The New Testament occasionally speaks of faith in terms of a fixed vein of truth. As such, it is to be sought and mined by the diligent. This is the sense of the term at texts such as Jude 3, where Christians are told to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.”
In many more settings, however, the same sacred writings speak of faith as a moving target. Here I am thinking of all those texts that talk about “living by faith” or someone having a “strong faith” or a believer’s duty to “add to your faith” this or that virtue.
In these texts, faith is not an objective body of truth about Jesus but our subjective response to Christ as Lord.
As our living reply to Christ Jesus, faith is anything but constant and complete and unchanging. It is a pilgrimage into the uncharted territory of new challenges. It is a Christcentered romance that moves forward with confidence in his affectionate presence. It is a process of continual conversion toward God’s heart, God’s vision, and God’s activity.
Some of us have been taught to think of Christianity as an educational enterprise. If so, what did Christians do for centuries before they had Bibles to delve into and scour for pure doctrine? Even more have been trained to view it as making the right association. If so, were there no Christians for all those centuries before our restored and true church was formed?
Still others have been given to understand Christian faith as currying the favor of God with correct performance under a fixed standard of rules.
The lived experience of faith is none of those things. It is instead the love affair between flawed sinners and the one alone in whom they have found hope. It is a process of responding to him and learning to walk more appropriately with his perfectly measured pace toward the Father. We learn from him in quiet times of Bible study and reflection. We gain insights from others walking the same path. And we learn from failure.
Until we grasp the significance of faith as romance or dance, pilgrimage or process – pick your own metaphor for constant discovery – we are stuck with the notion of faith as something over which we argue. Something to which we turn when someone dies or when something happens we don’t understand. A ladder to climb to some otherworldly destination. With these images, we will foster arrogance as the equivalent to faith and judgment equivalent to conviction.
So you need not confuse your questioning with unbelief or your failure with God’s rejection. For that matter, you must not feel compelled to see your disagreement with another pilgrim as the need to consign him to hell.
Faith is a moving target for all of us, and faithfulness is holding to the confidence that the miracle of resurrection power sustains confused Abraham, immoral Rahab, vacillating Peter, and defective you or me until Christ comes.