Bo White

Ideas and Grace over Coffee

How to use the F Word: part 1

Today, I will start a series of posts that will be revealed on Fridays for the next 12 weeks. This means that from today until the first weekend in Advent, I will tackle a different F word that needs a bit of explaining and that is shaping the world we live in. At the end of the series, feel free to chime in on words I may have missed along the way (I am sure there will be a few—see there’s one already).

I will still continue to post periodic book reviews and reflections on leadership, but the next dozen Fridays will be relegated to the F word.

This week, though, I will begin with the word ‘Faith’ (by the way, upcoming installments will include reflections on feminist, failure, friend, and football among others).

When you use the word ‘faith’, you probably should understand that some people think you’re being religious and others think you’re being spiritual which is different. You can be religious about brushing your teeth and spirituality can include Hinduism, Pantheism, witches, and druids. Well meaning leaders will ask their teams to play a ‘leap of faith’ game where some unlucky volunteer will close their eyes and plunge backwards in the hope that the rest of their colleagues will catch her (or him). And some of us who grew up in the 1980’s will struggle to get that wretched George Michael song out of our head (you gotta have faith, faith, faith…there, now try having a normal day—good luck).

Faith, though, is trust in a person or idea.

Some people trust the idea of capitalism and have unending faith in it as the sole hope of human economic dreams. Some people trust socialism as a more equitable idea, while others trust in a certain definition of greatness or liberty.  So, faith can be used in relationship to ideas.

But, I believe faith is more expressed and experienced through people. And this is part of the tension in our modern world. We have transitioned a lot of our faith from a person primarily to ideas. Previously, we voted on leaders because of who they were and their ability to connect with people, but more and more, because they are already connected albeit impersonally, (due to the internet and advances in communication technology), we appreciate leaders and the way they both express and reinforce certain ideas. So, communication of ideas has eclipsed the personal touch, though admittedly both are important. Ask any politician and he or she will tell you that they must score high marks both with platform and in personal relationship. This, though, takes more time than a campaign can often allow.

Now, are ideas important? Absolutely and I have a separate section on this site devoted to them. But, our faith is truly tested when we’re asked to trust people not ideas. Trusting in ideas actually can take the form of no faith as we’re actually trusting in only that which we already agree. How much faith does it take to trust in a platform, especially when it’s one that we helped construct? The answer—not much.

Faith in a person, though, is different. People surprise us and come fully loaded with emotional outbursts, their own mistakes, and paradoxical behavior. Christians are asked to trust Jesus AND Biblical ideas flow from that…not the other way round. To trust Biblical ideas, but not Jesus is dangerous and well, not much different than being a lifelong Democrat or Republican.

The Heidelberg Catechism states that “true faith is a sure knowledge” which reflects a sincere trust in ideas, but this is connected to Jesus in subsequent questions. I prefer, at this point in time, the definition Ravi Zacharias offers in his book, Jesus Among Other Gods:

“Faith in the biblical sense is substantive, based on the knowledge that the One in whom that faith is placed has proven that He is worthy of that trust. In its essence, faith is a confidence in the person of Jesus Christ and in His power, so that even when His power does not serve my end, my confidence in Him remains because of who He is.”

So, faith can be linked to lots of things, but we all trust in at least two things: a set of ideas and a group of people. How we prioritize and practically work out such faith is an important aspect to our own purpose and calling in this life and so to answer this first week’s question: yes, you use the word faith in relationship to what ideas and people you trust. At its core, that’s when the word has its greatest impact on our day to day life.

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