Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Simple Faith

Being away from seminary for a while put some perspective on my seminary education. At the seminary I learned a slew of intricate details about how God interacts with man, much more than the average Joe probably knows. I am specifically talking about how man comes to salvation.

When I begin to talk with Joe about God's plan of salvation, how everything revolves around Jesus Christ and what HE did and that it has nothing to do with what Joe did, Joe can accept that. But the poo hits the whirligig when I begin to explain how this is possible, such as that Christ is both God and man at the same time, or that man is bound in sin until God acts upon that man. The most common response I have gotten is "I have a simple faith." - All that just confuses me, do I really need to know that.

Fair enough, if you want to look at it that way. It may be true that all of our faith is simple. The preaching of the Law shows the man his sin and shows him that he needs a Savior, bringing about repentance. Then the Gospel is preached creating faith and giving the man forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. And this is simple faith. Truly, it is not about giving all the right answers about everything in the bible. See Pastor Hall's blog for a good explanation
Although, are there some things that inevitably come to question more than others? Does the battle cry of "simple faith" hold when serious questions are asked?

With such talk about simple faith, is it possible that Christ wants us to know more about him? And if so, why? Shouldn't this simple faith sustain us through life to get us into heaven.

Of course Christ wants us to know as much about him as we can. The question "Who is Jesus?" must arise. People were killed over this question during the first 600 years of Christendom, and that was between the Christians themselves. Would not the simple Arian Christian say along with the simple Catholic Christian, "I have a simple faith!"? Or would not a Monophysite, or a Nestorian do the same? Perhaps a Pelagian?

If having a correct answer to the question "Who is Jesus?" doesn't matter, then why does it matter that Jesus is who he says he is anyway. Why does it matter if we have the right answers to "Who is Jesus?"

I can say to Average Joe, " Do you know Bob?"
Joe can say, "Sure I do. He lives over on Second Street."
Then I say, "No, Bob lives in Toronto."

Then point is, I can say, "Do you have faith in Jesus?"
Joe can say, "Sure I do. He is simply a means by which Salvation was made available for people to gain, should they so desire."
Then I can say, "No, Jesus gives salvation and does not simply 'make it available', we must have faith in a different Jesus."

The sad thing is. This is true. These people do not know the same Jesus. Though, unlike Bob, only one of the Jesus' is real. The other one is one of a person's own creation and disbelieving in the True Jesus.

So here then is the dilemma. If it is enough to have a simple faith, one that was qualified above, should I proceed then to teach further who Jesus really is at the threat that Joe might disbelieve the things said about who Jesus really is? Ah. But that is the heart of the matter. If Joe is unwilling to believe in who Jesus really is, then Joe has put up a false Jesus in his heart based not upon what God's Word says, but upon who Joe wants Jesus to be for him.

By denying the correct answer, Joe is confessing a different Jesus. He is creating a false God in which to believe, thus again destroying the first commandment. And even more detrimental, (as if breaking the first commandment wasn't bad enough) Joe denies how God works salvation and declares to everyone else that "simple faith" is best and that to delve into who Jesus says he is, is too complicated and distracting to salvation.

But then, I guess Joe's faith isn't as simple as he'd like to claim. He has his own idea of who Jesus is. Joe sees Jesus as one who doesn't split hairs concerning what is and isn't said about Jesus. Joe sees Jesus as unconcerned about that false teaching can lead astray. Joe sees Jesus as a given and takes it for granted that Jesus has gained him salvation. He fails to make the distinction between faith and the faith.

So yes, faith is simple. It believes upon the promises of God and is in fact given by God that we may receive him and his gift of salvation. Understanding The Faith is hard. It takes study and hard work to understand it better day by day, granted only by the Holy Spirit. Faith is bound to The Faith in that we can only believe in that which has been proclaimed as true. But to deny what is part of The Faith causes faith to be weakened and have foundations built on sand and not the Lord Jesus Christ.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I still hold to my analogy of faith as a glass. If you can still drink out of it, yea!

However, false doctrine of any type works as cracks in the glass - it is more likely to get shattered.

Now, what of a "simple" faith? It is one of two things - either a justification of false doctrine, or literally, a simple, not well rounded faith. In this case, the glass is thin and brittle - and will crack more easily, will be lead astray more easily.

This is not the ideal, but it is often where people are at - see Hebrews 5:11-15 for the idea.

However, teach those with the "simple" faith carefully and slowly. Walther says, you can teach the Faith without ever using the faith - likewise you can teach the concepts of Christ without tossing out the big words (or tossing them out and dividing them up into parts, not expecting people to remember them but to reinforce the concept. . . if you want).

And now you see the fun of the Office.

Jay Hobson said...

Thanks Pastor.