Thursday, July 15, 2010


One of my favourite theologians at the moment is Marcus Borg. This is an excerpt from a sermon which he gave and is on the Church of Christ gadfly blog::
The Hebrew word for faith in the Old Testament is emoonah. What makes that word interesting is that it’s the sound that a baby donkey makes when it is calling for its mother. To appreciate that, you have to say emoonah so it sounds like that.…I sometimes think to myself, if you say it soft, it’s almost like braying. The point being that faith in the Hebrew Bible is like a baby donkey calling out or crying for its mother. There’s something kind of wonderful about that. There is an element…I don’t know if you want to say of desperation in it or not, but there certainly is an element of confidence also that the cry will be heard.

What I really want to emphasize…are the four meanings that faith has come to have in the Christian tradition. The first of these four is, I am convinced, a modern distortion, even as it is probably the most common meaning on the popular level. The other three are ancient and traditional and wonderfully complementary. You can have them all, but let me begin with the modern distortion.The modern distortion of faith is the one I think I learned growing up around the middle of this century. Faith as believing. Faith as believing the doctrines of the Christian tradition, faith as believing that there is a God, faith as believing that Jesus is divine, faith as believing that Jesus died for your sins, faith as believing that…and then fill it with almost anything. Faith as believing certain statements to be true.

There are a number of reasons why I say that’s a modern distortion. First of all, try to imagine what faith was like before the Enlightenment, that great period of Western history that began in the 17th or 18th centuries. Prior to the Enlightenment, in Christian culture of the Reformation or the Middle Ages and so forth, nobody had any trouble believing that the Bible came from God, that the Genesis stories of creation were true, that Jesus walked on the water and so forth. It didn’t take faith to believe any of that, that was simply part of the taken-for-granted understandings of people living in western Christendom. It’s only when those things started to be questioned that suddenly faith came to mean believing what otherwise doesn’t make a lot of sense to you. And faith came to mean what Bishop Robinson called some 35 years ago, believing 49 impossible things before breakfast.

It makes a lot of sense Borgs understanding of 'Faith'. The 'modern day' understanding of faith is something which I always struggled with and is easily equated to doubt.  I think Borg is pushing on something which is a lot more freeing than doubt. Doubt as I've come to understand it is seasonal, but this 'Faith' is forever.

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