Friday, July 26, 2019

The Holy Spirit and Christian Faith

1. Faith and Its Object
Faith is certainly an event in which we participate. But it only occurs in a relationship with Jesus Christ established by him. The Jesus Christ of this relationship is neither a remote heavenly figure, nor a set of beliefs, but the Lord actively ruling in our midst. He has established such a relationship with every single person. The disadvantage of non-Christians is that they do not yet acknowledge this relationship, so do not yet participate in it.

Faith means letting go of being in control of our lives and actively focusing on Christ’s lordship. It means losing our life so we can find it (Mark 8:35). It means getting to do this spontaneously and genuinely.

Second, Jesus Christ is not only the object but the origin of our faith. Faith is the freest possible human act. Yet we freely believe in Jesus Christ only because he sets us free to do so. Our faith is his work. As proud sinners we would not and could not do it. When faith appears before us, it does not do so as mere possibility. It confronts us as an irresistible actuality. When the power of the Holy Spirit awakens us, we can only open our eyes in free acknowledgment of God’s gracious decision.

Third, it is in our awakening to faith in Christ by the power of his Spirit that we actually begin to live as new beings reconciled with God. We acknowledge, recognize, and confess the radical alteration of our situation which has taken place in Christ. We witness to this change in Christ as representatives of everyone. We witness to the actuality that Jesus Christ is for the world, for the Church within the world, and especially that he is for each of us as Savior of the world and Lord of the Church.

2. The Act of Faith
Faith is always a spontaneous and active event. But as such it is a cognitive event expressed in active acknowledgment, recognition, and confession of Jesus Christ as Lord. Faith begins with acknowledgment because this is knowledge in obedience. When Jesus Christ encounters us, he does so in some way through his body the Church in such a way that we are freed to freely acknowledge his lordship and the relative authority of the community representing him. Acknowledgment of Jesus Christ as Lord is the basic act of faith upon which recognition and confession are based.

Second, Christian faith involves active recognition. Jesus Christ confronts us as Lord in a very definite and singular form. We rightly recognize him in this one authentic form insofar as our understanding of him is informed by Scripture and by Church proclamation disciplined by Scripture. The form in which Jesus Christ presents himself to us through Scripture and proclamation is unimaginably rich, but we rightly recognize him through them because they remain the means he has chosen as normative.

All of us as Christians are theologians, and we need to be good ones, because being a Christian means having a true vision (however simple) of Jesus Christ, thinking true thoughts about him, and finding fitting expression for both. Our knowledge is both theoretical, being objectively true of our Lord; and experiential, being our active recognition of Christ’s lordship in our life as he increasingly shapes our lives in conformity with his. This is the analogy of faith.

In faith, we actively recognize that our own pride and fall were overcome, and we as sinners were destroyed, in Christ. On one hand, our destruction as sinners has already happened in Christ but not yet in us. On the other, what has already happened in Christ has already altered our own situation. When in faith we actively recognize our destruction as sinners in Christ, we repent of our former way of living without Christ. In this way we exist in analogy with Jesus Christ our Lord.

This analogy of faith has a positive side as well. Jesus Christ not only destroyed our pride and fall. He also restored our right and life. Again this restoration has already happened in Christ for us but not yet in us. But again what has already happened in Christ has already altered our own situation. In faith we actively recognize our restoration to righteousness and life before God in Christ. We trust joyfully in the promise of eternal life given to the Church and us by God in Christ. We move in freedom from being victims of our own pride to being humbly obedient to our Lord and so, at last, to living in peace with ourselves and others because we know we are at peace with God who holds us in the palm of his hand.

The goal of faith as the free acts of acknowledgment and recognition is confession. Confession is our humble service to God as witnesses to his glory in Jesus Christ. To acknowledge and recognize his radiant self-revelation in Jesus Christ is to be illuminated by it and shine with it in the world. This means a public confession of our attachment to the Church and the Lord through and by whom we were confronted with the awakening power of the Holy Spirit. It also means our humble but courageous sharing with the world the truly good news that God in Christ has reconciled all people to himself.

Copyright © 2019 by Steven Farsaci.
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