Hebrews 11:6 has become my sin qua non of Bible passages. It says
So, you see, 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.
Classic Christianity affirms faith – mentioned throughout the Christian Scriptures as the essential element to a right relationship with God – is crucial. However, what has never been clear to me is what are the rudiments of faith … its makeup … how can we know that faith has actually taken on a life of its own? In other words, when we move beyond acknowledging aspects of faith to the point when those aspects converge and become initial (incipient) faith.
Hebrews 11:6 has answered my question. The elements of faith are 1) believe that there is a benevolent God, and 2) begin a lifelong quest to know this God. It doesn’t seem possible to claim faith on the basis of believing there is a God but in having no inclination to know more about this God. When the elements of faith come together … God is and I must discover him … then faith is born.
The agnostic may believe there is a God but have no desire to discover – or be discovered by – this God. This belief in God is simply not faith. Faith begins a quest. That doesn’t mean that the pursuit will always be neatly defined, taking similar paths for each pilgrim, and codified conveniently so that each succeeding generation will know the exact path to follow.
It seems to me that a search by definition implies a certain kind of randomness … one doesn’t know where to look. In terms of a search from location A to location B, simple turns of left or right in the correct sequence should ultimately lead us to the destination. However, the ultimate search for God isn’t so limited in its dimensional scope. After all, we are talking about searching for God. Therefore the search would include all the dimensions of our limited humanity trying to discover all the dimensions of God’s unlimited personality. What could be neat and tidy about that?
But, that’s exactly what theology has tried to do over the ages, make the quest understandable and reproducible. Instead, they have reduced it to a set of logical deductions mixed with cultural moral imperatives and called it the quest for God. The only thing missing? Finding God.
The point of Jesus coming was to help us in the quest. When the gospel writers talk about Jesus’ life, they are continually pointing out that Jesus came to help us understand 1) who God is, and 2) how we can go about finding him. Not in a prepackaged format, but in an ever-changing, untidy, often confusing relationship filled with starts and fits … with high points of understanding and low points of despair … with sadness and joy. A truly authentic relationship.