Monday, February 28, 2005

Objective and Subjective Aspects of Faith

Yesterday's sermon was on the story of the woman with an issue of blood for over 12 years. It was never a point made in the sermon, but one of the things that struck me about the passage itself (Mark 5:25-34 for inquiring minds) was the two-fold nature of her faith. First, it was objective in nature, based on knowledge that she had about Christ. She must have known something about Him for her to think that even touching His garments would be efficacious to her healing. Thus her faith came by hearing of the Word and caused her to take action.

Secondly, her faith had a subjective aspect to it. "Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction."

What this all brought to mind was the extremes that Christianity sometimes goes to. On the subjective extreme you have charismatic Christians who seem to focus on the subjective feelings and experiences that they have in order to confirm to themselves and others that they are in Christ, and often contrary to or in disregard of the objective standard of God's Word which tells us how we are to govern ourselves and what to expect of the Christian life. On the other end of the objective extreme, you have churches, like some of the reformed churches, who suffer from a dead orthodoxy which is correct in doctrine, but lifeless when it comes to the subjective aspect of it.

There is a fine tension that must be held between the subjective and the objective in order for Christian living to be experienced in a healthy way. It is neither solely one or the other. We must have the objective, but we must not forget that a doctrine like assurance of salvation is based on our subjective experience. Our foundation is to be built on nothing less than truth, but faith without works is dead.

In churches where doctrine has a high and honored place, the temptation or blindness we can easily fall into is one of self-satisfaction that our doctrinal ducks are all in a row. We must be diligently on our guard that our purity in doctrine and worship doesn't blind us to or make us complacent about the practical outworkings of that doctrine. People should be drawn to the truth, but they should also be drawn to the ways it manifests itself in the subjective realm.

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