Allow me to begin this entry with a question. What does it look like for Christians to own their faith? There has been plenty of ink devoted to answering that question. I do not claim any expertise in the disciplines of missiology or eccelsiology, which deal head on with the doctrinal and practical implications of that query. At the turn of the 21st Century, an entire church movement began with the express purpose of exploring new ways to tackle such an old concern. I am alluding to the Emergent/Emerging church movement and its well known faces such as Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, et al. Sadly, these men and their movement have arrived at answers and practices that scarcely can be called Christian.
The ancient Chinese philosopher, Mencius, once said that “Only when there are things a man will not do is he capable of doing great things.” I firmly believe that those leaders within the Emergent/Emerging church movement began asking sincere questions. At some point along the way, McLaren, Bell, Jones, and the rest of their ilk arrived at answers that lead them off of the reservation of biblical Christianity. They failed to heed the wisdom of Mencius’ words. It is crucial to ask questions about what it looks like for Christians to own their faith. I think this has the potential to maintain accountability and humility within the church. It falls in line with Socrates’ words that the unexamined life is not worth living.
When the answers and its subsequent practices lead away from biblical orthodoxy, it illustrates an anything goes approach. The plumb line of scripture goes by the wayside as a new breed emerges within the church by determining truth for itself. This is outright rebellion to the plain teaching of scripture. King Solomon wrote the following words thousands of years ago: “A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way” (Proverbs 20:24, ESV)? Like any rhetorical question the answer is obvious…man cannot understand his way. There is something elusive to understanding himself. I love those wise words of both Mencius and Socrates; however, they must be tempered by holy scripture, which teaches that “…no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:11b; see Psalms 14 & 53, ESV).
Fallen humanity possesses an innate inability to choose life instead of death, good rather than evil. When I quoted the passage from Romans three in the previous paragraph, this is precisely the apostle Paul’s point in his letter to the Christians in Rome. These early followers of Christ seek after him because God worked a radical change within them by the Holy Spirit. In theological language, this is called the doctrine of regeneration, which is one of the many glorious facts about the believer’s salvation. Regeneration is the divine process by which God removes the stony heart for a fleshly one while indwelling us by the Spirit (Ezekiel 11:19-20; 36:25-27, ESV). In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul describes regeneration as God giving spiritual life to those who were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:5, ESV).
What does all of this have to do with Christians owning their faith? One answer is to recognize the divine work of salvation accomplished in me. When I study Romans or Ephesians, it is vital to rest in the truth of what God did, is doing, and will do in my life. My past, present, and future find meaning and fulfillment by virtue of salvation by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV). Another practical application toward owning one’s faith is to engage in thoughts, words, and actions that demonstrate the work of regeneration (Ephesians 4:21-25, ESV). If I claim to be born again by the Spirit of God, then does my life show it? According to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, those who have been born again live it, which is similar to the exhortations by another New Testament writer in the book of James (James 1:22-25, ESV).
One more thing needs to be said in clear terms. I am not suggesting that posing questions, or undergoing self-examination about my faith in Christ is wrong. What I would say is to be wise about how one engages the process. This is not something to do apart from the community of believers. I must choose wisely those men and women to walk alongside me. When I am by myself, it is important to spend time in prayer with the Lord in addition to reading his word. It is wrong for me to leech off of others; however, it is not wrong to lean on others. The latter is a command straight from the bible (Galatians 6:2, ESV). It is my hope that we Christians would walk by God’s light in dark places for the good of others and our testimony (Philippians 2:14-16; see Isaiah 50:10-11, ESV).