By: Dev Menon
From the ‘Devotio’ Blog.
“Why Do Bad Things Happen To ‘Good’ People?” Part 2: Walking By Faith
The medieval way of parsing what “faith” entails was to note three prongs; those are, faith is:knowledge, assent, trust. I think each of these prongs have merit. Biblically faith, I think, entails all three of these. The most prominent, or the one I want to discuss a bit, is trust. It seems today, that trusting God is getting an awful lot of short shrift. Knowledge and Assent play a much more prominent role for today’s “faithful;” at least this is how it seems to me. We, today, want to know answers to all of our most pressing questions; the kinds of questions that “we” are dealing with in the 21st century, existential ones. We have a hard time understanding how it is that Christian faith can be “relevant” unless it can provide answers to “our” questions in the terms that “we” deem adequate. So in turn, so often, it seems that our intellectual/existential questions become the tail that wags the dog of so called Christian faith. I can think of one glaring example of this, one that is very recent, and still somewhat dangling within the broaderethos of “Evangelical” Christianity; no doubt, what I am referring to is Rob Bell’s problem with the idea that hell is eternal, conscious, torment. While the “Faith” has most prominently held that hell, indeed, is “eternal, conscious, torment;” today, with our cultural ethos in place — the one shaped (in America) by a society of free-hipster-love (a la the 60’s and 70’s) — the notion that love (and God being love) could ever place anyone in a hell that is eternal, conscious, torment cannot jive with our existential sensibilities and understandings of what love actually is. This is just one example, in my mind, that illustrates, quite well, what “faith” looks like if only defined by “knowledge & assent,” to the preclusion of “trust.”
But, I think “trust” is the foundation of the other two. In fact, I am not really sure this medieval schema is in fact the most faithful way to construe faith. So maybe I’ve already moved from what I said above about this medieval concept capturing the biblical conception of faith. Because really, “faith” is best epitomized by Jesus’ relationship to the Father. Knowledge of God and assent to that knowledge does not seem to be the most prominent thing in God’s self-revelation of Himself to humanity through Christ. Instead, what we see is the Son submitting Himself to the Father’s will out of love based upon the trust that He has in the Father’s purposes. I think this provides the best frame for understanding what “faith” entails; that is, by looking at how that plays out in the inter-relations between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
If this is the case, then the way we answer the question of this post is not primarily one that will seek to assuage our intellectual desires; but instead, this question is set within the life of God himself, within and through the Son’s trusting and loving gaze upon the Father by the Holy Spirit. So in other words, the way we answer this question is an issue that is set within the boundaries of salvation and reconciliation itself; instead of the typical starting point, which is to start in the realm of philosophy and apologetics. This issue is only going to be answered by starting with faith from and in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Do you find this satisfying, or relevant?