Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Faith and Irresponsibility

Has anyone ever told you about something he plans to do that doesn't make a lot of sense, and when you press for details or question the wisdom of the decision, he responds by saying "we're stepping out in faith"? Most likely you have, and if you haven't experienced it personally, you know of a public ministry that's done this.

Is this faith?

Let's look at a case study: Abraham. Of course, he is the poster child for 'stepping out in faith', making an enormous change without any kind of plan or even knowing the destination. We read this about him in Hebrews 11, colloquially known as the Faith Chapter:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. (Heb 11:8-10)

Well, there it is. Look at how utterly irrational Abraham was! He left the comforts of home, abandoning most of his family, leaving an established city. He had no idea where he would be going, and had no friends, family, or other support there. He would be a stranger in a foreign land with no friends, living in tents instead of a house. He left Ur, possibly the largest and most powerful city in the Fertile Crescent at the time, to live... ??? Well, he didn't know. He could have spent the rest of his life alone in the desert for all he knew.

Not a single part of that makes any sense, it's completely irrational, and it's a model of faith for all of us to emulate. We don't need a plan, and it doesn't need to make sense. Just do it - have faith!

Yeah, not so fast. The big problem with this view is that it completely fails to account for God.

Make a pro/con list for Abraham's decision. We've already listed a bunch of cons - based on them, leaving Ur would be downright insane. But that doesn't account for the one huge pro - God commanded it! It wasn't a suggestion or invitation; the sovereign creator of the universe commanded (note that scripture says he "obeyed"). That by itself is absolutely enough to completely tip the scales. Just the fact that God commanded Abraham to go means that Abraham going was totally rational - in fact, it was the only rational thing he could have done. And that's before we even consider the unimaginable magnitude of the promised blessing.

What made Abraham's move a step of faith is not that it appeared to be irrational. It was faith because he believed God. When God has given specific revelation of his will through commands, promises, and precepts, acting accordingly is faith. Sometimes it will look completely silly to the world, and other times it will make total sense even to atheists. What matters is not the apparent craziness of the action, but the fidelity to God's word.

It is faith to engage in appropriate church discipline although the worldly think it's absurd. And it's faith to conduct business honestly, even though the world may acknowledge the benefits of doing so. Both are obedient to scripture, and both are faith. Loving enemies, submitting to even an unbelieving husband, enduring persecution, financial generosity, honoring parents, fervent prayer, silencing heretics - all of this and more can be faith.

And on the counter side, something does not become a 'step of faith' just because it appears to be incredibly stupid. It may just be that you're doing something incredibly stupid, and trying to sanctify it by attaching God's name to it. If it's not obedience to God's will as revealed in scripture, it's not faith.


Robert said...

It's all about who is sovereign - God or us. If we're sovereign, then we can make things that are descriptive to be prescriptive and vice versa. But if God is sovereign, then we have to find out what He is saying in Scripture. I speak as a fool because it doesn't matter what any of us say...God is sovereign.

becca said...

Excellent articulation of something I have thought many times.