Sunday, 20 May 2012

Faith as God's Act

I know it's been a while since I posted a reflection from the book The Faith of Jesus Christ. Still, here's another one. I can only hope the next one isn't quite so far into the future.

Chapter 8 is The Faith of Christ by Mark A. Seifrid. It's the easiest for me to read so far, perhaps because of the author's style or perhaps it's just a new section in the book. It's less about the technicalities of Greek translation and more about the context of pistis christou in the Pauline letters. Greek isn't my strong suit.

He presents the texts in a clear and methodical fashion, within the context of the question, "What does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ?" It's a good choice of question since the interesting part of any theological debate is the meaning and consequence of the conclusion. There's no point having the debate if it doesn't provoke or inspire some kind of action. Jesus is not just an ideas man, he's a master who commands obedience.

Seifrid's conclusion is worth quoting from, since it has the core of his essay:
For the Apostle, to believe in Jesus Christ is not first to act, but rather to be acted upon by God in his work in Jesus Christ. It is to know that our faith is the work of another. It is to know that the crucified and risen One is our Lord. Here lies the connection between doctrine and doing that the "subjectivists" have sought but failed to find. Here our "doing" is not our own doing, but the doing and work of another, given to us in the apostolic proclamation of the gospel.
This conclusion highlights the nature of the power of God, the passivity of humanity, and the necessity of human agency in light of faith. In the matter of faith, it is God who acts first. God's faithfulness is the first step and is manifest in the faith and faithfulness of Jesus. At the core of what it means to believe in Jesus is to be the recipient of the faith of Jesus. Herein is the passivity of humanity in the situation. Humanity cannot successfully strive after God, but can be found in Christ. In fact, Seifrid's emphasis in being in Christ and of Christ shows that the place of a Christian is more important than the reductionist notion that salvation comes by Christ. In this way it reminds me of Bonhoeffer's idea of being in Christ from Act and Being. Once we are in Christ we are then compelled to act according to that being, to pursue the "doing and work of another" rather than our own.

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