As I was working on the first post in this series, it occurred quite suddenly to me: faith is inextricably tied to the character of the “object,” the person, idea, or thing in which we place our faith. I had been thinking about faith solely from the perspective of the person having faith (a rather selfish perspective). However, it’s impossible to isolate faith from its object (for lack of a better word), particularly when Jesus tells us to “have faith in God; have faith in me.” I want to explore the trust aspect of faith within this more “subjective” framework.
This is not a part of faith I hadn’t heard before. I’ve read often enough that it’s the “object” of faith that is truly important. I guess I just never paused long enough to consider the implications (plus object sounds too much like a grammatical word to be truly interesting ;-) ). Essentially, faith by itself is of some value. We tend to respect someone for following their convictions even if we disagree with them. However, “earnestness” does not justify its action. You can be completely sincere and completely wrong. What we believe (or who we believe in, or who we trust) matters just as much as how we believe.
So how does this relate to Christian faith? Our faith must be rooted in the character of God expressed in Jesus of Nazareth. I don’t think we can successfully root it in some “epistemology” of faith explaining why or how to believe in God. Essentially, faith must start with God and work toward us. We can’t start with ourselves and work toward God. This is right in line with the message of Scripture. “Be holy, for I am holy.” “We love because he first loved us.” We are to be faithful because God himself is faithful. All of the ethical imperatives of the New Testament are undergirded and prefixed by the message Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Jesus loved to the uttermost, so we must love. Jesus forgave, so we must forgive. Of course, it’s more than that. Jesus inaugurated, or rather launched, the Kingdom of God. Our faith is wrapped up in this Kingdom project that Jesus launched and that he has handed over to us. “All authority has been given to me; therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” One day he’ll return for consummation, to finally fulfill that which he started. Until then we must be faithful with the tasks he has given us.
So this post has taken a different path than I thought it would, but it still brings us quite nicely to an important topic: Good works. Soon enough I’ll examine why good works are absolutely crucial to our faith in God. In stead of examining the interplay between love with faith, I’ll try to work that in as we look at how are faith expresses itself through works.