Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Faith - mediated or immediate?

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,”[d] 19 concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. Heb 11:17-19

I have been thinking about this thing called faith...err, once again, ahem.

I have noticed a difference in understanding between the Gnesio-Evangelicals and the neo/modern evangelicals on this lately.

Faith for a modern evangelical is immediate. What I mean by that is that it is not mediated, in other words, it is sudden and without something in between. It drops from heaven, so to speak. I say this because faith in modern evangelicalism is personal, and by that it means direct, i.e. God deals with you in the raw, directly. It is understood that when Scripture said that Abraham was the friend of God, it meant that God spoke to Abraham about what was going on in his mind, i.e. God shared his secret heart with Abraham etc.

This is of course manifested in songs like "He lives, he lives, Christ Jesus lives today, he walks with me and talks with me in life's narrow way and so on". Some manifestations of this would be when God tells you where the bargain goods are, he tells you where the right parking spot is, he tells you what the Scripture means etc. In otherwords, it is sorted out while you are in the midst a crisis situation.

On the otherhand, for Gnesio-Evangelicals, faith is mediated. By that I mean, faith is mediated by a promise. All the while in Christian life, it is the promise (the Gospel) that drives all of deductions in life. I see this in the case of Abraham, his faith was not immediate, rather it was mediated by a promise (see the above verse). When Abraham was being tried he had no immediate word from God saying "look, all will be ok, relax, you kill him and I will raise him from the dead, OK? Don't worry, be happy". I am being sarcasmagoric but you know what I mean.

There was none of that conversation. In fact Scripture says that he used the promise to deduce that God would have to raise Isaac from the dead if he killed him. There was no immediate word, just the promise and the implications of trusting in it. Selah.

Yet, this is the same principle in operation in Gnesio-Evangelicalism because it presents Christianity as a religion based on a promise (in this case the Gospel promise). In this Evangelicalism, Christianity is a promise religion, and you make spiritual deductions based on the Gospel promise, it is the hermeneutic. Comparing to what happened to Abraham, it is similar. We believe the promise that for Christ' sake and by virtue of his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, and thus we hold on to the promise until God takes us home. It is a mediated faith, a faith that is brought about based on a promise. In this very sense, a Christian is a person who has a promise from God and so his faith is like that of Abraham, it is mediated by a promise. He has not gotten it sorted out, there is left over mystery absolutely! He has not figured it all out, he uses the promise to guide him in a crisis, he cleaves, he hangs on, he spiritually grabs the promise by the horns and won't let go and he uses the promise for comfort. Yet all this time, there is no new voice, or new revelation directly from God.

Seems to me indeed that a Christianity that focuses you on God's promise (which is the Gospel) and enjoins you to trust that promise until the end, is similar to that of the faith of Abraham. Well then, it becomes true -- that Abraham is the father of those who believe, whose faith is similar to his. Selah.


William Weedon said...

Yes, indeed. And I was just reading in Bayer the other day what happens to FAITH, when the grammatical form is not promise!

"If the word becomes an appeal, faith becomes its performance in action. If the word becomes a demonstration, faith becomes insight; if it becomes a statement, faith becomes knowledge. Finally, if the word becomes an expression, faith becomes a ground of existence or a ground of experience given with human being as such. *Only if the word is promise is faith really faith.*" *Theology the Lutheran Way* p. 139

steve martin said...

Great quote from Bayer. Thanks william Weedon!

Our Lord does not leave us with the some ethereal promise or,just some words in a book that we must hang our hopes on.

He leaves us Himself. His Word in teaching and preaching, in the reading of the scriptures and in the tangible bread and wine of His supper.

Now we don't have to resort to the four methods (noted in the quote from Bayer) to try and make the promise real for ourselves.

God has done it all! And continues to do it all!

William Weedon said...


L P Cruz said...

This is not to say that there is no personal aspect of this, but the personal aspect of this faith is mediated. For example, God still talks to us, but that is now through the promise, and it is still repeated, reassured and strengthened through the mediated means - Word/Sacrament.

It is the 'for you' or the 'for me - promise'. When I heard the Gospel - I heard Jesus saying in a way - I died for you, that is the reason I came, because you can not make it on your own.

So we cleave - his death is for me.

I do not know how to explain it but I can see spots of blessings from God, or good turn out of events etc and I can only attribute them to the kindness of God. Even in the aspects that I consider blessings, I consider them to be only and due to Christ's interecession or mediation for me. I donot deserve them, but Christ deserved them for me.

Indeed, as Jesus said - without me, you can do nothing (and only nothing).

Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.


Augustinian Successor said...