“When I hear people talk about what is wrong with organized religion, or why their mainline churches are failing, I hear about bad music, inept clergy, mean congregations, and preoccupations with institutional maintenance. I almost never hear about the intellectualization of the faith, which strikes me as a far greater danger than anything else on the list. In an age of information overload, when a vast variety of media delivers news faster than most of us can digest – when many of us have at least two e-mail addresses, two telephone numbers, and one fax number – the last thing any of us needs is more information about God. We need the practice of incarnation, by which God saves the lives of those whose intellectual assent has turned as dry as dust, who have run frighteningly low on the bread of life, who are dying to know more of God in their bodies. Not more about God. More God. (Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World)
Faith is often understood as a mental assent to a certain finite set of facts or deeply-held beliefs about Jesus Christ. This definition of faith is more than inadequate—it is a distortion of biblical faith. The mere acquisition of more facts, without an obedient reliance upon and an openness to inner transformation by the One who gives us the facts, makes us more knowledgeable (and possibly more spiritually arrogant) but it does not necessarily make us more faithful—more like Jesus Christ.
In order to grow in faith we must begin with an increase in knowledge (knowledge being defined as an interactive relationship, not just a mental construct), there is no argument there; however, growing in faithfulness toward God—being transformed into the image of His Son—depends primarily upon the deepening of the heart’s affections for God. (“Love the Lord God with all your heart…” Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30; Mark 12:33; Luke 10:27) Thus, the most important act of faith is not mentally assenting to the accuracy of certain proclaimed facts but, rather, the most important act of faith is entering into and living out a trusting relationship with God.
Of course, the challenge of this approach to faith is that it involves not a finite set of facts to know but, rather, a mysterious and unknowable life to enter—by faith.