Counterpoint: A Reasonable Faith
Synonyms for ‘Reasonable’: Sensible, Rational, Logical, Practical, Realistic, Level-Headed, Sound, Evenhanded, Equitable)
By Geoff Grace
A reasonable, thoughtful faith is indispensable in our current age. This is not a rationalistic belief – where everything is reduced down to a set of spiritual dot points and dead doctrinal maxims – but rather a vibrant, coherent Christ-centred faith which is the reference point and basis upon which everything else is weighed up in life.
My own spiritual journey has profoundly impacted my understanding of the importance of having a thoroughly well grounded faith in Christ and His life-changing Gospel message. Many who see me now, without having known my background, would see me as a late thirties or so conservative Christian with a real passion for Christian education, reformed theology and raising a godly family. They would see a man trying to grow deeper in his faith, trying to understand the ways of God and His ways with man and how we are to live on this mortal plane in some way fulfilling the great call of the Kingdom. What they probably wouldn’t have seen was the amazing transformation which took place when this New Age devotee was apprehended by the unrelenting work of the Holy Spirit about fourteen years ago to bring him to a point of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In understanding the way in which God opened my eyes to His amazing, transforming, life-changing message of salvation through Christ Jesus, I have become increasingly enamoured with His divine character, His perfect nature and His rich and profound Word, which is truly sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb 4:12).
Coming from a confused and confusing post-modern pluralism (a fancy way of describing New Age gobbledygook) to a clear and simple (not simplistic) faith in the message of the Cross of Christ, I have always believed that my understanding of circumstances, my experiences and my overall ‘Biblical worldview’ need to be scrutinised by the perspicuity of God’s revelation of truth in the scriptures.
The reasons for this are several – I certainly shall not have the space in this article to expound each of them fully but it may be sufficient to whet your appetite for more pondering on this vital area.
Firstly, I can only state in the strongest possible terms that a clear understanding of God as He reveals Himself in His Word and His great redeeming work in Christ, applied in our lives through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, is fundamental to our growth in maturity. It is only when we come to see the message of the Cross as an objective reality – something which certainly impacts our experience but far more importantly transcends our experience and gives meaning and purpose to it that we can begin to deeply apprehend the power and wisdom of God. When we read the scriptures prayerfully and carefully, we understand a little more of who God is and how He transforms us by the renewing of our minds so that we can test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will (Rom 12:2).
Secondly, a clear, thoughtful Biblically-centred faith helps us to avoid the dangers of ‘Christian post-modernism’ which, although paying lip service to the authority and power of God’s Word, actually threatens to devalue it by putting undue emphasis on personal experience. This danger is most clearly seen when our life circumstances act as a filter to our interpretation of God’s word, rather than His word being seen to be definitive and true, regardless of the particular situation in which we find ourselves. The certainty and sharpness which can come when we see God’s truth as necessarily true, not just conveniently true produces a blessed and much prayed for comfort, restoration and strength, particularly when situations arise when things simply aren’t going according to (our) plan. This may happen when temptations and trials come – which will inevitably happen for all of us. It is profoundly edifying to know that the God of the Bible who speaks to us through His word will uphold us and deliver us, not because of the good we have done but because of His righteousness and providential care.
Thirdly, a clear and reasonable faith is a powerful weapon against the lies of the enemy and the woolly and fuzzy teaching so prevalent in our restlessly experiential age. The idea that there are absolute truths is something that the church has assumed for centuries – although there have obviously been disputes and disagreements about many and various doctrines along the way – but this assumption needs to be fought for these days. There is a growing tendency to talk about ‘the faith’ as something which cannot be clearly delineated – it is said to be something that is ‘caught’ rather than ‘taught’. Christianity is being marketed as something with pragmatic value, something which will lead to greater satisfaction, less stress and anxiety, deeper personal relationships and a sense of hope and optimism for the future. I’m not saying that these things are wrong per se, but they do not define the essence of our faith. As Dr Martin Lloyd-Jones was often fond of saying, Christianity is based on events which are historically accurate and demonstrate clearly the reality of God’s work in redeeming a people unto Himself. When I was being confronted with the Christian message whilst caught up in New Age teaching, it was not the promises of health and wealth, freedom from pain and suffering or a thousand other pragmatic suggestions which encouraged me to take the Gospel message seriously; rather it was the claim that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was actually true – despite my feelings towards the idea at the time. I did not want to hear more spiritual philosophising dressed up in pseudo-religious garb – I simply wanted to know the truth which could set me free. I wanted (and still want) to be a ‘good Berean’ who studies the scriptures to see if what is said is true (Acts 17:11).
I believe passionately that a rational faith, as distinct from a rationalistic faith, frees us to more clearly marvel at the trinitarian God we worship. A rational, thoughtful faith gives credence to the command to love the Lord with all of our minds and it gives us a liberty and desire to seek the truth as revealed in the scriptures. In doing so, our experience of God is likely to be enhanced, rather than diminished, because we are basing our lives on the character and promises of God rather than being tossed to and fro by the vagaries of circumstance and by every wind of doctrine which blows through the church community. As I grow in faith, as I come to know Him who died for me better with each passing year, as I wonder and rejoice in all that my heavenly Father does so graciously in my life and in the life of those I love dearly, I want to increasingly ‘glorify God and enjoy Him forever as this is my chief end in life.’
Geoff Grace is a senior teacher/co-ordinator at Hillcrest Christian College in Berwick where he has worked since 1999. At home he has a wife, Litsa, four children aged 11, 8, 7 and 1, several different animals in a menagerie and two acres of land which keep his hands dirty and sanity intact. He loves reading (when he can find some time out) and can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com
Thursday, November 9, 2006 printer friendly version | 8971 reads
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