Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Christian Theology in a Thumbnail: Faith (19)



          In the last post in this series we considered grace, grace alone, as the Reformation slogan has it. God’s gracious initiative in creation and redemption makes life and new life a gift and gratitude a way of life.  Another way of sketching the shape of gratitude is to speak of faith, again faith alone, as another Reformation slogan has it.

          Faith is our response to God’s grace.  It does not add anything to that grace, as if we contribute something to our relation to God.  No, that is wholly God’s work of grace, so much so that even the faith we respond with is part and parcel of that grace. 

          An anatomy of faith will give texture to this act of response to God’s gracious goodness.  I suggest that faith is a three-strand rope consisting of truth, trust, and troth.

          First, faith is a response to truth.  God’s truth made known in Jesus Christ is something we “believe.”  But we believe this truth only in embracing the Truth (Jesus Christ; Jn.14:6).  In faith we respond to the reality of God’s presence among us in him.  In relation to him, the Truth, we know the one in who is hidden “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col.2:3).  We ourselves do not know or possess the truth but if faith we are related to the One who does.  Thus our response to God’s grace in faith is a truthful one.

          Second, faith is trust.  A tightrope walker once asked his audience if they believed he could push a wheelbarrow across and back on the wire stretched between two tall buildings.  The crowd enthusiastically affirmed their belief that he could do it.  After completing the trip across and back with the wheelbarrow successfully, the walker asks the crowd again if they believed he do it.  Again they vociferously affirmed him.  Then he asked, “Who wants to jump in and ride over and back with me?”  Dead silence.

          Faith is entrusting ourselves to God in active following.  Enough said.

          Lastly, faith is troth.  This great old English word speaks one’s commitment to marry one’s beloved.  It is preserved in older translations of the New Testament which speak of Joseph and Mary’s “betrothal.” 

“It's important to note that betrothal was of a much more formal and far more binding nature than the "engagement" is with our culture. Indeed, it was held to be a part of the transaction of marriage, and as being the most binding part. The ceremony of betrothal consisted in the acceptance before witnesses of the terms of the marriage as contracted for. God's blessing is then solemnly asked on the union now provided for, which will probably take place only after some months, or perhaps even some years.” (http://www.bibleistrue.com/qna/qna22.htm)

In faith we too pledge our troth in the sense above to the One who has first given himself to us in inconceivably gracious love.  As such we are bound to each other as husband and wife even if the consummation of the relationship has not yet happened.  John the Seer narrates that consummation in Rev.21:2 even as Christ and his church are spoken of as husband and wife already in Eph.5.

Truth, trust, and troth, in the inextricable interweaving of these three, there is faith!  And if Jesus is to believed, even a mustard seed’s worth is enough!

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