Why Do We Think Christianity Is About Belief?

Jason Micheli —  September 7, 2012 — 1 Comment

Just when did we define/reduce Christianity to ideas and beliefs? Why is it we frame our faith in terms of rationality and intellect? Isn’t it about love and desire instead? Our language for the faith of Christ so seldom resembles Christ’s own language.

Stop and consider how today most Christian congregations put the sermon (the rational exposition of scripture) at the center of their worship. Consider how we send our children to something called Sunday School. Reflect how often we describe Christianity in terms of its utility: what it can do for me. Reflect on how we want to explain the sacraments and think of them ‘as symbols.’

When I was a student in seminary my wife taught at a school for children with autism. Sometime during the course of a year, while I was deep in my study of theology, Ali pointed out, rather pointedly, how we tend to define Christianity and construct worship in a way that excludes people like her students from ever being considered complete Christians.

That is, she meant, we make Christianity a rational, thinking endeavor. Her students couldn’t do that.

But they could love. They could love God and desire Christ’s presentation of the Kingdom.

We tend define the essence of Christianity with a summary of doctrines, and we tend to think doctrine and beliefs come first and then these beliefs find expression in our love and worship.

But that ordering doesn’t jibe with scripture and it doesn’t jibe with the history.

Some dusty, fancy-sounding terms:

Ekklesia.

This is the Greek word for Church. What’s it mean? ‘Called out assembly.’

Who we are first and foremost is a People called from the larger population as an assembly of worship (love).

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi.

This is Latin phrase theologians use. It means the ‘rule of prayer, the rule of law/belief.’ This phrase is a summary way of saying that our worship determines our beliefs. Our worship precedes our beliefs. What we think and believe about God flows from, not to, our love God. In other words, the invitation to worship is a better beginning point than a street-corner tract.

Orthodoxy.

Most often this word gets used to distinguish right beliefs from wrong ones but that’s not actually what the word means. Orthodoxy means ‘right praise.’ So when we distinguish heretics from everyone else what’s really at stake isn’t beliefs or thoughts but our worshipping God wrongly.

Our beliefs flow out of our love of God. Beliefs are what we discover through worshipping God. Beliefs are our reflections on the God we’ve come to love. And any one can come to love.

We are creatures made to love. To desire God and God’s Kingdom.

Jason Micheli

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One response to Why Do We Think Christianity Is About Belief?

  1. Yes! Did you read Hauerwas on this topic? He uses the same example of the mentally disabled.

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