A colleague and friend of mine, John Mabry, recently wrote a reflection that reminded me of understanding of faith introduced to me by a Franciscan scholar, years ago now, when I participated on my first pilgrimage. The notion is called secundum traditionem, meaning according to “sacred tradition,” which states that just because something isn’t factual, doesn’t mean it isn’t true. For people of faith, this is where we live much of our lives. For faith, can’t be ‘proven’ it can only be trusted and lived.
This is what my friend wrote: “The other day someone asked me if I believed all that Christian stuff — Jesus being God incarnate and the resurrection and all that. I told him ‘believe’ was the wrong word.
The story of Israel and Jesus is a healing story for me, so I choose to live inside that story—and to add my story to it. I choose to trust it—miracle birth, resurrection and all. Choosing to trust isn’t the same as belief…but it’s a near cousin. And…it’s what I am able to do with integrity.
Plus (and this is an important plus) one thing reading Martin Luther showed me is that relationship and trust is more important than belief. Belief implies knowledge that I don’t have. Belief also implies intellectual assent to a list of metaphysical propositions (like the Creed), which I can’t really manage. What Luther asked me was not ‘Do you believe these impossible things?’ but ‘Can you trust that this person (Jesus) is living? And can you trust this living person?’
That was infinitely easier to do than believe the Creed. I don’t have to understand Jesus to be in relationship with him, even intimate relationship. I just have to choose to do it. It’s not an act of faith, it’s a choice to trust.”
I agree with John … ‘faith’ / ‘belief’ are acts of faith, based on the decision to trust. This is where I find myself. I chose to trust in the God of Creation. I chose to trust in the person and teachings of Jesus, who through resurrection, became the Christ, the Messiah.
Another way of saying this is “to believe,” which is not about cognitive assent. It is more about giving one’s heart. I give my heart to God in Jesus, and to the story of Love that he taught so faithfully, where I find a lasting word.
In this, I live, and thrive, and have my being grounded in the Mystery we call God. What about you?
Blessings in this New Year,
Jeffrey Steven Gaines