You Gotta' Feel the Faith, Man
I'm working lots of hours right now like the fool that I am, so blogging time is limited. The following post was something I wrote down early in the year that was bothering me about church and it kind of developed my personal experience with faith.
Okay, at a risk of this becoming Wheylays complaint corner I want to talk about a recent sermon at church that derided head knowledge of the Lord as unneeded by a Christian, rather we need feel our belief in our hearts. This is a common theme that is usually accompanied by references to the Pharisees, and I believe is meant to level those who think that because they know about Christ they are saved. This obviously swerves into enthusiasm and emotionalism, but I will give it the benefit of the doubt. Not three sentences latter Pastor states " A recent Barnum poll showed that only 9% of Christians in America have beliefs about their faith that are biblical." Well of coarse!, their pastors are probably telling them it is more important to just feel their faith. After all knowledge of the faith makes them legalistic and maybe even unchristian.
This would have been just one of my nitpicking notations, but the distress of my wifes and mine the next week during the confirmation classes, Pastor stopped using the Synods workbook completly and passed out a Q & A sheet that talked about the virtues of dating, and how not dating is bad, problems with waiting until marriage to have sex, and other teen style earthy questions. When we approached pastor he became defensive and seemed incredulous that we do not plan on allowing our children to date until late in high school. The point is, as we stated, what in blue blazes does any of this have to do with confirmation! Yes I know that these are things they will have to deal with, but that is all the more reason to establish a strong knowledge of the faith. It seems so obvious to me, this is the time we must make our children literate in the faith, with head knowledge. Without this training people begin believing in things that many times are not even Christian.
Our congregationion's leadership is intent on pushing for an emotional, exhilarating, relevant and Spirit filled time of worship, because more value is placed on this emotive feeling. Concurrently we drop most of our valuable instruction and catechising, putting little value on it. The problem though is that emotion blows like the wind across a man's heart, taking what he percieved as faith with it. Knowledge of the Gospel, traditions and doctrines ground a child to rest assured in the knowledge of his baptism, and the saving grace of faith. When tribulations come and sins condem, the man does not have to search out those butterfly wings of emotion for solace. He can say "I am baptized into Christ, who died to redeem me, a poor miserable sinner. Faith in this saves me from hell and the Devil. This is most assuredly true."
One of the things that kept me away from the Church was this "need" to have a life changing desire in my heart for the Lord, as it was described to me by my Evangelical friends. I would ask them, what happens if a person never feels that draw or stirring down in their heart. I usually just got shrugs, "I don't know" or " God will make it happen when he's ready" (this is close to the truth). Not very enlightening, but all they could do was share with me their personal feelings and anecdotes of others' feelings.
It wasn't until I came across Lutheran writings and studies that I then "felt" that draw. I needed the Gospel presented clearly and intellectually, not obscured in swarmy songs and weepy witnessing. No matter how sincere, it always came down to focusing on someone elses experiance, not the Gospel and Christ. After much thought, reading and prayer I do now become emotional, usually at baptisms ( I tear up at watching one so small recieve the gift from our Lord), and lately during the Emmanual when done beautifully during Advent, it sounds bittersweet, longing but hopeful.