Fourteen Thoughts on Responsible Faith

December 5, 2013

It almost seems like an oxymoron to associate the word Responsible with Faith. We tend to think of faith as child-like: innocent, naive, and pure. Being a person of great faith means doing a-typical things, the hard and radical choices to reflect the unlimited strength which can only come from God. Thus, being responsible and overly concerned with the consequences of a decision seems to be antithesis to great faith. Taken to an extreme, irresponsible faith displays itself in fundamentalists, who in the name of a religious cause spew vitriol, hate, and blaze through civil decency with a vengeance. Thanks to the media, these are often the images conjured in minds as people of faith. Is it possible to practice a responsible faith? Can those two words be compatible with each other?

I like to tell people I’m a common sense Christian. I do believe you can hold common sense in tandem with faith. The Methodists utilize the Wesleyan Quadrilateral to steer theological thought. The Quadrilateral consists of four methods: Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason. Different seasons of church history and various sects of Christian faith have elevated one above the others, but I think finding a cohesive balance from all four strands contribute to responsible faith. The stories of religious nut jobs highlighted in the news are practicing an irresponsible faith void of critique from context, community, reason and theology. Some thoughts on responsible faith:

Responsible faith is not just individual piety but is a participation alongside the broader community.

Responsible faith is not practiced in a vacuum, but couched in a rich history of tradition and experience.

Responsible faith is not a set of rules and propositions, but a life lived out with character shaped by holy words and holy sinners.

Responsible faith takes deep roots in sound doctrine but grows vibrant flora and fauna, bringing life wherever the wind of the Spirit blows.


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Responsible faith is not threatened by change, does not crowd out doubt, but brings prophetic imagination into modern stories.

Responsible faith requires rigorous discipline not out of obligation, but out of vision.

Responsible faith is compelled by love, mercy, and beauty; not by guilt nor shame.

Responsible faith does not draw boundaries to keep people out, but whispers its message to draw people in.

Responsible faith determines truth through nuanced stories, not single faceted propaganda.

Responsible faith dreams big dreams, then takes measured steps; walks the off-beaten path, but listens to directions; gives lavishly, but with careful, prayerful discernment. 

Responsible faith celebrates when all have arrived, not when one has raced ahead of the others.

Responsible faith doesn’t have categories of the head, hand and heart; what is true transforms the entire person. 

Responsible faith won’t make the news the way pundits and celebrity religious leaders do. Because a group of ragtag followers doing daily faith together isn’t glamorous or newsworthy. They carry on simple tasks with quiet strength and persistent grace. 

Responsible faith shows up daily even when no one is paying attention.

Slow and steady wins the race. Responsible faith carries on while trends and fads come and go. 

Are we being responsible in our faith?