharged, refilled with the wonder of it all.
“You are so awesome,” I said. How did I ever forget how beautiful you are, how loving and wonderful?”
The answer came as quickly as I asked the question. “When you went to seminary.”
In that single moment my once childlike fervor faith moved from out of the shadows of my intellectualized The Faith and took it’s proper place as Chief of Command. It didn’t negate all my theological training and magnificent ministerial expertise. It only set it in right priority.
In the final installment I’ll share a bit around the faith that God really calls us into.
Father, take that which has superseded my childlike faith and rearrange it in it’s proper order, for the glory and wonder of your Name. Amen.