Recently I was asked to convey five great theological themes presented squarely in the Scriptures and to explain and display them in such a way that an ordinary person might exclaim, "hey, I understand that"!
The second of these great theological themes is 'Faith' as it conveys a most surprising idea. This is an idea that is contrary to everything that we would normally consider as reasonable to the modern intellect. This next sentence might shock many tried and true Christians, as Faith is not something one can touch or feel, rather, like 'Grace' yesterday, it's a personal attitude.
The world's greatest of all theologians down through the centuries have grappled with the essence of 'Faith' and have recognised it as a personal attitude. Martin Luther realised it's full 'moment' when on one occasion he re-read Romans 1: 16-17 – "The Just shall live by faith". A light went on!
In theology, the word 'Faith' conveys the most astonishing idea, something that is contrary to everything that we would normally consider as being physically and scientifically reliable. Faith is a living reality and Martin Luther realised it's full 'moment' when he re-read Romans 1 v 16-17 – The Just shall live by faith.
The word Faith is central to Christian theology in taking God at His Word as revealed to us in the Scriptures.
Definitions of faith are pointless, as faith is never exercised in a vacuum. Faith is about putting our trust in a living God who engages in the here and now, in our reality, and not in some mystical non-world.
There are number of types of Biblical faith. There is the faith associated with Salvation. There is the faith associated with every day life. There is the faith associated with Mission.
In each of these situations, faith and independent human thought operate as far as the east is from the west. This is why I describe it as a personal attitude.
Faith has been the subject of innumerable theology text books that seminary students have studied and researched since the early church. Faith is the essence by which Protestantism's / Penetcostalism's well spring of energy bubbles forward generation after generation as "faith stories" are told to each subsequent generation.
Faith is accompanied by the rejoicing of every sinew of our being. It changes the way we view everything around us. Once grasped, our world view is never the same. It's a personal attitude.
Outside humanism / rationalism
It can never be 'What is faith?" without first comprehending the opposite to faith, and herein lies the great delusion and confusion for many who navigate through life with a philosophy of humanism and rationalism.
Faith has nothing to say to either of these, as faith is outside those realms, faith is reliant not on the possible but on the impossible.
With faith there is a third person involved, and that is the Holy Spirit. Here in lies the crux of the issue for the humanist and rationalist, that it functions outside their known boundaries.
Paul in his letter to the congregation in the ancient city of Ephesus (today's Turkey) wrote: "For by Grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God."
Faith is best described by illustrating it. Faith is where once frightened fishermen stand boldly and preach Jesus in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and a mighty movement of the Holy Spirit saw large numbers of people become followers of Jesus – 3000 people in one day
Faith is seeing Phillip notice a Ethiopian dignitary reading the book of Isaiah in his chariot and runs to him and asks does he know of whom it speaks? Phillip is invited into the chariot to explain these things to him and the dignitary indicates he should wish to be baptised as a mark of following this Jesus.
Faith is where persecution of Christians led many of them to martyrdom where following Jesus was the most sacred act of faith in the world.
Faith is where missionaries took the preaching of Jesus' Salvation to the four quarters of the earth and trusted the Lord to provide for their living and ministry needs.
Faith is where missionary's kids prayed that the mountain between them and the sea would be moved, so their beloved house mother could view the ocean's waves. The military make an airport and have to remove it (Hill 90) for aircraft descent.
Faith is where a young Australian Baptist preacher gets the vision to place chaplains in professional sports in the early 80s without wage or salary, seeking the Lord's provision. 38 years late there are not only chaplains but athlete respite facilities, young people writing columns in Christian on-line publications, Country Town Tours, Art ministries, missionary respite facilities, a tourism ministry and an astonishing breadth of other ministries.
Faith is not a definition. Faith is His people making a step forward in total confidence in the Lord. How does it work? Take the first step and see. This is why I describe faith as a personal attitude.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html