Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Faith Resting on God's Power

The readings move on to 1 Cor 2 this week:
And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
The last line really struck me. That our faith might not rest on human wisdom but on God's power. If somebody convinces you to believe in God  with "eloquence or human wisdom" have they done you a favor? Have you really come to a point of surrender to God? If somebody can be just as eloquent or of somebody can discredit the human wisdom then what happens to your faith? I think of Catholic liturgy. Protestants laugh at it because it is so simple and lacks any of the hot presentation techniques that mega churches have. But a holy priest given a quiet reflection on the scriptures and offering a reverent celebration of the Eucharist will unleash a power that cannot be a human power. There is no human explanation for why that should touch hearts and change lives. It just does.

When faith relies on power rather than wisdom then the concept of questioning the articles of faith makes no sense. If you reject one article of the faith then you reject the power that the faith rests on. That means you essentially reject the faith in it's entirety. You might still respect the faith. You might still give a lot of weight to the fact that something comes to us as part of that faith. But the fact that you reject part of it either means you don't view it as from God or you have a very weak view of God. If you have anything approaching a Christian view of God's holiness and man's sin then questioning revelation based on God's power is unthinkable. If you question any of it then your faith is resting on human wisdom. God's power demands that we yield completely and unconditionally.

But what is left for reason then? Reason is still there to fill in the gaps. God does not give us all the answers because He wants us to think. He gives us more and more answers as time goes on because He does not want us to think about the same questions forever. We can think about the trinity for a few centuries but theology would get boring if we were still struggling with that question. So God gives us an answer and allows us to go deeper. Those are the two things reason can do. It can develop truth or it can corrupt truth. Faith based on human wisdom is inherently corruptible. So our reason will go there. Someone will challenge long held beliefs. Then they start to become question marks instead of exclamation marks. At the end of the day we need more than human exegesis. We need to be able to say, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.(Mt 16:17)"

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