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Rev Yap was supposed to be preaching today. Unfortunately, his gluteus maximus unexpectedly and suddenly collapsed and he is unable to walk and has to lie flat on his bed. The prognosis is that it may take a month or more for recovery. I hope I can fill his big shoes.
Today, we take a break from the book “We Make The Road By Walking” by Brian McLaren. The book follows a 52 week cycle and we happen to be in the 53rd week.
So I take the liberty to do something different. A break from the usual.
I want to ask you – if you are to describe your faith as an object, a thing, what would it be?
Some people will describe their faith as a rock. Some, a castle. Some, a sword. Others, a swiss-army knife. And some would describe their faith as light, a candle, maybe a life buoy.
What we choose reflects how we see our faith, our spirituality. It comes from our experiences – what we have gone through, how we see the world, and how and what we were taught.
Some of those who describe their faith as rock may see their faith as a foundation on which their lives are built on. Some who describe their faith as a castle see their faith as a sanctuary, a safe place
where they feel protected from people and things that may harm them. Some who describe their faith as a sword see their faith as a weapon.
There is no perfect way of seeing our faith. All are equally valid because it comes from our lives and our experiences of God in our lives. We are like the proverbial blind men describing the elephant – all of us grasp only a limited aspect of God as hard as we try.
In the book Faith Seeking Understanding: An Introduction to Christian Theology, Daniel Migliore writes:
“Christian faith is at bottom trust in and obedience to the free and gracious God made known in Christ Jesus. Christian theology is this same faith in the mode of asking questions and struggling to find at
least provisional answers to these questions. Authentic faith is no sedative for world-weary souls, no satchel full of ready answers to the deepest questions in life. Instead, faith in God revealed in Jesus
Christ sets an inquiry in motion, fights the inclination to accept things as they are, and continually calls in question unexamined assumptions about God, our world, and ourselves. Consequently, Christian faith has nothing in common with the indifference to the search for truth, or fear of it, or the arrogant claim to possess it fully. True faith must be distinguished from fideism. Fideism says there comes a point we must stop asking questions and must simply believe; faith keeps on seeking and asking.”
You may ask – since all of us have a different way of experiencing God, all of us grasp a limited aspect of God, why do we have to keep on seeking and asking and searching?
Because each way of seeing God also comes with its blind spots, its strengths and weaknesses. Behind each way of seeing God, each concept of faith, there are always assumptions. The question is whether these assumptions are examined or unexamined.
For those who describe their faith as a castle, a shield, a sword, I wonder if they are aware that they are using imagery of war and battle. Do they see things and people that challenge them as the enemy? Do they see God as a warrior? They may approach things in an antagonistic, combative way.
Those who see God as a life buoy or a Swiss Army Knife may see God as a tool that will help them solve life’s problems.
Can we examine the assumptions of our faith, of how we see God?
To many people who see their faith as a castle – it is likely that they have been hurt and harmed before, and their faith is where they seek protection. However, this castle may also prevent them from being vulnerable so that they can authentically connect with another human people – and in that way find out more about others, themselves, and God.
People who see their faith as a rock may refuse to change their mind even when confronted with solid evidence contrary to their beliefs. Why? Because they have built everything around and on top of this
rock. When their faith is challenged, when this “rock” is challenged, everything they have built on it will be shaken.
So many Christians I know refuse to entertain the fact that the Bible is full of contradictions and it is more a reflection of how human beings understood God in their socio-cultural context instead of word
for word God’s divine intent. They defend the inerrancy of the Bible bitterly, and cannot even entertain the possibility of any other view.
I know of a few people like that. They are stuck because they have built their entire lives on that belief. Ironically, even though they see their faith as a rock, they have not built their house on a rock, but on sand. When the rain falls, the floods come, and the winds blow and beat against their house, it will fall. They have built their faith on the idea that the Bible is inerrant instead of building their faith in Christ. As I have said many times before – the Bible is words about God – the Word of God – capital “W” is not the Bible, but Christ. (Go read the first chapter of the Gospel according to John)
Eric English wrote in an article in Patheos :
“The Bible is not the WORD OF GOD. It has no special powers and it is not magic. Sacred scripture means nothing if it is not alive inside the individual. Embodied, fully embraced. This does not mean that we
take apart or dissect the bible in such a way that we are able to extrapolate metaphysical truths about the world around us. That is not the intent of the bible. Rather, the intent of the bible is to provide
context for who we are as human beings, who god is as God; and how God has acted throughout history. It is a testimony to our lord Jesus Christ.
The WORD OF GOD is a moment that a human being encounters. It is Jesus Christ in his full glory and revelation. The WORD OF GOD occurs through a compilation of acts that bring forth the WORD OF GOD within the individual – prayer, sacred scripture, fellowship, worship.
Encountering the WORD OF GOD changes us – it makes us whole. It gives us strength and power. Words on a page do not give us strength; they do not give us power. It is only when we embody those words on the
page that we truly become like the WORD OF GOD. It is what Jesus did. He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. That means he embodied the law. He was sinless, he was perfect. He embodied the law in the truest, purest form of what is meant by “the law”. Likewise, we must embody scripture. It must become a part of us, our lives, and our identity; for the truth of God was not found in words or propositions or abstract ideas, but in the truthfulness that exists when we live out the WORD OF GOD on the world stage.”
I would add that seeing the Bible as the Word of God can be a way of avoiding the responsibility to live out the Word of God, to embody the words. We no longer need to be like Christ and incarnate the Word ourselves since the Word of God is already this physical thing – this book.
We don’t have to just one way to see our faith. Why choose only one? At different times, in different situations, our faith may take different forms. As long as we examine our underlying assumptions,
know what the blind spots are, and continue to hone and develop your faith, you are on the right track.
While I have asked you how do you see your faith, I have not answered the question myself.
How do I see my faith? My faith is like water.
It is formless. Shapeless. It takes the form of the vessel that holds it. It sustains life – all life needs it. It cleanses. It can be vapour, it can be cloud, it can be ice. It can be calm and still. It
can be fast and powerful.
Unlike a rock, or a shield or a sword, I cannot hold on to water. It will slip through my fingers if I try to hold it in my hands. It is not something to be possessed and hoarded – it is something to be
It is not like a thing that I can possess. Things like a shield or a sword – once I have it, I have it, and I no longer have to bother about it. All I have to do is to take it out and use it. I see faith
like water because my body continues to lose water as long as I am alive – I need to keep drinking to replenish it. I cannot stop drinking for too long or I will die of thirst. So is it for my faith –
I need to continue on seeking and asking – not accepting the status quo, not accepting things as they are, continually question the unexamined assumptions about everything. That’s why I keep coming back
to church – this place where in community, I get that refreshing living water that Christ offers. I come back to drink deep from the well.
I pray that you continue developing and growing your faith – asking, wondering, searching, seeking, so you would no longer be a child and put away childish things. Continue to refine how you see your faith.
Know the blind spots you have, know how your life history has affected you and why you see things in a certain way.
Like water, never let your faith become stagnant, never become complacent – I pray your faith will be dynamic and ever evolving, like a river, like an ever flowing stream.
We will only see dimly now, and we only know in part, but one day when this life is over, then we will see face to face, and we will know fully, as even as we are fully known.