Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hey, welcome to my blog!

I've been thinking lately about two kinds of faith...actually two different ways that people think about their faith in God.

Type One I'll call "Formula Faith"; Type Two I'll call "Narrative Faith".

Formula Faith works for people who work best with having things really spelled out clearly. They like lists. They like "do this, and then do this, and then the following result will happen". They are bottom-line bullet-pointers.

And Christian faith can be expressed and understood that way. Rick Warren's recent book, "The Purpose Driven Life", is an excellent example. Warren lists 5 great purposes that God has for each of us to fulfill. He describes how you fulfill them. Millions of poeple have read, and been positively helped by his book - including me.

I think I became a "bottom-line bullet-pointer" out of frustration with Christian books and preachers who seemed lost in a fog of spiritualese. They talked, and wrote, and sounded holy...but at the end I would always sigh and say to myself, "But what do I DO NOW?"

Not to be gender stereotypical, but I find that more men than women are "Forumula Faith" type of Christians. (Not to say there are not women like this also). Maybe it's a left brain dominant type of thing.

Whatever...the point (bullet, that is) is God, as recorded in the Bible, has communicated his expectations for us in formulaic lists.

The Ten Commandments (The Old Testament book of Exodus, chapter 20) - very clear don't you think?

Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" (New Testament Matthew chapter 5) lists eight "Blessings".

Those two lists are enough to keep me working on my faith.

Jesus did us all a favor when he simplified all the formulas of the Old and New Testament. When he was asked what commandment of God was the most important... he said,
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength...and love your neighbor as youself." He continued to say that all the other commandments of God would be fulfilled if you focused your energies on those two. Compact formula.

Now, I know other people who are not "Formula Faith" people, rather they are "Narrative Faith" people.

I think that "narrative faith" means you think of your relationship to God in terms of a story. When you ask these people about their faith they won't give you a list, or a formula...they will tell you what happened to them (sometimes in a long, somewhat involved, narrative). Something like, "Well, I hadn't thought much about God until our first child was born and then I saw that miracle of life - a baby, and I began to think how I'd been pretty wrapped up in just myself all my life, and now I could see for the first time how some thing, or SomeOne bigger than me existed and had a plan for my life. I began to see, through my feelings as a Father, that if God was a Heavenly Father.. why he loved people so much, and why, when the human race messed up life so much, He'd do anything...even come to earth as a human being, in order to rescue us from the mess we've made of life."

You see, no bullet points, no formulas, but a story.

And the Bible is filled with stories of people that encountered God, that hungered for a relationship with God, that ran away from a relationship with God. It is actually a very interesting book - the Bible.

Here is what I think. God wants us to relate to Him, to have faith in Him using both formula (because as human creatures we need order and specificity) AND story (because as human creatures we pay attention to stories alot more than lists).

And I think that if you are wired one way - say you are a "formula" person...then a great way to grow in your faith is to stretch a little bit towards the story. Go to the Old Testament and read the Book of Daniel (chapters 1 - 6). Or the Old Testament Book of Ruth (it's just four chpaters)...and let the story sink into your soul. Even though these stories don't end with a formula...you do learn about how to have faith in God from them.

If you are wired the other way - if you are a narrative person, then stretch your faith by reading a formula (Matthew 5 or the Old Testament Book of Proverbs). I know you will be itching to read a story that doesn't have specific "what to do" lists...but that's the neat part. Start putting the forumla into practice...and create your own story. The story of "What happened to me ... when I did what the bible taught me to do." I'll bet it will turn out to be an adventure.

John M

3 Comments:

Anonymous Darren Moser said...

Good first post Dad, I think I am a more "Formula Faith" kinda person. Following the compressed commandments ie: the first two, but also relying on all 10. I'll look into how we can add titles to each blog post in a different font and size. Otherwise when there are 3 blog posts on the first page they will seem to just run into each-other only separated by the post date information.

9/03/2006 12:22 PM  
Anonymous Darren Moser said...

Good first post Dad, I think I am a more "Formula Faith" kinda person. Following the compressed commandments ie: the first two, but also relying on all 10.

9/06/2006 3:18 PM  
Anonymous Allie Moser said...

Haha, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the fact that Darren is a Formula Faith kind of guy and I'm definitely a Narrative Faith kind of girl. I always get bored reading the lists in the Bible. Good advice though, I'll give it another try. Thanks for the fresh perspective Dad. =)

9/07/2006 4:55 PM  

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