Friday, June 28, 2013

The Opposite of Faith is...

I'm really starting to get sick of this postmodern world we live in.


I mean, it has become perfectly acceptable to redefine years of history and tradition and meaning in regards to particular words, phrases and beliefs simply by using rhetorical sleight of hand.

I've pointed out one such dastardly redefining in regards to those who proclaim "The opposite of love is not hate but apathy."  No.  The opposite of love is hate.  Period--no matter how one tries to argue to the contrary.

The latest: The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty.

There's a (ahem!) wonderful article seeking to argue just this trite little snippet in this month's Lutheran Magazine.  I'm not sure what's worse--the article, or the fact that the magazine chose to print it.  Now, the author does indeed provide an argument which sounds nice and sweet and sappy: the idea that seeking certainty in doctrine and practice has caused division and strife, and if we would just set all that aside and focus on loving one another, all that stuff would just go away.

Well, what does this guy base this assertion on?

He bases it on the certainty that loving one another will cure such ills--but that is actually beside the point.  There's a deeper theological issue at stake--the author's interpretation of Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Pertinent quotes:

That seems to allow some leeway on the finality on many of our opinions.  I add to this God's words in Job 38 and following.  "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?...Who has the wisdom to number the clouds?"  Then God's comment is one we need to take to heart, "Surely you know."

It ranks with Jesus' "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times...but I say to you..."  (Matthew 5:33-34).  The ancient prophet states it this way: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord."  (Isaiah 55:8)

Is this not a call to humility?  Don't these approaches to our rigidity encourage us to lighten up in our certainties?  A theologian has boldly stated, "The opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty."  When we speak as if in ultimate certainty, we are proudly declaring, "I'm right, you are wrong."  We then should remember God's words to Isaiah and to Job and Jesus' words to the Pharisees.
Aside from the horrendous removal of context of these words from Scripture to prove an ideological point, let's first deal with the assumption that Hebrews 11 allows us "some leeway on the finality on many of our opinions."

First off, I don't read opinion in the statement from the writer of Hebrews.  Not at all.  In fact, I see vastly different words:  assurance and conviction.  Assurances and convictions are much more than opinions.  If I have an opinion that God exists, then such a statement is simply a matter of choice.  Believe or not believe--there is little difference between one who does and who does not.

But this is not the case--at all.  A conviction is something much more than an opinion.  It is something much deeper which resides within one's heart and soul.  It is something that links to the core of one's identity and being.  It is not easily renounced or given up.

In Hebrews 11, Christians are encouraged to live with the assurance and conviction that God exists, that Christ is risen from the dead even though they have no visible proof or evidence of such matters.  They are to live their lives following Christ with conviction and hopeful assurance that though the surrounding culture acts one particular way, they are called to a different way of life--a way of life that may face ridicule and even persecution.  This is no simple matter of opinion--it is a matter of living with the certainty of belief in Jesus Christ--a belief and faith which has consequences in life.

Perhaps the quintessential text in showing this is Jesus' meeting with doubting Thomas found in John 20.  In this resurrection story, Thomas doubts that Jesus is raised from the dead.  Jesus eventually reveals Himself to Thomas and saysto him, "Do not doubt but believe."  Now, knowing just a smidge of Greek is important in this matter.  The Greek for faith is pistis.  Funny thing about Greek is that when it wants to show the opposite of something, it simply adds an "a" in front.  So, the opposite of faith in the Greek is apistis.  So, let's do a little bit of word play with this particular saying of Jesus--please remember the context of the statement in John 20.

Jesus says to Thomas, "Do not have certainty, but believe."

Does that even make the slightest bit of sense given the context?  I didn't think so, but there are more than a few who will buy this "wonderful" argument regarding certainty as the opposite of faith.

It's not surprising given the world we live in which seeks relativism instead of Truth.

Oh, but the whole right/wrong thing.  Yeah.  That's really what the author is trying to get at.  The idea that certainty leads to self-righteousness.  Well, let me put just a slight bug in this guy's ear.

If he were really certain that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God, the resurrected Lord, the second person of the Trinity, then all he need do is point to just a few of Jesus' statements:

Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:4)

All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.  (Matthew 23:12)

I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.’ (Luke 18:14)

Or this little snippet or two from Paul:

Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. (Romans 12:16)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

Dealing with right/wrong does not necessarily lead to self-righteousness.  Certainty does not necessarily lead to self-righteousness, especially when actually following Christ's commands and the teachings revealed in Scripture.  In fact, when implemented, they actually lead to humility.

Yet, despite this, there are those who wish to push for redefinition and further movement from orthodox Christian faith.

I am beginning to detest this postmodern world.

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