Friday, March 09, 2007

Faith Connected to Something Real...

What is the point of Faith? The reason I ask the question is because there seems to be some growing confusion as to what faith is. Christians understand (at least Lutheran Christians do) that their faith is based on extra gnose, or knowledge that is outside of us. That knowledge comes from God in His word and is demonstrated in real human history by His acts and His intrusion into the world in the person of Jesus Christ. This Christ lived a life of perfect obedience to God's will, suffered on a real wooden cross, shed real RH typable blood, and died a real, true death. He was raised from the dead, really and truly, in the flesh, was touched by real people, ate real fish in front of his disciples, and breathed real breath on them. It's all true.

But even more so than all that of that, our faith is based on promises that are connected to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. "Whosever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life". This is just as true as anything else about Jesus, whether people believe it or not.

Faith is nothing more than the utensil -- the empty hand -- that grasps and hangs onto these truths. But lately, there seems to be a push to redirect people's attention away from that which faith grasps and believes, and turn their attention to faith itself. After the recent "documentary" about the lost Jesus tomb, there was a discussion panel moderated by Ted Koppel. It would seem that there was a concensus, led by the Roman Catholic (priest?) that it wouldn't matter how much proof there was that Jesus didn't rise from the dead. No matter what, they would still believe.

No matter what, eh? On a recent broadcast on a Christian radio station, the host of the show gave the following fake scenario as a news report: Archeologists have found a second chamber near the "lost tomb" of Jesus that contains a cross, and on that cross is a sign written three languages that says "JESUS OF NAZARETH - KING OF THE JEWS". The letters on the sign are written in Aramaic, Greek and Latin. DNA testing shows that the blood on the cross matches the DNA samples of the bones in the ossuary that bears the inscription, "Jesus, son of Joseph".

Ok, what I'm hearing is that, faced with such a scenario, people would continue to believe no matter what. I'll grant that this amount of evidence that Jesus didn't rise from the dead isn't incontrovertable, but it's pretty good. But what I'm hearing that's even more disturbing is that quite a few teachers and pastors are, in essence, telling people to look at the fact that they believe that Jesus rose from the dead as proof that it's all true and the report is not.

That's exactly the trap that Satan has set for us. He absolutely loves it when God's people examine their faith in times like this. I mean, after all, do I really have faith? In the face of such strong evidence that Jesus never got out of the tomb, never was resurrected... is my faith strong enough to withstand that? Or should I turn away from myself and my faith and look to God and his promises?

Any time we tell someone to examine their faith, we could well be doing the work of Satan. Satan's biggest single trap is he wants us to doubt. He wants us to say goofy things like "I'll believe, no matter what" rather than simply looking to the Cross of Christ for comfort. In fact, if people want to do something in times like this as a bible study, just start with chapter one of Job. God's message for Job, whose faith was assailed on all fronts, is exactly the message we need to hear. If anyone points you to your faith as proof, or tells you that you have strong faith or weak faith in the face of Satan's barbs and schemes, just think about Job when he said "I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. "

Along with the truth of Jesus Christ, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his promise to "raise you up in the last day", is the truth that God's plans cannot be thwarted. It's impossible for people to refute the Jesus of God's plan. They can try, but they cannot succeed. So let them keep digging in the sand. They wont find peace there.


David said...

I have used a similar analogy concerning faith being the utensil that grasps. In that light, one thing to consider is that faith, weak or strong, is still faith. It is one of God's good gifts given us through baptism.

Weak faith still has the ability to grasp and hold on even when we are challenged to look beyond our own perceptions. I think faithful people do so with the intent of growing closer to God, not casting doubt like some on those documentaries.

Good post...lots to consider. What if there really was such a tomb with such a cross contained there? How would faithful people respond? Hmmmmmmmmm.....

Matthew said...

Hi David,

I agree, faith doesn't have to be very strong to grasp the promise. That's why I'm disturbed that there are pastors in reformational circles (lutheran and otherwise) who are pointing people towards their faith instead of what faith grasps. To be pragmatic for a moment, I know what happens when I examine my own faith. More often than not, I sin. And when I say sin, I mean really sin. So when I am praised by someone for having great faith, that by itself makes me look at my faith, which I percieve to be extremely weak because... Hello! I still sin!

Now, as to the possibility that there is a cross in a tomb somewhere; I'm doubtful that the Roman soldiers donated the cross they used. In fact, the one time archeological evidence was found of someone crucified, there were parts of wood left behind still attached to the nails that held the victim, but the entirety of the cross was nowhere to be found. I'd expect two things: 1) that family members of the victim wouldn't be so interested in the cross itself, and 2) the wood could be used for something else by the roman soldiers, whether firewood, construction, or whatever.

David said...

Revisiting this post, The Romans usually left the crosses standing when they crucified someone. It was their little reminder of who was in charge and what happens to those who try to fight back. The countryside in some places was literally littered with crosses.

I have seen pictures of some of those fragments you speak of. The nails with bones still attached to fragments of a cross. Makes one realize just how brutal crucifixion really was.

Matthew said...

Yup. Now, if we could just get a few of the "Jesus tomb"ers to pay more attention and actually know something about what they are criticizing. The fact is, both James Cameron and Schimca Jacobovici know close to very little about Christianity, Christian history or anything else remotely related to the subject. I was reminded by a commentor on Kim Riddlebarger's "riddleblog" of a quote by Dorothy Sayers concerning the lack of knowledge so many so called scholars and laypeople have today. The commentor reminded:

""Nine people out of ten in this country are ignorant heathens," she (Dorothy Sayers) said in 1939. "I do not so much mind the heathendom, but the ignorance is really alarming." And a few years later, when a broadcaster asked her to write a short letter explaining Christianity for the average person, Sayers spat back:
"The only letter I ever want to address to 'average people' is one that says — I do not care whether you believe in Christianity or not, but I do resent your being so ignorant, lazy, and unintelligent. Why don't you take the trouble to find out what is Christianity and what isn't? Why, when you can bestir yourself to mug up technical terms about electricity, won't you do as much for theology before you begin to argue about it? … You would be ashamed to know as little about internal combustion as you do about the Nicene Creed."

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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