I like the word incipient. It means something that is just beginning to exist or appear. When something is incipient, in its very earliest stages of development, does it exist? Doesn’t it exist whether it is fully grown or barely embryonic? It doesn’t seem that size, age, maturity, or development is the issue. While all those things may happen, the question of existence is settled when something begins to be.
So goes my philosophical reflections … perhaps meaningless ruminations, deserving of dismissing offhandedly … but there is one area where the meaning and question of incipient gnaws at me: Faith. You see, as a follower of Jesus Christ, the question of faith is a critical one – without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6) because God makes us right in his sight by faith (Romans 1:17, 3:28-30, and scriptures too numerous to list). According to the Bible, faith is at the heart of a personal relationship with God. But how much faith is necessary? Jesus said that the tiniest faith could accomplish great things (Luke 17:6). He asks us to have faith as uncluttered, simple and innocent as a child’s faith (Mark 10:13-15). Since it seems clear that God doesn’t require full-blown, well-reasoned, mature faith in order to enter into a relationship with him (Mark 9:24), how much faith is needed?
My answer … incipient faith. Hebrews 11:6 says that “it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” This seems to be the irreducible minimum: God exists and He will reward my search.
God’s choice to “reward” the sincere seeker is not based on the degree to which one searches but on his graciousness based on what Jesus Christ did at the cross. His sacrifice made the way possible for everyone to enter into a relationship with God. When one searches, whether they know it or not, their search is made possible because of the way opened by Christ (John 14:6).
Why does someone without any need or requirement search after God? How do we explain this behavior? Is it social preconditioning? Or is it something more? When does the unconscious question become a conscious search? When does a logical uncertainty become the search for the divine? When does an instinctive longing become the living mote of faith? I don’t know. But when that speck appears, for whatever reason in whatever form, it is the beginning of the relationship with God. As that faith grows, He will continue to reveal himself, ultimately as the Christ. But up until that time, even embryonic faith is acceptable to God … existing and eventually emerging – if we allow it – into the faith that acknowledges Jesus Christ as Lord.