Moltmann Monday: Growing in Faith

Happy MM, guys. Today’s selection comes from The Source of Life. This is a great little book that summarizes much of Moltmann’s thoughts on the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of faith, and it’s written in everyday language, so if you’re someone who likes his ideas but doesn’t feel like wading through the big theology books, you should pick this up. This section comes from the second chapter on what it means to be “born again to a living hope.”

If true faith is a birth to new life, there has to be a growth in faith, too. Every life that is born wants to grow and arrive at the form or configuration towards which it is aligned…It is dreadful if faith stands still at any point and is never developed any further. Then quite childish ideas about faith suddenly crop up in grown-up people. Often confirmation classes, attended at the age of fourteen, are the last instruction in faith which people have. It is exceedingly simple-minded to suppose that this can be enough for all the experiences of a whole lifetime, until a person dies. Life in faith must continually address and come to terms with questions of life and faith. Faith makes life exciting because we are continually confronted with questions the answers to which we have to search for.

Well, the great thing about this little excerpt is that it explains itself, doesn’t it? We should grow in faith, plain and simple. Personally, it doesn’t make sense for us to stall out after confirmation or high school youth group or any other growth moment at all. I remember a conversation I had with someone who had grown out of a fundamentalist understanding of faith to a more modern one, and then wanted to talk to me because the modern one wasn’t working any longer. She was delighted to know this was a good problem to have- she was growing! Just because you’ve navigated one shift in your faith doesn’t mean you’re finished. Your whole life is a series of growing up, growing forward, adapting to the way you now understand life. These aren’t unfortunate crises of faith: these are points of growth. Life, death and resurrection happen all the time in our own faith journeys, and that’s a great thing.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about faith development in a more communal, societal sense. (Well, I guess in a way I am always, always thinking about that, because that’s what good theology does, right?) And as I consider where we are right now in the world, how our young people are “spiritual but not religious” and how the forms of worship and church are being questioned and are in flux, and how culture is changing so rapidly, I’ve been struck by all the ways faith and religion have gone into conserve and retreat mode. I understand it’s an attempt at survival, and I truly understand the reason for concern, but I wonder if a good bit of what we are seeing is not, in fact, spiritual growth.

I know that sounds potentially ludicrous. But consider: young people aren’t accepting pat answers anymore. That’s not rebellion. That’s wisdom. People are questioning what church does and why it does it, and the role it ought to play in society and in their own faith life. That’s a form of responsibility, is it not? Just about everybody I talk with knows that there’s something off about the way we are reading our Bibles, if we are to keep reading our Bibles in a way that sustains actual lived faith. Nobody’s wanting to toss everything out. But people are getting wise to the fact that the way we’re doing it may not be working.

Just as we personally are called to grow continually in our faith, communally we are called to do the same. If our collective cultural faith is at the “confirmation” level, maybe the frustrations people are feeling about religion point to a desire to go deeper than that, to grow beyond that. Maybe our current cultural faith crisis is something to celebrate, too? Something to welcome? Something to acknowledge as part of the life, death and resurrection pattern that’s inherent in creation?

Surely, true problems do exist, and we should address those. But we are born into a living hope, and because our faith is a living thing, it must grow. It’s part of what living things do. So maybe we can see this big cultural shift as a positive thing, too.

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