“They who strive to build up a firm faith in Scripture through disputation are doing things backwards.”
― John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 1 of 2
BAD FAITH and good faith there are in this life and both are extremely self-evident upon honest appraisal. They are supremely evident as we look at others’ lives.
John Calvin’s point involves the application of Scripture to our lives, and not the spruiking of one’s own ‘inalienable’ truth. Why would we argue the meaning of things to the point of disputation when the point of Scripture is to admonish us to live peaceably with the desire to love our neighbours as ourselves? Surely, the point of striving for a firm faith in Scripture is to realise that avenue to such faith is through relationship, with God and with others. Disputing others’ claims, values, and beliefs is winning us no friends; unless the point of the exercise is challenge one another – which rarely it would be.
But there is a deeper point easily missed in all this; the issue of firm faith being good faith – a faith that vindicates its possessor. By that we also know bad faith when we see it: people espousing to believe, yet never actually applying their faith – the tenets of what they stand for.
Good faith is nothing about disputation for disputation’s sake. Good faith is about applying a very noticeable trust in all facets of life, abiding keenly to and advocating essential and universal truths, the accession of virtue fitted for the moment, and the practice of wise discernment – all of these four of which others notice and can comment favourably on.
The purveyor of good faith isn’t a person keen to blast their own trumpet. They have no piece in self-promotion or self-protection. They are keen to allow their faith to do the talking. They know their fruit is in the growing and they are patient enough to allow it to ripen.
Good faith is our best friend and closest ally in this troublesome life. It always works out in the ultimate sense, because it rebounds with resilience – without much overt complaint – when the going gets tough.
When we live our faith well, we allow God to speak into our lives by the Holy Scriptures, which affirms what we have right from what we still haven’t understood. What point is disputation, then? We must execute the open mind.
Good faith is its own pleasant medicine that offers us up to the abundant life. There can be no argument that it is inherently valuable – that such faith is good is observable for all to see. Good faith sustains us through any reality check.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.