Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Ok, now to pick up where I was going with this...

I belong to a church here in Florida, a non denominational church. It's a nice church, filled with nice people who are sincere in thier faith. But I've learned that non denominational churches are magnets for everyone who has ever been disgruntled at thier old church. The number of people at my church run the gamot from pentacostals to methodists to baptist to church of Christ... And worse yet, they bring all thier excess baggage from those denominations with them.

As a result, the pastor feels like he has to make his sermons sort of "fit" the congregation where they are at. There are also a lot of former Roman Catholics, and anymore I think I know why. Sola fide isn't something that is preached in my church.

Sola fide is the latin phrase for "faith alone". In the bible, faith is referred to as something that is not a virtue, or optimistic attitude, but rather as the sole instrument of salvation. Tonight, our pastor talked about "getting yourself and your mind to where you really believe God at his word". I shrugged. Even before I started studying reformation theology I understood faith to be something else besides this.

The way I see it, faith doesn't equal optimism. Optimism, by definition, is "a doctrine that this world is the best possible world" or "an inclination to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events or to anticipate the best possible outcome". (merriam-webster dictionary). But that is not faith, not even in the same dictionary. Faith is defined as "firm belief in something for which there is no proof" or "complete trust" and "something that is believed especially with strong conviction". "Complete trust" doesn't seem to be the same as "anticipat(ing) the best possible outcome".

So my pastor is telling people to "get yourself and your mind to where you really believe God at his word". Now, I'm inclined to think that this is what we do when we watch tv or go to the movies. In watching a movie, like maybe "Star wars" or "The Brothers Grimm", we "suspend disbelief" and get into the story and imagery as if they were real. We react with emotion, crying in the right places and laughing... Some people take this too far into the whole "geekdom" realm, where they dress up as the characters in a movie, like "Star wars" or the venerable "Rocky Horror Picture show". They are also "getting themselves and thier minds to where they really believe", even if for just a little while, before reality crashes down around thier ears, after they take off the Darth Vader masks and realize that the real world is "real" again.

I know of quite a few people that this is how church is for them. The have thier "WWJD" bracelets, thier "Jesus freak" t-shirts and such... and they dress up in a sort of christian geekdom, suspending disbelief as they "praise and worship", only to have a total collapse as they come down later on after the service. Reality comes crashing down around thier ears, and the real world is "real" again.

The reformers framed thier definition of faith this way: From the Heidelburg Catechism...

Q. What is true faith?

A. It is not only a certain knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed to us in His Word.[1] At the same time it is a firm confidence[2] that not only to others, but also to me,[3] God has granted forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation,[4] out of mere grace, only for the sake of Christ's merits.[5] This faith the Holy Spirit works in my heart by the gospel.[6]
[1] Joh_17:3; Joh_17:17; Heb_11:1-3; Jam_2:19. [2] Rom_4:18-21; Rom_5:1; Rom_10:10; Heb_4:16. [3] Gal_2:20. [4] Rom_1:17; Heb_10:10. [5] Rom_1:1-26; Gal_2:16; Eph_2:8-10. [6] Act_16:14; Rom_1:16; Rom_10:17; 1Co_1:21.

Not only a certain knowledge whereby I accept as true all that God has revealed in His word...

Jas 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

But at the same time a firm confidence...

Heb 11:1 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Ro 4:19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.
Ro 4:20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God,
Ro 4:21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

Ro 10:10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Eph 3:12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

Heb 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Jas 1:6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

What I get from this definition of faith is something altogether different that an "optimistic attitude". This is something that we cannot manufacture, as we do when we "suspend" disbelief.

EPH 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God...

I believe that we cannot "make" ourselves believe at all. Only God can do that. And that "faith" not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.

How many times do we pray, "God, please bring (insert name of unsaved family or friends) to a saving faith in Christ", or "Please reveal yourself to this person that they might believe in Jesus"? All the time. We know that only God can work faith in someone, but we constantly dilute our knowledge of this with strange definitions of faith that sabotage our daily lives.

God, please keep me from trying to manufacture my own faith and make open to the gift of faith that you give me. Amen


David said...

Right you are
God gives us faith as a gift
We act on it out of obedience
I have migrated to several churches in the last ten years - I have a home now and I am grateful. I wish you peace
Gotta go now the library lady is flashing the lights to say its closing time.

the big test

Since someone, somewhere, has seen fit to deprive the world of Issues etc and take a huge bite out of confessional Lutheranism at the same time, I will not take up the mantle of working to see that those who did it answer for their actions.
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