Wednesday Word: Mathematics of Faith
Therefore let us go on toward perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God, instruction about baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. – Hebrews 6:1-2
The Monday night study group is currently working their way through the Letter to the Hebrews, and the above two verses were part of the section we looked at this week.
At first this would seem to be contradictory – how can we move toward perfection in Christ if we leave behind basic teachings about repentance, faith, baptism, laying on of hands, resurrection, and judgment? We can move forward and toward perfection in Christ because of math. No, really.
When we begin to learn about math, we begin with the basics – addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. From there we progress to pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, quadratics, calculus, differential equations, vector calculus, and all sorts of other forms that allow us to land humans on the moon, plot courses that take spaceships out of the solar system, or tell us when that train from Chicago will finally catch up with the train from St. Louis. We begin with the basics, but then move on into more advanced mathematics as we continue to learn.
But what would happen if, for the entirety of our lives, people only focused on the basics of math? Newton wouldn't have developed his theory of gravitation, Kepler wouldn't have figured out planetary motion, Einstein would just be somebody's relative, and Armstrong & Aldrin would remain grounded. In order to continue learning, in order to explore, in order to move forward, we need to move past the basics.
So too with faith. If all we do is focus on the basics of our faith – repentance, baptism, healing, resurrection, judgment – and never explore further or never dig deeper, we will remain immature believers. Our faith will stagnate. It may even lead to apostasy (technically: a falling away from the Christian faith) because we find that that basic faith no longer provides answers, comfort, or challenges for how we experience the world around us.
Lent begins in two weeks. Part of the invitation to the observance of a holy Lent is “reading and meditating on God's holy Word.” If you haven't thought about a Lenten discipline, I encourage and challenge you to consider going beyond the basics. Commit to attending Evening Prayer or the Monday night Bible study. Stay an hour later, or come an hour earlier, to attend the adult formation class on Sundays. Sit in on the Prayer Forum being held on March 14. Ask questions at the Rector's Forum held every first Sunday after the 10:15 service.
We know the basics. Let us not remain there, but move forward in our faith as we go deeper and grow fuller.