Thursday, January 26, 2006

When Faith is Not Enough

Ralph Waldo Emerson once stated, "The faith that stands on authority is not faith." Since I finished my Comparative Religions class last semester, and I begin preparing for the coming semester of ministry at Grace Church and Lord providing on campus at COC, there seems to me to be a growing trend that has creeped even into the subconscious of mainstream Christianity. I call it a trend because it is something that I have only come to understand in the past year or so, yet I'm quite confident it has existed since the Protestant Reformation or longer. For simplicity sake, I like to call this false doctrine, "Peripheral Christianity." In Paul's letter to the Romans he begins by encouraging them, "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world" (Romans 1:8). Paul also goes on to write, "For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you-that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith" (Romans 1:11-12). Also in the second chapter of Ephesians we see that it is by God's grace through faith that we become children of God because of Christ's payment for our sin. It is indisputable that faith is not only critical, but undoubtedly required in the heart of a true believer. While this reality poses no threat to what we understand to be Biblical Christianity, for this truth is nothing new, I do believe there to be a misunderstanding in the minds of many professing Christians in the world today regarding the nature of this faith and the role it plays in life and salvation. During a heated debate between a large portion of the students in my Philosophy/Comparative Religions class last semester, one student emphatically proclaimed to me that I had "absolutely no authority to consider one person's faith over another," as she said, "faith is faith, it's all the same, right?" Though this statement may seem instantly outrageous to most of the people who are reading this now, I'm afraid this theology lingers both consciously and even more subconsciously in the hearts of MOST of the world. While at first glance this doctrine could appear as trademark postmodernism, it's actually worse than that. To most folks this pluralistic theology is not grounded in secular academia, but in the Bible. When one proclaims, "I have faith in Jesus," what is the focus of that statement? In elementary school we learned about subjects, verbs, and direct and indirect objects. When making this statement, ask yourself, "What exactly is the subject that I'm referring to?" Are we merely stating that we have faith? Or is it the focus of that faith that is important? When referring to salvation through faith in Jesus, it is not merely the faith itself we speak about but it is that which we have faith in that defines it. In the original statement, if we take away "faith," Jesus is still the same, yet if we remove Jesus we're merely left with an open-ended question. What exactly is your faith in? By answering this question we'll be able to understand more clearly what it is we believe, and on what foundation is planted the rest of our theology. The popular view today is to merely have faith, setting the focus in the peripheral subject of faith itself rather than the target of it. While Emerson's faith was obviously grounded in himself, as Christians our faith MUST be grounded in the gospel of Christ, found in the authoritative and inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Again, while this concept of directed faith might seem basic and even silly to most of us who read this, let's remember that many of the people we speak to every day might not be as theologically sound or spiritually mature as we THINK we are. Keeping that in mind, let's all "come boldly before the throne of grace" and aim ourselves constantly at the cross, as we know the cross was first aimed at us.

"Saving faith is an immediate relation to Christ, accepting, receiving, resting upon Him alone, for justification, sanctification, and eternal life by virtue of God's grace." - C.H. Spurgeon

P.S. If anyone is wondering why I didn't post about Resolved 06, there are two reasons. 1) I've been speechless since it started 2) Rick pretty much nailed it in last week's 'Mix' (see sidebar). Thanks always!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Simply Ridiculous

Kobe Bryant making history. Tonight against the Toronto Raptors Kobe Bryant put up 81, yes that's right, 81 points... BY HIMSELF. All I have to say is I'm glad it wasn't against the Rockets!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006