Faith Demands Action

The existence of my faith is the cause and motivation of my works in the world.

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works?’
— James 2:14

I once asked one of the founders of our school why he chose to join the Dutch resistance movement against the Nazis in World War Two. He replied, ‘Because my faith demanded it!’ His tone resonated with the rejection of any notion that belief could fail to harness action.

At a recent conference I listened to Dr. Rod Thomson, the Principal of the National Institute of Christian Education, speak on the topic of, ‘How do we engage the world?’ Rod’s speechwas influenced by James Davidson Hunter’s book ‘To Change the World: the irony, tragedy,and possibility of Christianity in the late modern world.’

Rod emphasised that we must deeply engage with scripture and the daily devotions. Abiding in God is vital. In this abiding in Him, our private faith is strengthened, deepened, and fuelled.

However, this abiding in the Lord will produce an inevitable tension in us with regard to the circumstances of the world. Rod Thompson reviewed Hunter’s four types of engagement with the world. They are as follows:

  1. Taking a defensiveness against the world and exhibiting a commitment to winning back the power of Christendom’s sovereignty. Other authors have labelled this domination in that people seek to restore the power lost to the secular world. Other commentators have referred to this as ‘turning back the clock’.

  2. Seeking an authentic connection to the world, and accepting some accommodation with the world.

  3. Ensuring that purity is preserved from the tainting of the world. This has been described as seeking a fortification from the world.

  4. Adopting a faithful presence within the world. In this approach a person works not to triumph over others, but to work for theirflourishing. We are not seeking to have the world change, although we might desire it to and pray for it to be more representative ofthe Kingdom. We love the world because God loves the world. We seek to protect, care for, and critique the place to which we are called. In living a faithful presence, we manage the inevitable tension between this difference; between how the world actually is and how we would like it to be. We steer a middle course, not of compromise and concession but of difference making in prayer, word and deed.

The Serenity Prayer is indicative of this thinking:

‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as a pathway to peace; taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonable happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.’ Amen. Reinhold Niebuhr

Our worldview needs to include how we choose to engage with the world. Walking in faith is walking in the world. We bring Christ into circumstances and make a difference ‘Because our faith demands it!’

Iain Belôt - Principal