Re: Christianity as a "faith"

George Murphy (
Sat, 18 Apr 1998 11:14:52 -0400

Terry M. Gray wrote:
> Now I'm going to turn this discussion in a theological direction, hopefully
> with no offense to Will or Massimo. It seems to me that Christian doctrine
> in fact relies on such an operation of the Holy Spirit, seemingly
> disparaged as mentioned above, for the conversion that opens our eyes to
> the truth of God's existence, the truth of God's Word, the truth of
> Christ's death and resurrection, and the truth of the world's evidencing
> God's creative and sustaining power. Perhaps we can jump into a renewed
> discussion of Romans 1:18ff or other passages that refer to God's existence
> being evident in his handiwork. But upon close examination the upshot of
> Romans 1 in context is that sinful man's heart is darkened and blinded and
> even dead to these evidences because of sin. Oh yes, they are without
> excuse in their ignorance because the evidence is truly there, but we know
> that they can't or won't see it. Paul's argument along these lines
> culminates in Romans 3. ................

This is very much to the point. But it should also be noted
that what the Holy Spirit works is not primarily infusion of
_information_ but _commitment_. (We have no secret _gnosis_.) The
Spirit calls us to trust our lives to whoever/whatever is shown to us in
the history of Israel which culminates in Jesus. And it's from such a
position of trust that it is possible to speak coherently of God as
trinity, the world as creation, & other basic Christian teachings.
We often toss around the phrase "faith in search of
understanding" rather casually, but it's really true: Understanding by
itself doesn't necessarily mean that there will be a genuine faith
commitment. & this also helps to explain why there is almost always
some element of doubt in Christian faith, and why in a certain sense
such faith has a provisional character: We don't understand completely.
The type of finality proper to Christian faith is not having all answers
or having completely refuted all contrary arguments, but willingness to
bet one's life on the one revealed in Jesus.
So what is an appropriate strategy Christians as instruments of
the Spirit? I would suggest that rather than thinking we prove the
truth of Christianity (which often means of general theism with a few
Christian appendices), we should argue that the idea of God's revelation
in the suffering and abandonment of the cross is the only claim that
goes deep enough to provide adequate grounding for a comprehensive view
of reality, and thus that people ought to look at the world from that
standpoint, if only provisionally - remembering, of course, that the
ultimate working of trust is the Spirit's, not the apologist's.
George L. Murphy