Monday, February 10, 2014

The Doctrine of Works By Faith

Everyone who’s honest wants the very best,
To prosper in life and survive every test,
We know to live by faith and not at all by sight,
By works of faith we climb to enjoy all of God’s Might.
There is a sweet truth nestled in the layers of wisdom regarding doctrine: both faith and works are important. But they can only be important if they work together, in unison, through the powers of God, like love and righteousness and justice and mercy, among many other kinds.
Let this quote, below, hang upon the mantelpiece of your conscious awareness. Let it linger on the palate, like choice wine:
“Doctrine is not an affair of the tongue but of the life.”
― John Calvin (1509–1564), Institutes of the Christian Religion.
Notwithstanding many detractors so far as John Calvin’s theology is concerned (where most detractors have not read it fully – and may come perfectly unqualified to adjudicate) this is an astounding quote, garnering simplicity and power because of its pithy wisdom.
No matter what we say, it’s what we do that reflects our doctrine – what we hold to believe. And if doctrine is what we hold to believe, and what is believed is shown by our actions, doctrine has very little to do with words at all. We live what we believe. Words are an anachronism if they betray our going out and coming home.
The doctrine of works by faith is a simple idea:
It is about engaging with the world – being in the world and not of the world – where we may do our works freely (not, say our words freely) by faith. Neither faith nor works has the upper hand, because both need each other; faith and works are complementary. They are precisely interdependent. Faith underpins the works, and the works are shown as being ingeniously authentic by the love with which they are done. We see, here, the tongue has little to do with the appellation of doctrine. The tongue, though it’s not inherently evil, is not far from it in the way we use it.
Our doctrine is critically important to our witness. They may be one and the same. It is important for the Christian to know this; to live their doctrine.
People judge us not on what we say, but on what we do. If we are people of faith, then our deeds reflect that faith. Faith devoid of works is not faith at all. Yet works without faith is a chasing of the wind – futility personified. We need both faith and works, cooperating in unison, if we will live the doctrine of God.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

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