The conversation goes on and on, and we toss around words that are loaded with presuppositions, the verb “to believe” is not the least of them. I have written extensively about this, but it seems it’s a topic worth another go.
What does it mean to believe, to have faith and to be faithful?
I have in earlier posts quoted Marcus Borg who writes that:
Believe did not originally mean believing a set of doctrines or teachings; in both Greek and Latin its roots mean “to give one’s heart to.”The “heart” is the self at its deepest level. Believing, therefore, does not consist of giving one’s mental assent to something, but involves a much deeper level of one’s self. Believing in Jesus does not mean believing doctrines about him. Rather, it means to give one’s heart, one’s self at its deepest level, to the post-Easter Jesus who is the living Lord, the side of God turned toward us, the face of God, the Lord who is also the Spirit. (Meeting Jesus again for the first time, 1994)
If we are to work with this definition of belief, as Marcus Borg properly renames it, to belove, then to have faith in Jesus is not so much to believe certain things about Jesus but to trust in whom Jesus is and what Jesus does. Put simply: to love Jesus.
If this is the case then belief and faith becomes relational terms rather than propositional or factual terms. This means that belief does not come from the intellect but rather emanates out of my life (or in Borg’s terms, the heart: From which our life springs (prov 4.23)). It is not what I say about Jesus or what facts about Jesus I have given intellectual assent to, but rather how does loving, trusting Jesus transform my daily living? This also means that denial of Jesus is not to state what he is or is not (merely human or son of god) but denying Jesus becomes evident when we live out our lives as practical agnostics or when we support social structures of oppression and slavery. Like Peter Rollins gives voice to so powerfully in this little clip from the Poets, Prophets and Preachers conference:
If having faith in Jesus is trusting/loving Jesus and if affirming Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus is to live true to Jesus. In other words: to be faithful is to be true. True to Jesus, true to his life, true to where Jesus leads and true to whom God created you to be. Brené Brown, a shame and vulnerability researcher (yes there is such a thing) states that we as human beings are hardwired for connection, but true connection only happens when we dare to show up as ourselves. Connection can only happen when we shed the masks, the armors and the ego structures that we use to hide who we really are and to show up as ourselves, broken, imperfect but gloriously created in god’s image with divine purpose.
Interestingly enough, this is also the only way to grow, as we only grow in the meeting with the other and we never truly meet until we have met as our true selves. In the end this means that my repentance (rethinking who I am and where my life is going and choosing a new direction), and my salvation (being transformed by god’s love and grace, becoming whom I am created to become, my true self), is only possible through faith, that is, trusting that I am unconditionally loved, so that I may dare greatly and show up as I really am and by that allowing the transformation of becoming whom I already am, my true self, created in god’s image.