For a long time now I have been thinking of the tension in living Christianly between right belief and right action. I have been writing notes for an article over the last few years called ‘Christ or Creeds’. In the church I grew up in there was a heavy focus on believing the right things – as long as you believed that Jesus was God and that God raised him from the dead, you were a Christian. After all, that’s what it says in Romans 10:9.
As has been aid before though, we cannot ‘cherry-pick’ verses and passages and form them into doctrine on their own. The Bible needs to be read in terms of its meta-narrative, not in terms of systematic theology ie. taking themes from different passages throughout the Old and New Testaments.
Rowland Croucher makes the point that, of all the Christian creeds we have, none of them talk about love. None. They all talk about what we believe, but apparently we don’t believe in love and living that out. John Smith also pointed out many years ago that the Gospels state once that we need to be born again, but those same Gospels have Jesus saying no less than 87 times, “follow me”. Ours is an activist Gospel.
Now please don’t get me wrong. I believe in belief. I think it is highly important that we believe correctly about who Jesus is, for this informs our actions. But the evangelical church has placed too much emphasis on creeds and right belief instead of right action. And too often we have created a dualism – separating belief from action. Jesus would never have countenanced such a thing. For him there was no dualism. Relationship with God was living it out. After all, that’s what James says – faith without action is dead (James 2:26).
The Christian church (and that includes me) has for too long focused on being right rather than being loving. As I have done a bit lately, I’ll leave the last word to Richard Rohr:
Where has this obsession with believing correct dogmas and doctrines gotten us? Presently, the Roman church, and fundamentalists of all stripes, are right back into it. It creates great dramas on both sides. Maybe that is why God is humbling us at this time. The obsession with being right and having the whole truth has not served the Gospel well at all, nor has it kept us humble and honest.
If you go to the four Gospels and read what Jesus actually taught, you will see that He talks much more about the “How” (practices which we ourselves must do) rather than the “What” (which just allow us to argue and try to be verbally right).
From Emerging Christianity: the conference recordings