October 5, 2009 by

Re-thinking the Foundations of Faith (part 2)


Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, theological questions

In my previous post I began looking at the huge amount of importance we believers tend to put on our theological views–our beliefs about God–to the point that we treat them as foundational to our faith. And I said that I was re-thinking this concept, that I was pondering a faith that was deeper than “correct” belief, based more on relationship than on specific beliefs or a theological creed.

I’m not saying theology isn’t important; rather, it’s a matter of prioritizing. I’m just saying our theology is maybe not as critical to our faith as we’ve made it out to be, and perhaps other things are more important. Consider the following points:

  • As much emphasis as we’ve put on theology–at its best, theology is the attempt of finite man to explain an infinite God. So when we make theology the foundation, what we’re really saying is that we, of all people, have figured God out. (How unbelievably arrogant of us.)
  • Since theology is imperfect at best…everyone is guilty of heresy at some level. Let me stress that again: everyone. For anyone to suggest otherwise is, again, incredibly arrogant. There are ideas I have about God that are inevitably wrong. Same with you. We just don’t have this down pat.
  • God does not seem to be offended by most of the wrong things we believe about Him. He embraces us in our ignorance, and usually doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to correct our wrong perceptions. In fact, He often seems to show up in places where we think He shouldn’t, blessing people whose theology deeply conflicts with our own. (Case in point: heresy is rampant in the church in China, yet the church is growing faster in China than anywhere else in the world.)
  • While the early apostles consistently corrected heresies in the church, they generally did not use those errors as a litmus test as to whether people were “in” or “out” of the church. In fact, the church was not identified by what they believed, but Whom they believed in.

So if theology is not the most important factor in our faith, than what is? Let me ask some questions that reflect my own thought process here…

In one word, what would you say is really the foundation of our faith?

I know what answer I would give: “Jesus.” Is not Jesus the true Foundation, the Author and Finisher of our faith?

So…if Jesus is the foundation of our faith…is Jesus an idea? (no)

Is Jesus a system of beliefs? (no)

Is Jesus a doctrine? (no)

What is Jesus?

He is a Person.

This is the crux of the matter, in my view. The foundation of our faith is not a creed; the foundation of our faith is a Person. A Person who is unchangeable–the same, yesterday, today and forever.

Now…when I think about some other person I know in life–friend, wife, whoever–if I come to believe something inaccurate about that person, does it change who that person is?

No, it doesn’t. It might affect how I feel about him/her, or how I relate to him/her–but it does not change the person. Same with Jesus. He is who He is, regardless of what we believe about Him (i.e., our theology). This is very reassuring, if you think about it–because as I said, all of us have some misperceptions about Jesus. Our theology doesn’t change who He is. As we muddle through our erroneous thinking, Jesus remains the same, remains patient, as we follow Him.

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a much more stable foundation than trying to figure out the “right” thing to believe, and hoping you are right. 🙂

If this is the case, does this mean we needn’t fear heresy at all? No…that would be naive. Otherwise, why would the apostles focus so much attention on it? Jesus Himself warned us to guard against deception (see Matt. 24). But consider the actual deception Jesus warned against: being misled by others claiming to be Him–claiming to be anointed–leading people astray. Leading people away from following Christ.

The heresy we should fear most is the one that leads us away from following Jesus. Not Jesus the idea–Jesus the Person. Jesus, the foundation of our faith. So the question then becomes not what we believe…but who/what we are following.

Are we following Jesus, or are we following some other personality?
Are we following Jesus, or are we following a teaching?
Are we following Jesus, or are we following a doctrine?

I find it interesting, if not ironic, that our theology so often distracts us from the Person of Christ to focus on certain ideas about Him. Just sayin’. 🙂 Given our capacity to be wrong–our capacity to be deceived–how on earth did we get to the point where we actually trusted our own theology, anyhow? That ought to give us enough to think about all day. 🙂

There’s a lot more going through my mind about this, but I think what I’m coming to is that I’m not really changing my faith’s foundation–the foundation of our faith has always been Jesus the Person. But I am recognizing that truth more and more–and knowing this changes everything. Shifting my focus from what I believe to Whom I am following, I’m coming to recognize that Jesus is quite able to handle the various wrong ideas we have about Him, and in fact, that correcting those wrong perceptions is a natural part of discipleship. I still think there’s a right way to see God; I am just learning to be okay with the understanding that I don’t always know what that is, what it looks like. The key is that we follow Him, and not be swayed to follow someone–or something–else. If that’s where our heart is, I think we can ultimately trust Him with the rest.

Because Jesus is the foundation of our faith. And it seems much safer to trust a perfect Person than an imperfect theology.

Musician. Composer. Recovering perfectionist. Minister-in-transition. Lover of puns. Hijacker of rock song references. Questioner of the status quo. I'm not really a rebel. Just a sincere Christ-follower with a thirst for significance that gets me into trouble. My quest has taken me over the fence of institutional Christianity. Here are some of my random thoughts along the way. Read along, join in the conversation. Just be nice.

6 Responses to Re-thinking the Foundations of Faith (part 2)

  1. co_heir

    I'm convinced that when we all stand before God, he'll look at some of our theology and tell us that all of us got it wrong, that he had something entirely different in mind.

  2. ruthsongs

    It's always so irritating when someone says what I want to say so much better than I could ever say it. lol

    You are hitting on a very basic aspect of our mindsets here.
    There is real freedom in keeping the Person of Jesus as the center of our focus, instead of trying to construct some system we think we can understand.

    I think we as humans are bent toward trying to make a journey/relationship with Christ into a system that we can analyze, define, and refer to when necessary (and only when necessary), but the Bible says we are to be led by the Spirit of God and leading is always one step at a time. Following requires keeping our eyes and ears on the leader. Listening for someone has a lot to do with recognizing a voice not just hearing the words.

  3. Jeff McQ

    Given the fact that God almost never shows up in the way man predicts…I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if you are right. 🙂

    Thanks very much.

    Sorry to irritate you. 🙂

    I liked what you said here: "Listening for someone has a lot to do with recognizing a voice not just hearing the words." We so often take Jesus' words and construe them to our own agendas; hearing the voice of God has more to do with recongizing His heart, I think. Just as in our human relationships, the voice can communicate in nonverbal ways.

  4. Randi Jo :)

    amen. it's all about Him first & others second. People. Not things. tactics. thoughts. intelligence. knowledge. works. All centered and started on Him and 2nd importance – the people who form His Body, Bride, Home now.

  5. Anonymous

    Two things:

    1) Where I see this concept manifest the best is when two people come together with very different beliefs (even directly opposite beliefs). What do we do? If I feel God is directing me in a certain way, towards a certain belief, and I come into fellowship with someone whom God is leading in the opposite direction; How do we handle this? I think this is becoming a big issue for our day! An if you think differently, well your wrong.

    2)A mystic riding a bike, an evangelical driving a smart car and a televangelist driving a hummer all collide at an intersection. The mystic dies instantly, the evangelical dies of complications and the televangelist dies of a heart attack. They all end up in heaven's waiting room at the same time to be interviewed by Jesus.

    The mystic is the first to go in and comes out 1/2 latter muttering, "I know I was wrong about so much. It is so good to finally see where I was wrong!"

    Next in is the evangelical. He's in with Jesus for 12 hours before he finally emerges muttering, "I was wrong with so much. Thank God that I am still allowed in."

    Last of all, the televangelist enters into Jesus study. After two and a half days, the door finally opens. Out walks Jesus muttering, "I can't believe I was so wrong!".

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