Evolving Faith 2 (RJS)

Rachel Held Evans is a young author, a talented writer, with  a story of common experience to tell. Rachel’s book,  Evolving in Monkey Town, is the memoir of a young Christian wrestling with the meaning and implications of Christian faith. Playing off the history of the Scopes trial, the theme of Rachel’s memoir is the evolution of faith – not the evolution of Christianity, as though we are moving from an inferior past to a more highly developed form for the future, but the evolution of faith required in each of us as we seek to live as Christians for the future.

Life isn’t fair. People live, people dream, people struggle, people suffer, people die. All around the globe. For millenia. Billions of them. Real living, breathing, thinking, people. And then? And then if they were not among the elect, or lucky enough to hear and assent to the gospel, they suffer eternal conscious torment… this is God’s higher way?

Rachel describes the things that troubled her the most as she wrestles with the Christian faith of her upbringing. Science and evolution are on the list, but only peripherally. Of more immediate significance the issues of hell, wrath, and the justice of God, raised deep conflict and doubt. Judgment per se is not a problem. But judgment based on Original Sin with salvation based on assent to propositions about Jesus when most have never had the opportunity to hear?  This is a problem. A serious problem.

In the middle of her book Rachel describes a turning point – and the turning point is best classified as a return to the fundamentals of Christian faith. The deepest irony of 20th and 21st century evangelicalism is that focus on the fundamentals entailed a loss of focus on the fundamental of our faith. Rachel does not put it in quite these words – this is my my observation and interpretation.

What is the biggest problem for faith? What causes the most significant doubts?

What puts the doubts in perspective?

So what is the fundamental? The fundamental, plain and simple, is a focus on the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus, God’s Messiah. The incarnation is the fundamental … our response is not assent to facts about Jesus, but commitment to follow Jesus.

The final and most startling thing I noticed as I grew more acquainted with the Gospels was that Jesus had a very different view of faith than the one to which I was accustomed. I’m not sure when it happened, but sometime in my late teens or early twenties, it was as if Jesus packed his bags and moved from my heart into my head. He became an idea, a sort of theological mechanism  by which salvation was attained. I described him in terms of atonement, logos, the object of my faith, and absolute truth.  He was something I agreed to, not someone I followed. … Checking off the right things on the list meant the difference between salvation and damnation. (p. 105)

Reading the Gospels, being immersed in the Gospels, and then reading Acts and the epistles in this context brings us back to the fundamental. The fundamental is not assent to proposition, but, as Jesus required of his disciples, obedience. Christians follow a person. This does not mean earning favor with God or participating in salvation. God saves. But it does mean that our focus as Christians is not on “head believing”, our focus is on following – “life believing”.

Beyond Jesus, the fundamental is, Rachel suggests, love. This comes from Isaiah, from the Gospels, from the epistles of Paul, from James and John. It permeates the New Testament. God is love, God abundantly pardons, Jesus gives as the greatest commandments the call to love God and love neighbor, we are called to forgive, to be of right mind toward each other and toward God.

Taking on the yoke of Jesus is not about signing a doctrinal statement or making an intellectual commitment to a set of propositions. It isn’t about being right or getting our facts straight. It is about loving God and loving other people. The yoke is hard because the teachings of Jesus are radical: enemy love, unconditional forgiveness, extreme generosity.  The yoke is easy because it is accessible to all – the studied and ignorant, the rich and the poor, the religious and the nonreligious. (p. 209)

The journey and discovery Rachel relates in her memoir is not unique. It mirrors, I expect, the experience of many. It mirrors my experience as a Christian and a scientist, although science played and plays a much larger role for a variety of reasons. The Christian faith does not require, as John Polkinghorne puts it, “gritting your teeth and believing six impossible things before breakfast.” It involves following a person, with total commitment. This provides the context for evaluating the claims of the faith we have received and for moving forward. Some of the things we’ve been taught are wrong, and that is only to be expected. we can get rid of the baggage and keep the faith.

I asked above about the doubts and perspective. Let me put this a little more concretely.

What are the “six impossible things before breakfast” that have caused you to doubt?

How do you move forward?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail@att.net

If interested you can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

  • gingoro

    Excellent post! Fundamentalism in it’s original meaning and drive towards the essentials of the Christian faith was to my mind mostly a positive development, at least in the beginning. Unfortunately two things tended to derail the drive towards essentials.

    The first was that the essential of the kingdom message of Christ got left out, in that ministry to the poor and social concerns were frequently ignored since any such was tainted with the charge of liberalism.

    The second was that total inessentials were elevated to the status of essential. For example in considering end times disagreements over whether or not one thought that the rapture occurred prior to the tribulation, midtrib or post tribulation lead to disputes and unnecessary separation.

    I often think that one of the problems with fundamentalists and evangelicals is that they are not fundamental enough.
    Dave W

  • Rick

    Good post RJS.

    You wrote: “The fundamental is not assent to proposition, but, as Jesus required of his disciples, obedience. Christians follow a person. This does not mean earning favor with God or participating in salvation. God saves. But it does mean that our focus as Christians is not on “head believing”, our focus is on following – “life believing”.”

    I don’t disagree with the importance and emphasis on obedience, but we need to be careful about drawing to sharp a divide between head and heart believing.

    Leaning too heavily towards propositions, especially non-essential ones, certainly has been a problem and needs to be balanced. But this is not an either/or issue, rather it is a both/and.

    As Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”. It was a head and heart question, and answer. Our “focus” is on Him, who He is, our relationship with Him, and what He asks of us.

  • rjs

    Rick,

    Building on what you’ve said – there is clearly an element of head belief, if only belief that Jesus is God’s Messiah and following Him is following God. In fact the only proper response then is to follow.

  • http://homekettle.wordpress.com David N.

    I cried when I read Rachel’s book last summer. I felt like it was the pages of my own life, because I have wrestled with every single theological issue she talked about.

    I think right now the hardest “impossible” thing for me to accept is eternal punishment. Obviously this is a hot button issue right now, but it has bothered me for years how to resolve this, and I still don’t know.

  • Susan N.

    The biggest problem for faith, to me personally, has been learning that doubts are a normal part of the journey. There will be both spiritual highs and lows, mountain-top experiences and dark valley experiences. Don’t panic in the valleys! Open up to what can be learned from the valley experiences. Failure will also be part of the Christian life. Errors in thinking will happen. Be humble. Learn from mistakes. Confess those weaknesses to God, and believe that He has the ability to make something fruitful of it.

    In these words of Henri Nouwen are beautifully expressed the tension between head knowledge and heart-deep faith:

    “Becoming the beloved is pulling the truth revealed to me from above down into the ordinariness of what I am, in fact, thinking of, talking about and doing from hour to hour.”

    “when the imitation of Christ does not mean to live a life like Christ, but to live your life as authentically as Christ lived his, then there are many ways and forms in which a man [or woman] can be a Christian.” (from ‘The Wounded Healer’)

    I once read in a book of Henri’s a contemplative prayer to the effect of — May the truth in my head sink deeply into my heart. That’s where it’s at, and that’s what will move a person to act most boldly for Christ.

    But I think this cycle of head/heart isn’t one that happens once and for all at a moment of conversion, or when a particular spiritual truth is revealed. It is an endless cycle of formation and practice. Sometimes we’ve got it going on, and other times we fall flat. Keep on, press on… God uses it all :-)

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    My background is quite a bit different from most here, but here are some of the six for me.

    1. I am so bad that god won’t want to be with me.
    2. Women are not worthy to be priests and bishops and such.
    3. People who don’t know Jesus can’t go to heaven
    4. Jesus (a deity) came to earth to die for our sins and because of that extreme sacrifice we are all saved (being I am the sinner that I am, I have often thought that if I knew I could save everyone in the world by dying for them that I would do that too. What’s the big deal with this Jesus guy doing it? This is not something I ever said out loud because it how could one get more arrogant than to think you would do what Jesus did. A couple years ago my wife said “heck, I would gladly die too if it would save everyone” and I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders because I was not the only one who thought such a blasphemous thing).
    5. This little wafer actually becomes the body of Jesus.
    6. …and now in my current life, you will be saved if you just say you believe Jesus is god.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    …forgot to answer the how to move forward. I moved forward by abandoning Christianity. My wife and I searched for a religion for more than a decade doing comparitive religious studies to find something that made sense with the world and our internal understanding of what is right. We even spent a few months trying on being a Jew. Finally I settled on a combination of psychology and Buddhism. It seemed to me, and I still believe, that Buddhism has a better structure to have a positive impact on the world that Christianity did (eliminate suffering).

    The trouble with the Buddhism is that it is difficult for me to live in rural Virginia, have kids that are accepted in school and really be a Buddhist. So I joined a MTD church for the kids and was a closet Buddhist.

    Finally, I caught wind of emergent, read Tom Wright, and then decided that Christianity has a chance in the world and I should try and make it work for people. In other words, become evangelical about my new concept of Jesus. That’s where I am now.

  • johnfouadhanna

    RJS, I realize that you already acknowledged Rick’s comment (#3) about “head” belief. Still, I’d like to flesh this out a bit more, especially in light of Rachel’s insistence.

    You write:

    “God is love, God abundantly pardons, Jesus gives as the greatest commandments the call to love God and love neighbor, we are called to forgive, to be of right mind toward each other and toward God.”

    And Rachel writes:

    “The yoke is hard because the teachings of Jesus are radical: enemy love, unconditional forgiveness, extreme generosity.”

    What are these but deeply doctrinal beliefs rooted in the character of God ulitmately revealed, lived out and taught in the person of Jesus. There’s nothing obvious about this. Nor do we intuit it. It doesn’t just come from nowhere.

    It is dogma of the first order. As Chesterton wisely and pithily stated (did he know any other way?), “in truth, there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogma and know it, and those who accept dogma and don’t know it.”

    The difficulty with what Rachel says is that immediately before the statement I just quoted above, she writes: “Taking on the yoke of Jesus is not about signing a doctrinal statement or making an intellectual commitment to a set of propositions.”

    Rachel is overtly mistaken in this regard. Taking on Jesus’ yoke and folllowing him is inseparable from accepting a host of truths/propositions about him, about myself, about God, about what it means to be human, about the purpose of my own existence, about the nature of reality, etc. I say this realizing that, depending on our makeup, what we’ve been taught, capacity, etc., some of these beliefs are consciously held, while others are implicit or subconscious. Regardless, for someone like Rachel, who is a writer/thinker/creator, and for readers of this blog, we are talking about deeply intellectual commitments.

    What I think Rachel wants to say (I hope that doesn’t sound condescending) is that following Jesus is more than simply acknowledging particular truths as a matter of information to which we assent. As Susan N writes (#5), it’s about having those truths – actually the person of Jesus himself, in and through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit [ah...more doctrine...darn:)] – inhabit our very being, personally and communaly.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    ..One of the weaknesses of current day Christianity and in the Jesus Creed (loving God, loving others) is that it is internalized by many today as an individualistic endeavor. The Loving others part can still easily be misconstrued (and I know a whole church of people who do this) as that they just need to acknowledge that they love other people and they are following Jesus. It is interpreted as strictly internal. I can say I love other people therefore I am doing what Jesus says.

    I wish Jesus would have set it up more explicitly as something like, Loving God and having wonderful positive relationships with others while helping those less fortunate and eliminating their suffering. Something more action oriented.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    I feel compelled to clarify one of my statements. I said “It seemed to me, and I still believe, that Buddhism has a better structure to have a positive impact on the world that Christianity did (eliminate suffering).” When I refer to Christianity here I don’t mean what Jesus taught, I mean how it is implemented in Christianity today in America.

  • LF

    I’d like to simply answer your question.
    What are the “six impossible things before breakfast” that have caused you to doubt?
    How do you move forward?

    If I’m truly honest? My six (at least today) are:
    1. I find it hard to swallow that to live is Christ and to die is gain.
    2. Hard to believe that someday I and my friends and family will no longer weep over that which we suffer. The New Heavens and New Earth – sometimes I wonder if it’s all wishful thinking rather than truth.
    3. On the most difficult of days I doubt that Jesus truly knows my suffering; that he truly empathizes. I meditate on Jesus in Gethsemane and on some days I still wonder if he knows. Stupid I know, but this is me being honest.
    4. Unity. I often doubt that unity will ever happen. Unity between genders especially.
    5. Love. I bank on the truth that God is love. I find myself doubting that we will ever truly be as Christ when it comes to love.
    I guess the theme of my doubting is eschatalogical. :)

    How do I move foward? The only other choice I have in moving forward is to stay in bed and be a worm. Moving forward in love is a much better option.

  • rjs

    johnfouadhanna,

    The term dogma has a bad connotation because it suggests belief on the grounds of authority – independent of or in spite of motivation or evidence. And Chesterton is well worth interacting with – but not right about everything either.

    I like Polkinghorne’s emphasis on motivated belief as a better approach. Belief in the existence of God is a motivated belief. It is “dogma” in that it is a self-evident part of the package, not in that it is authoritatively imposed from the outside. There are also things I believe about God from a variety of evidences and motivations. Self-revelation in scripture is one of the key pieces of evidence and there are very strong reasons to take scripture as reliable.

    Belief in the incarnation and all it entails is also a motivated belief rather than a dogmatic belief.

    Following Jesus is more than assent to certain information, but there has to be acceptance of some information. Certainly this is inherent in what Rachel is talking about.

    But more to the point here – following Jesus does not require intellectual assent to any one specific set of detailed doctrines or dogmas about Jesus. In a sense this gets to the post Scot put up on the essentials of the faith. We are in dialog with, not in submission to, the various pictures of God and Jesus in the church tradition.

    I can question the sufficiency of penal substitutionary atonement as a an adequate understanding of the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection.

    I can discuss the various positions of universalism.

    I can think about how we interpret Romans 5 and Romans 8 in the light of what we know from scientific investigation of God’s creation.

    I can entertain the idea that scripture may not be inerrant, come to the conclusion that it is reliable and think about in what ways it might be inerrant and what “inspired by God” actually means.

    My faith hangs on none of these. It hangs on belief in God and on following Jesus. You can define this as dogmatic – but that seems to me an improper use of the word.

  • Jeff L

    What are the “six impossible things before breakfast” that have caused you to doubt?
    1. God truly takes a personal interest in me.
    2. the problem of evil / theodicy
    3. the human being Jesus of Nazareth was (and is) also the Son of God
    4. the Gospels are historically reliable, in the way, say, Tacitus’ Annals are
    5. how atonement through Jesus’s death works
    6. Jesus’s resurrection.

    How do you move forward?
    1. Watch for the power of God (the Holy Spirit) as it works in my life and the lives of others.
    2. Every day pray “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.”
    3. Read the work of very smart people like C.S. Lewis and N.T. Wright who are staunch believers.
    4. Understand that divine “inspiration” of Scripture is not dictation, and that minor contradictions or even errors in the various Gospel accounts do not negate the entire message of Christianity.
    5. Realize that, despite many doubts and questions, the Christian path that I’ve been on for the past several years has brought me closer to God than did anything during years of investigating Buddhism, Daosim, Native American spirituality, Ken Wilber and transpersonal psychology, etc.

  • johnfouadhanna

    RJS, thanks for the interaction.

    I think you may be confounding dogma and dogmatic. I think dogma simply pertains to a core of set of beliefs/convictions, i.e., Apostles Creed, while “dogmatic” has more to do with our attitude and the way we carry those beliefs.

    Regardless, I don’t want our discussion to hinge exclusively on the semantics of the word “dogma.”

    More significant is Rachel’s denial that following Jesus has to do with doctrinal claims or accepting a set of propositions.

    On the one hand, you say in following Jesus, there has to be the “acceptance of some information.” But then you say, “following Jesus does not require intellectual assent to any one specific set of detailed doctrines or dogmas about Jesus.” Are you not contradicting yourself here?

    You talk about particular views re inerrancy, substitutionary atonement, creation/evolution, etc., as doctrines you can reject or at least call into question. Fair enough.

    But then, you also talk about incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection. What are these if not doctrines containing particular propostional claims. They are saying something that you think is true and significant about God and us and our world.

    Is it the case that we reserve the word doctrine [and even proposition - what's wrong wtih propositional assertions? We make them all the time. We're all making them throughout this discussion...] for those beliefs we don’t like?: But then we use another word for beliefs we agree with?

    In part I think so much of this discussion has to do with temperment, orientations, attitudes, etc. That’s fine; but I don’t think that’s a good reason for changing the definitions of words and phrases depending on our agreement/disagreement. I don’t think you’re doing that but…

    In talking about motivated belief, you are I think expessing the complex of ways you’ve come to your convictions. I also think you are affirming a whole person dynamic process that is involved. In that regard, I agree with you and Polkinghorne. But I don’t think that changes the fact that what you’ve arrived at are convictions that are at least, in part, propositional in nature (“this I believe is true”) and fall within the basic understanding of what we call doctrine.

  • rjs

    johnfouadhanna,

    I looked up “dogma” before my previous comment – and just did again. The meaning you are using is there – but down the list (3rd or 4th). The most common definition has to do with authoritative statements or pronouncements which must be accepted. The philosophical usage is more general – a principle or belief or a group of them.

    So – I don’t like the term because it is prone to misunderstanding; but agree, I think, with the point behind your usage.

    Rachel would have to chime in to clarify her meaning in the quote I included. All I can really do is give my view and consequence.

    I don’t think I am contradicting myself in the statement about detailed doctrines or dogmas – but I probably need to explain why I included the word “detailed.”

    Most, perhaps all, doctrinal statements are attempts to explain in concise human language aspects of reality for which we do not have the appropriate intuition or language. Thus all are guaranteed to be imperfect. I can live with the fact that my understanding will evolve, change, grow, mature, (hopefully not regress) in time and that there may be things I will have wrong until the day I die.

    So – faith, my faith at least, is not assent to a doctrinal statement, but a commitment to follow. This doesn’t mean that there are not doctrines I hold to be true. There are certainly doctrines I hold quite firmly out of conviction, there are also doctrines I hold more loosely because I am not sure, and doctrines I used to hold that I now think are think are wrong in whole or in part.

    The examples I used in the previous comment were intended to illustrate some examples of “detailed.”

  • http://www.atone.me/?p=2426 Brad

    “…this is God’s higher way?”

    Well, what does he actually say about hell, Scot? That’s the question that deserves more than a few swipes at some fundamentalist’s preaching offends your sensibilities. The “well of course, evangelicals, conservatives and fundamnetalists are wrong because who could love a God like that” argument doesn’t wash when the Scripture speaks often and plainly about hell. Scot, you need to deal with the text, instead of just toying (or quoting those you seem to agree with without taking a firm position) with people’s emotions. Read the Scriptures, quote Scripture, make an argument. Don’t just snipe via someone else’s book.

  • http://www.atone.me/?p=2426 Brad

    …at some fundamentalist’s preaching *that offends your sensibilities…

  • Rick

    Brad #16-

    Just fyi- Scot did not write this post. And your tone does not appear to invite dialogue.

  • Debbie

    RJS,

    Great review. I enjoyed reading the book a few months back. Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting the author in person at a conference in Phoenix. I am impressed by this individual’s voice, and am pleased Jesus Creed has choosen to review her book. Her blog is excellent. Good one to keep an eye on!

  • Rick

    And Brad, I am not even sure you are commenting on the right post.

  • rjs

    Rick,

    I think Brad takes offense at my second paragraph, which was designed to put the issue on the table. This is a key issue for many and it is for Rachel.

    Brad,

    My post wasn’t intended to snipe. It was intended to start a conversation, it was intended to provoke some thought, and it was intended to suggest that rather than focusing on some of these deep issues we need to focus on the Jesus of the gospels and on following Jesus.

    Scot in his post yesterday (Waiting for Rob Bell 2) put some of his position out, and in his book (One.Life) he discusses it in more detail.

  • Theo

    To me at least, just because scripture speaks plainly of hell does not mean that God speaks plainly of hell. The fact that scripture so closely mirrors our human need to see others suffer for what they’ve done is telling. Revealments of God via humans perhaps cannot help but bring along the internal biases of the sinful human doing the revealing.

  • Terry

    RJS, I appreciated your post, and enjoyed Rachel’s book when I read it last Autumn… lots of yeses in there for me.

    What are the “six impossible things before breakfast” that have caused me to doubt? Well, there aren’t six, but the short list would be:

    1) To discover that the Bible created by a kind of exacting inerrancy, and the accompanying/matching hermeneutic that I held to, was far from the Scriptures that I actually held in my hand.
    2) As a result of number one, discovering that I had come to believe in a God that didn’t exist.
    3) In discovering number two, great and preventable harm falling upon a child of mine, all the while praying and trusting for God’s rightness to prevail.

    How did I move forward? Well, I didn’t for a long time. Thankfully, the one thing that I didn’t do was run away, which many would have understood if I had. I knew that if there was a problem in these things (1,2,3), the problem would be with me, and not with God. I started from scratch — all over again from the ground up with the Lord. My faith was reduced to the lowest common denominator, and when that happened — Jesus Christ, and Him crucified — He was there. I, like Paul, resolved to know nothing else because it was in the end all that I knew.

    So, for the last seven years, I set my feet on the floor in the morning, turn my face toward God, and follow Jesus as best I can. I remain thankful that I can walk at all.

  • http://www.atone.me/?p=2426 Brad

    First, apologies to Scot and RJS as I didn’t notice that RJS wrote the article before I commented. And, as a casual reader of Jesus Creed for several years, I now understand why RJS is posting here, as Scot and RJS have incredibly similar writing styles.

  • http://www.atone.me/?p=2426 Brad

    Hi RJS,

    “My post…was intended to suggest that rather than focusing on some of these deep issues we need to focus on the Jesus of the gospels and on following Jesus.”

    This was actually the heart of my concern, becuase you can’t “focus on the Jesus of the gospels and following Jesus” if you don’t understand who he is, why he came and why he should be followed. Hell brings the theoretical into reality. When we understand Jesus as the wrath bearer and the wrath absorber, we see him more clearly and come to better understand who he is. In fact, I don’t think you can begin understand who he is if you deny the enormity of the threat.

    Any real discussion on hell can’t rest on mere opinion or feelings. How I was mistreated in some church by some hypocrite some 20 years ago neither confirms nor denies the Scriptures descriptions and claims about hell. Real discussions on hell need to begin and end with Scripture and what it draws out for us about the greatness of Jesus.

    “Scot in his post yesterday (Waiting for Rob Bell 2) put some of his position out…”

    That seems pretty generous RJS, as Scot was pretty clear that he wasn’t interested in discussing his position on hell. All he seemed to say was that he wasn’t a universalist and that he believed in “a judgment” – which I suppose could mean hell, but knowing Scot’s great care with his words, could also ultimately mean a great many things.

  • LF

    Dear Brad,
    Your linear thinking (albeit important) is not serving you well right now. You need to spend some time around the mentally disabled. It is a gross generalization when you say, “you can’t focus on the Jesus of the gospels and following Jesus if you don’t understand who he is, why he came and why he should be followed”. Are you implying that one has to be able to reason about Jesus before knowing Jesus?

  • Rick G.

    RJS,
    I’m so glad to see your post on this book today. I had heard of it before and thought, based on the title, that it was mainly about the Creation/Evolution debate. I personally don’t have a horse in that race so I didn’t put this on my reading list at first. However, after reading this post, I downloaded it to my e-reader and I must say that it has been refreshing to read about someone who also struggled with those dark questions we aren’t supposed to ask, and who called into question the ‘pond-scum’ theology that has been handed down to many of us.

  • John W Frye

    LF (#26),
    Thank you for your kind, pastoral observation. I have some wonderful mentally disabled adult friends. They are not capable of processing Christology and soteriology, but they love Jesus. So many have built their house of biblical propositions about Jesus and require people to assent to them in order to be saved. I can’t find any of that in the life and ministry of Jesus himself. I read about welcoming and receiving…like little children. Do I deny that there is weighty biblical realities fueling the Christian faith? No. Does everyone have to believe only in penal substitutionary atonement? No.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Rick G. said “However, after reading this post, I downloaded it to my e-reader and I must say that it has been refreshing to read about someone who also struggled with those dark questions we aren’t supposed to ask, and who called into question the ‘pond-scum’ theology that has been handed down to many of us.”

    OK, now I have to buy it too!

  • johnfouadhanna

    John W Frye (#28), I agree with you that mental capacity/ability is absolutely not an obstacle to being welcomed or received by Jesus. The power that raised Jesus from the dead can certainly work, and does work, though such limitations. Disability is not an impediment to God’s grace but attracts the one who saw the crowds and had compassion on them.

    That having been said, for those participating in this discussion – whether at Jesus Creed or elsewhere – the mental limitations to which you refer do not apply.

    John’s Gospel states, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” That seems to me to be a statment, a proposition even – one you would affirm. Now, I don’t think that this is simply a bit of information that I can check off as “accepting.” It is a lived and living truth – a transforming reality.

    RJS stated above, “There are certainly doctrines I hold quite firmly out of conviction, there are also doctrines I hold more loosely because I am not sure, and doctrines I used to hold that I now think are think are wrong in whole or in part.”

    Me too. I would think you affirm this statement as well.

    Based on youur two closing questions, which you answered negatively, your position seems to be one of disagreement with particular doctrines and propositions as essential, which we all would have to varying degrees. That’s different from a rejection of doctrine and propositions as a matter of course, which I don’t think is possible. That seems to me to be an important distinction.

  • Bill

    Interesting post. After reading it I picked up my Bible for my morning reading. I was struck by Paul’s words in 1 Timothy about teaching (1:3), strange doctrines (vs.3), instruction (1:5), “a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”, “the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1:17). While I can understand some of the reasons why a we need to make clear that a robust faith must go beyond propositional beliefs, I cannot see how it is possible to read the Bible or the Early Church and deny that propositions are a necessary component of what they meant by faith in God. Could it be that we need to be clear about the question we are trying to answer. If the first question is whether those who wrote the books in the Bible believed that it was necessary to hold to certain beliefs in order to be counted a follower of Jesus, then I just don’t see how anyone could come up with any answer but yes. If the second question is whether the mental assent to certain belief without trust and commitment is sufficient, then the answer has been pretty clear as well(no).


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