Friday, January 30, 2009

Which came first?

If you obey my commands, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. – John 8:31

This brings to mind Bonhoeffer's statement that 'we cannot believe with obeying; we cannot obey without believing.' There is a chicken and egg element to this. Fortunately, the chicken, the egg, and our faith all come from God.

Christian life runs on the fuel of faith, but faith is inextricably bound up with works. And, perhaps counterintuitively, if our faith is suffering, obeying may help.

Understanding this also helps address the tension between James and Paul, in which Paul claims we're justified by faith, and James says we're justified by works.

Faith must precede works, but works must follow and will produce additional knowledge of the truth and greater faith.


Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Kenny, I don't recognize the quote from Bonhoeffer, I mean, I know it's the sort of thing he writes, but that exact line isn't in my active memory. However, is there possibly a typo in the quote? Didn't you mean to say, "we cannot believe without obeying…"?

This truth, "only the obedient believe, only the believing obey," is just like all the other things that God Himself speaks to us in the pages of Holy Scripture and in the lives of His saints (that's us, and all the rest). There is always a polar tension in reality on every level; it's almost a sure sign of authenticity and true objectivity, like a signature of the living God, hard to counterfeit, easy to doubt (because our human nature is always on the run, trying to escape acknowledging it).

I am happy to know the God who is truly Alive in every sense of the word, and who has created an ontological matrix in which His nature is so stamped on every aspect our consciousness, that we can be assured of His good will towards us, as well as the discipline to which He calls us, both of which comprise His plan of salvation (in Greek, His ikonomía).

Altho I often get sick of blogging myself (I am feeling like that right now), I'm always happy to see that you have added to yours. It gives me the excuse to visit with you again, in spirit, till the day when we can actually meet and fellowship in person.

Keep running with Christ, my brother, that race He has set before you, and keep yourself uncontaminated by the world.

Ben said...

Although I see a tension btw James and Paul, I never really thought James was saying we are saved by works. He said "faith without works is dead." While his emphasis was on good works, he only talked about works in the context of a faith that is alive. I think what James is saying fits perfectly with what you are saying (and what Paul says) without any intellectual contortions.