O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith


Rachel Held Evans on Works-Based Salvation

posted by Jason Boyett

RachelHeldEvans.jpgI’m not sure that Rachel Held Evans needs a full introduction on this blog, other to say she’s the author of the excellent new book Evolving in Monkey Town and was interviewed here a couple of months ago (Part 1, Part 2). Rachel and I share more than a publisher. We share a lot of readers and cover a lot of the same territory about doubt, uncertainty, and questions — from different, but hopefully complementary angles.

I really appreciate her writing…in the book, on her blog, and now here, with today’s “Voices of Doubt” contribution.

————-

For me, doubt comes and goes in waves.

Triggered by some seemingly insignificant event–a news report, a Bible
study, an abandoned baby sparrow–it shows up like an unexpected guest
with baggage in tow, and I never know how long it’s going to stay.

Having grown up in the apologetics-driven evangelical subculture of
the 80s and 90s, it took a few years for me to accept the fact that
doubt will likely be a part my life for a while, that I can’t just
argue it away, Josh McDowell-style. I spent so much of my early
twenties trying desperately to avoid doubt that I’d like to spend my
late twenties learning how to live with it, and in a way that honors
this God I believe in…most of the time.

I hate to admit it, but the best advice I’ve received about doubt came
not from a famous apologist or an esteemed theologian, but from my
Facebook wall, upon which my college friend David shared this advice:

“Belief is always a risk, a gamble–an adventure, if you will. The line
between faith and doubt is the point of action. You don’t need
certainty to obey, just the willingness to risk being wrong.”

David’s comment earned something like 33 “likes,” which on Facebook is
the equivalent of a Pulitzer.

His point is indeed profound: Doubt leads to spiritual paralysis only
when it keeps us from taking the risk of obedience.
Rather than a sign
of weakness, obedience in the midst of uncertainty is the sign of true
faith. It is the point at which we take the leap.

A beautiful example of such obedience can be found in Mother Teresa,
who would have turned 100 yesterday. It is a testimony to true
faithfulness that the same woman who tirelessly welcomed the sick and
poor into her arms wrote in a letter to a friend, “I call, I cling, I
want–and there is no One to answer. Where is my Faith? …So many
unanswered questions live within me.”

Mother Teresa took the ultimate risk. She committed her life to
serving a God who didn’t always feel close or fair or real. I suspect
that there were many days when every part of her–body, mind,
spirit–felt like giving up. But she kept on loving when it didn’t come
easy, and that is what made her great. The saints among us are those
who know that sometimes obedience precedes belief.

Taking my cues from “Mama T,” I try to look for God in the least of
these. I try to continue serving through my doubts. I try to worship
and pray and love other people even when it feels a little fake.

What I’ve found is that going through the motions can be surprisingly
redemptive.
Often there is faith–or something quite like it–on the
other side. Over the years I’ve learned more from working alongside
widows and orphans whose faith in the Gospel puts mine to shame than
from the piles of apologetics resources and theological books sent my
way.

This is why I like to tease my fellow evangelicals by saying I believe
in “works-based salvation” (a comment that would typically earn some
serious “dislike” on Facebook).

When I say that, I am of course not suggesting that we can somehow
earn God’s favor through acts of good behavior. I am simply suggesting
that there is a sort of daily liberation that can be found in
obedience. Each good work has a way of loosening the chains of sin
(and doubt and fear) around my feet.

Such obedience is hard, and it’s something that I fail at most of the
time, but it’s something I’ve experienced in little fits and starts
along the way, enough to know that it’s worth the risk.

————-

Amen.

Thank you, Rachel. You can follow Rachel on Twitter and Facebook, or join the always-interesting discussion at rachelheldevans.com.

Previous posts in the “Voices of Doubt” series…

Winn Collier: Doubt Better
Tyler Clark on Losing Fear, Losing Faith
Rob Stennett on the Genesis of Doubt
Adam Ellis on Hoping That It’s True
Nicole Wick on Breaking Up with God
Anna Broadway on Doubt and Marriage



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Comments read comments(10)
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Joel

posted August 27, 2010 at 8:02 am


Being a Methodist, I relate almost all things spiritual to John Wesley in some way. At a particularly low point in his career, Wesley
was feeling extremely doubtful about everything he’d dedicated his life to. In a conversation with Peter Bohler, he asked if he should give up preaching since because of his doubt. Bohler, an influential Moravian pastor, replied “Preach faith till you have it; and then, because you have it, you will preach faith.” I like this story for a many reasons. Mostly, that if Wesley could doubt and still accomplish all that he did, it keeps me from feeling so bad about mine.



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Ed Cyzewski

posted August 27, 2010 at 8:44 am


I can relate to this, and I have found that in taking steps of obedience into that uncertainty, God can show up in fresh ways.



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Dave Wilson

posted August 27, 2010 at 9:01 am


So, are you saying faith without works is dead?
*likes*
Dave



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Jason Boyett

posted August 27, 2010 at 11:26 am


@Joel:
Thanks for sharing that Wesley quote. It’s now my new favorite quote ever.



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@LaureeAshcom

posted August 27, 2010 at 11:58 am


“obedience in the midst of uncertainty is the sign of true faith.”
wow… sometimes i am not obedient event when i say i believe.
this was great rachel.
blessings..



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Shelley

posted August 27, 2010 at 4:21 pm


Great post! So glad you wrote it. *like*



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MARTIN S.

posted August 27, 2010 at 6:00 pm


True faith expresses itself and works
by love; and to love the LORD is to
obey HIM. Faith can be evidenced,
faith can be witnessed. Faith does,
faith works !!



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Catherine

posted August 28, 2010 at 5:15 pm


I love the bit about the liberation of obedience. I have also discovered this (on the rare occasions when I am obedient!). Somehow, when I’m feeling really lost and confused, obedience leads to understanding.



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Kristin T. (@kt_writes)

posted August 30, 2010 at 2:07 pm


Thanks for this post, Rachel. I wish I had read it before I wrote my own post on doubt and faith (which was inspired by Jason’s current post—it’s all a never-ending circle of thought-provoking blogging!). At any rate, this makes a lot of sense to me:
“Doubt leads to spiritual paralysis only when it keeps us from taking the risk of obedience. Rather than a sign of weakness, obedience in the midst of uncertainty is the sign of true faith. It is the point at which we take the leap.”
If what we believed was so crystal clear, we wouldn’t need faith to embrace it.
But, of course, just as I begin to think I’m sorting out certain aspects of all this, other parts become more fuzzy than ever. For instance, how are we defining “doubt?” Are we all working with the same definition?



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Mary Stumbris

posted September 2, 2010 at 7:32 pm


Thanks Rachel, Very good insight on how we all probably feel sometimes. Im pretty sure God expects the doubts among us, But just
when you think you just cant understand something he interseeds,and helps you feel his presence and its usally something small happening in our lives. I have doubted many times and questioned many teachings of faith. I think as Christians we have an extra special feeling the lord is there. I dont ever hear a voice or get answers right away. Im sure alot wont be answered until heaven, but I can feel his presence in helping me blessing me or punishing me. I feel him making me part of his family everyday. I try and listen and do the best to understand and im sure he loves to see us try and keep our faith the best we can in this world. God Bless



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