(Bible quotations are from the NIV unless otherwise stated)
The gap between theology and faith
22nd February 2014
I suspect most Christians think of themselves as people of faith, but not as theologians. Iíve come to realise, however, that most Christians have more theology than faith. And I suspect this is particularly true of evangelicals. We have faith in Christ's redeeming blood, but how much faith do we have that God will act in and through us, this side of heaven?
We know Ė theologically Ė that God answers prayer. But we donít have much faith that God will answer our prayers. We have faith that God hears our prayers, but we have little expectation that God will respond to our prayers. And thatís why we donít pray very much.
We know Ė theologically Ė that God can do anything. He can save the lost (thatís why weíre Christians). He can heal people. He can mend relationships. But we donít have much faith that he will do these things, and weíre usually surprised when He does.
I love Bible study groups, Iíve been to at least one a week for most of my Christian life. But I do sometimes wonder what life would be like if we moved from studying the Bible to putting it into practice a bit more. But that takes faith.
Every Christian has faith. You canít be a Christian without faith. And faith is God-given (Romans 12v3, Ephesians 2v8). But Jesus tells us to "have faith in God" (Matthew 11v22). So faith is both something we're given and something we choose to have. And our faith is supposed to grow:
2 Corinthians 10v15
2 Thessalonians 1v3
Perhaps faith is like a muscle that grows when regularly exercised and that withers when not regularly exercised. I know older Christians whose faith has grown steadily over the years. But I know others who have less expectation of a miracle now than they had 10 years ago. And that's a tragedy. Perhaps studying the Bible is easier and safer than exercising our faith by stepping out and actually making a difference.
And when Christians talk about making a difference, they often donít mean exercising their faith; they mean exercising their muscles or their mouths, by doing something, saying something, or writing something (as I am right now). All thatís good, of course. But we can move mountains by faith (Matthew 17v20) not by the exercise of our bodies or intellects, but by the Holy Spirit of God in response to a prayer of faith. For example:
I think Iím repenting. Iím not repenting of hard work, or of good theological study. Iím repenting of using these good things to fill up my time so I can avoid actually putting my faith to work.