Essence and Works

I find myself sort of agreeing with a secular humanist against the importance of what people like to call faith. Michael McGhee says in the Guardian (HT: John Hobbins),

Personally, after the religious struggles of my Roman Catholic youth I don’t much want to hear about what people ‘believe’ – and want to hear even less about their ‘convictions’. In this dangerous and unjust world we need to know what people will do or refuse to do, how aware they are, as Joseph Conrad put it, ‘of the mysterious power of the human glance that can awaken the feelings of remorse and pity’.

If you do something, in what way does it matter what you believed about what you did? If it was murder, it was murder; if adultery, adultery; if theft, theft. The thing that matters about you must be more objective than what you yourself believe that you believe: it must be what you actually are.

What matters is what your works mean, what your choices mean (is that existentialist?). What you claim to believe matters only insofar as it’s a deed (even if a rhetorical one) or insofar as it shapes what you actually believe (that is, only so much as it actually convinces you); what you actually believe on the deepest level, in turn, is what emerges in your deeds (your works, in other words). Even belief as we typically know it isn’t the whole story of who you are (Jas 1.22–25; 2.14–17): who you are and what you are is simply what God has made you.

If you’re alive in Christ, what matters the most isn’t that you profess a certain faith but that God himself, the author of the cosmos, has made you alive. If our word – that is, our own rhetoric – cannot make us new, there is One alone whose living Word makes all things new: from this time forth I announce to you new things, hidden things that you have not known. A New Creation dawns; the numinous presence defers his anger; he is the First and the Last. What that God does to you with his word is what you are.


One response to “Essence and Works

  1. Pingback: Inauthentic Faith and Social Relations « Cogito, Credo, Petam

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