Christianity- is it all about ‘belief’, or ‘journey’?

Sarah responded to a my recent blog post about (un)belief with a rather telling point questioning the difference between faith that is all about belief (as in the mental ticking of theological and doctrinal boxes) as opposed to faith that is a spiritual path (as in a journey of discovery.)

Marcus Borg says it pretty well here (also pinched from Sarah’s blog!)-

It is an interesting thought -as I think about it, my faith more and more does not seem to be about holding to a narrow set of beliefs but much more about the journey it releases me on.

We followers of ‘the way’ often spent too long going nowhere because we got too hung up on what we regarded as the essential propagation of correct beliefs.

What might it mean to be free from these things- in oder to really follow Jesus?


4 thoughts on “Christianity- is it all about ‘belief’, or ‘journey’?

  1. Chris, I think so much that this is the right way to do christianity. Everything I read selectively reinforces this thought. It means nothing to the world if we just sit back and believe strongly in whatever. Yet it means all if this christianity brings us into action (to bring about this kingdom).

    It means ALL.

    Then there is the re-birth thing. The change in inner attitude, inner feeling, inner connection with G-d. The change that empowers, that makes all possible, that risks everything, yet gives comfort.

    This, all this, is what christianity is should be about.

    I have a little story about beliefs to do with the dis-unity (as a result of doctrinal differences) between denominations and their search for unity. It goes like this:

    At an inter-denominational council of church leaders someone stood up and said “Friends, I come to give you unity”. They answer “Wow, this is great, we’ve been searching for it for so long, but our differences prevent it. What do we need to do?”. “You need to just promise me one little thing and then I will give you the unity you strive for”. “They reply “Okay, definately, it is a goal worth anything, and you ask for a small thing. What is it?”

    “I give you unity. All you have to promise me is this: Stop asking for unity“.

    By striving for it they emphasise the importance of doctrine over praxis. They make doctrine the most important thing. It isn’t. Praxis, or “the way” is. If they put the emphasis on practice over doctrine, then unity just happens.


    • Great story Carl!

      There remains a small ‘but’ in me though- if over emphasis on doctrine has been our problem- does this mean it might be possible to let the pendulum swing too far- towards an over emphasis on praxis? Might it not be that doctrine could become the servant of praxis, not the other way round? This would imply that some form of generous orthodoxy might still be worth striving for…


  2. Chris,
    Too far and then what happens?
    I’ve done a quick search on the inter-google and come up with some “christians” who think that catholics aren’t christian! It happens all over as soon as emphasis is put on words, and hence their meanings, their history, the culture in which it was said and our present day culture (I’m just repeating post-modern understanding I know). But I’m just saying that meanings change, interpretations change, language is just a tool, what do we really try to convey when we speak words? What was Yeshua trying to tell us when he spoke?

    It’s what Yeshua came to rescue us from but we’ve done it all again!

    Internal re-birth, a change of the heart, kindness to others; all feelings, he was trying to tell us about how to control / manage / direct /use our feelings towards others.

    Even the bit where he says “Believe in me”. I have in the past thought about how I might present some information forcibly and I’ve first said to myself I’ll say “Believe me”. And then without forethought I’ve come up with the words “Believe in me”. That was just me trying to think up how I could convince someone of the importance of what I had to say, and not me trying to convince people I was G-d!

    Looking back at the above paragraph I can see that even there I’m playing with words! But doesn’t it make sense when Yeshua’s teachings are taken as a whole; that he should actually have been teaching us “how” and not “what”?

    If you look at human psychology you’ll see that there is a big majority of people who recognise the “what”s of a situation rather than the “why”s or “how”s. It is recognised that this mental approach governs society and gives us one where the majority are okay about rules (facts, or whats) being in existence whatever they happen to be. There is then a minority which sees outside of, and in between these rules and facts and understands the “why” of it all. These people are the leaders or the visionaries. They are the inspirers of change, they understand what is behind the rules and so feel empowered to instil the necessary changes.

    Change is risky, it represents a venture into uncharted territory. It’s not for those who adhere to hard historical facts, it is only proposed by those that can see what’s going on. If they can’t see, they lose the strength of their convictions at some point.

    It seems to me that Yeshua came to say that previously our hearts were too hard. It seems to me that emphasis on words/legality shows that our hearts are still hard. He came to show us “the way”. There is no legality, there is no cut-off point beyond which you fall into a bottomless pit of hell. It’s all about the way you do it. Not the what. Fall into the “what” trap and you fall into the well of the Pharisees.

    Why do you cling to doctrine (even little bits, or even general bits?)? If Yeshua came to give us a set of hard and fast rules why didn’t he ever write them down? The same for the doctrine, if it is utterly, critically important why didn’t he write it down? All those that say it is important have fallen into the well that Yeshua came to rescue us from. We’ve been blinded by the obvious!

    How about this for some doctrine: Yeshua came to tell us the way to do things and the way to feel about things. He came to tell us that adherence to hard fast rules and facts was not the way. He came to tell us that the heart (love for others) rules, that feelings count for far, far more than rules. He came to tell us that if we act out of feeling for others first, we will have prime position in the after-life. He came to tell us that a self-centred attitude was not what the Father was looking for. He came to tell us that non-adherence to this non-rule would result in death.

    G-d bless

  3. Hmmm- yes and yes, but…

    I am right with you that when Jesus talked about setting us free, it was at least in part to do with hard unyielding doctrine.

    But if we presume from that that he had no interest in right belief, I think this might be a step too far. He did not come to condemn the law but to fulfill it- which suggests at very least that the New Kingdom emerges out of what went before.

    Doctrine is not just about belief either- it might also be about a means of approach- so if we are to journey in faith, we still might need some kind of vehicle, or a stout pair of shoes to navigate in.

    What I argue for are ‘small theologies’- held humbly and lightly, and worked out in community (both immediate community, and the community of saints that have gone before.)

    Or McLarens idea of ‘generous orthodoxy’.

    I have stayed a long time in that fluid place of unknowing- because of that deconstructing thing- and it can be very defeating- we lose our way because we forget the bigger picture- the bigger story, however we understand what that story is.

    My contention is that there comes a time to build again, even if what we build is deliberately temporary…

    THanks for the thoughts Carl…


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