I’m in the early stages of writing a series of blogs on the subject of conspiracy theories. It may sound like a benign topic with me spouting my easy opinions but it has turned into a much more challenging project than I had anticipated. It will be an examination of why evangelicals seem to be particularly susceptible to believing and spreading these ideas and of course ‘why’ is the most challenging part of any puzzle. (I know, I know – you can’t wait, but just calm down, and be patient!)
In the process of writing/researching on the ‘why’ aspects of this phenomenon, I stumbled again on the ancient Greek word pistis which is the common New Testament expression for faith. There is a whole family of these faith words, like when Jesus confronted his disciples for their oligópistos – lack of faith.
Can I just lay my cards on the table? The word ‘faith’ gets used and abused too much by Christians who toss it around simplistically.
In our hands faith can come to mean ‘try harder’ or “you’re not quite there yet”. If we are not careful, faith becomes a word that elevates some and lowers others.
“Without faith you can’t know God.” But what if I don’t believe in God? Where does that faith come from?
“By faith we pray for forgiveness.” But what if you’re filled with guilt? How can you find enough faith to heal and breathe?
“Let’s ask so-and-so to pray, she has amazing faith.” Is there a place you can go or a course you can take where you can get more faith?
“God will heal if you have enough faith.” But what if you have doubts about healing? Does God just heal super-christians?
We can also weaponize faith when things don’t go as expected. It didn’t happen so he/she/I/you must not have had enough faith. (Another slick answer is, ‘It must not have been God’s will.’)
Adequate faith should be accessible to anyone and should never separate us into castes of spiritual maturity or power. Think about it, Jesus didn’t speak of faith as being outside of anyone’s grasp; it was available to little children and the worst sinners.
Our problem is that we think of it as a sort of intellectual ascent; a blind certainty that the impossible is within our power to change. Many years ago I can remember times when I would pray hard, eyes clenched shut, brows furrowed, trying to force my brain to believe without reservation. But forced, blind belief isn’t faith.
So let’s get back to our teeny, tiny, little pistis. Faith isn’t just an intellectual belief, it comes from God and is much more deep and practical.
Pistis isn’t about maturity, or manipulation, or a way to accomplish the impossible, but rather it is from root words that mean ‘persuasion’ or ‘to be persuaded’. We can’t inherit, manufacture, or learn faith, it is a gift – a ‘persuasion’ from God – distributed to us as needed.
“Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” – Romans 12:3, NIV
Faith might be a persuasion but we confirm and supplement it with good practices. The above verse in Romans is found in a chapter that is entirely about being a ‘living sacrifice’, serving those around us with humility and love. Real faith is played out in practical ways so that others in turn begin to be persuaded toward trust.
Bottom line: Your faith isn’t too small, just use what you have.