“Faith alone” seems like a heavy topic to bring up on The UnCommon Journey. I feel your pain. Theological issues aren’t everyone’s bailiwick. Most of you who read this blog are looking for practical help for your spiritual journey. I understand. I’m not much (anymore) for theory that doesn’t translate into everyday life. Yet, “faith alone” and issues surrounding it make a huge difference in your understanding of how to live the Christian life.[featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]
Dealing with this issue has been a major part of my spiritual journey. For decades I have wrestled with faith related to salvation, sanctification, and practical daily challenges. I’ve tried to find a satisfactory definition of faith, a theological framework for faith to fit into, and a way to live by faith that covers every situation of my life. I never was a card-carrying Calvinist. But over time, I became a 5-pointer, then 4-pointer, then 3-pointer, then a “God only knows”-er. I didn’t realize how much “faith alone” was messing with me. Can you relate?
Some major building blocks to a fuller understanding of real faith came to me over time. As a teen and into my forty’s, I was challenged by a desire to know God more deeply (in faith) but limited by a belief that God alone would make it happen. All I needed to do was submit and He’d do the rest. Then I began to grapple with “spiritual formation” and “spiritual discipline” ideas challenging me to do something about my spiritual growth. While this was happening, I devoted almost a year studying and preaching Hebrews where salvation and faith are presented as past, present, and future (not just past as most evangelicals believe). Later, I discovered that the early and ancient church understood that “salvation” includes justification, sanctification, and glorification – all in one package. The final block came through a 10-year Abraham-like experience of faith where “faith alone” was finally kicked to the curb and a fuller reality of faith began to take hold. That’s were I am today.
I know this isn’t your story. Yet, I tell my story for a few reasons:
- To show that experiencing a relationship with God, i.e. knowing God, means ongoing heart and mind change that messes with beliefs, ideas, perceptions, and realities. Christian living involves regular challenges to one’s understanding of God including one’s faith in God.
- To help you come to grips more quickly with some faith realities that have taken me decades to figure out.
- To illustrate the difficulty of interpreting scripture properly. Martin Luther had an agenda that clouded his understanding of scripture. That happens to all of us. We all have often misinterpreted scripture by placing a theological “system” (dispensationalism, Calvinism, our denomination, Pentecostalism, Wesleyanism, or our own opinion) on top of them. Scripture is used to support Calvinism or Arminianism, the Free Grace Movement or baptismal regeneration. Scripture is truth. We just have a hard time figuring it out.
I don’t think this “faith challenge” is unique to me. Many people wrestle with the same issue. That’s a good thing. Yet, it can be really frustrating especially when ideas like “faith alone” are part of the mix. “Faith alone” creates a wedge that separates into fragments aspects of the Christian faith that are meant to be unified in an effective experience of God’s grace. Building a wall between faith and human participation keeps Christians from the possibility of living the fullness of the faith.
I have dealt with many people who struggle to know God having accepted that salvation is by “faith alone.” They don’t need to make any “effort” related to their relationship with God. Faith is all that’s needed. “I have faith. Don’t bother talking to me about effort, work, obedience, or practice. I’m good to go.” Perhaps you have a tinge of this idea in your own belief system.
The prime example of true faith is Abraham. His faith will surprise you. I’ll take a brief look at him and his faith journey in my next post.
Where are you in your faith journey? Are you wrestling with faith issues? You need to be.