Forgotten Ways

This is not actually a follow-up to my post Forgotten fruit, more to Why does a believer believe?

I thank David Couchman, via a comment at Kouya Chronicle, for introducing me to Alan Hirsch’s blog The Forgotten Ways. I have yet to look into what Hirsch is teaching in any detail. But the interesting extract from his book here is enough to show that he is putting forward a model of missional Christian practice which looks very different from traditional church life, a model which is designed not for maintenance but for rapid growth. The extract is well worth reading, if you are prepared for your church to be turned upside down!

I was struck by this from one of the most recent blog posts, belief in belief:

I have been hanging around Evangelical circles for most of my Christian life. but truth to tell, I was brought to the Lord by some real crazy, chandelier-swinging, Pentecostals. I had a really profound, life-defining experience, through their amazing ministry. They didn’t seem to know much about the faith, but they knew the Holy Spirit. But the interesting thing is that I have come to conclude is that they were real God believers. The comparison with my Evangelical brethren is that I think they can be described as beliving in belief in God. A whole set of ideas, dogma, and doctrine provides an screen of objectivity between the believer and God. Perhaps this is a way of mediating the ‘danger’ of the God experience. But while theological understanding is gained, immediacy is lost through the objectification of God and the God experience. the loss is great. … I have come to conclude that real Penties believe in God, while good, solid, Evangelicals believe in belief in/about God.

Indeed. I hope this is not true of all Evangelicals, but it does seem rather true of some. But on this comparison I think I can honestly put myself as not a good solid Evangelical but a crazy chandelier-swinging Pentecostal. Indeed, I can’t see how anyone can become a believer in belief. But, as I have described, I can see that as someone truly meets and experiences God they can come to believe in him.

0 thoughts on “Forgotten Ways

  1. Hi Peter,

    this is the first time I’ve popped in here (via a link from John Hobbins). I love the quote. I think my spiritual life at the moment, as I spend my days reading about how to read the Bible, is marked by this tension between a relationship with God and knowledge of him and the struggle to stop knowledge from objectifying him. The ironic thing is, I’m doing all this theoretical study in order to create intellectual space for a divine reality outside of the text who impinges on our lives in concrete ways! I kinda see Christian existence in general as characterized by a struggle to maintain a balance between two poles that can never be completely reconciled. It’s this focus on a struggle within boundaries that makes me love B. S. Childs so much.

  2. Phil Smoke, thanks for the link. The avatar certainly speaks some sense. But I don’t think it is quite fair to suggest that the majority are only pretending to believe. They genuinely think that they are believing enough because they have been taught that that is sufficient. Clearly it is not. Also I have no concern that I have chosen the wrong religion because I have not chosen one at all, but am following what I know to be God’s way.

    Phil Sumpter, welcome here. I understand your struggle, but I’m not sure I can help. You say you want to “create intellectual space for a divine reality”. I wonder if that is possible. Perhaps it is better to let the divine reality create his own space, and fit your own understanding around it – which may be as limited as the blind men’s descriptions of the elephant.

  3. I can relate to the plea for ‘creating intellectual space for a divine reality’.

    It’s not primarily where I’m at as I’m a ‘feeler’ rather than a ‘thinker’, but I’ve certainly had ‘conversion moments'[1] through intellectual ideas.

    [1] My presupposition here is that we grow in faith through on-going conversion and that conversion is not a once-in-a-lifetime event.

  4. This reminds me of N.T. Wright’s comment about those who think certain very precisely-specified doctrines are required for salvation. He said we’re justified by faith in Christ, not by faith in justification by faith. I think some people have the reverse view, even if they’d never see it in themselves. But I do think my experience among evangelicals is more that people believe in God if the comparison is believing in some doctrine but not really having a deep trust in God. My criticism would more be that they don’t have much of a deeper sense of the history and traditions behind their belief, i.e. what its content is. It’s not a Pentecostal problem but an evangelical problem in general.

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