(many thanks to Greg Boyd for unknowingly inspiring this post. he spoke on this briefly during a q&a and I thought it deserved a wider audience)
Many Christians have been raised in a version of the Christian faith that teaches a house of cards understanding of the faith. What is a house of cards? A house of cards is a delicately balanced creation. Each part is just as important as the rest and they all depend on each other.
What’s wrong with that? It’s a picture of mutual cooperation towards a goal, what can be wrong with that? This is great when we’re talking team work between humans, but it makes for a rocky faith. I think it is the very definition of a faith built on sinking sand. When one part of our faith depends equally on another part, we a) risk loosing sight of what is truly important and b) risk loosing our faith altogether when sideline issues like the Doctrine of Creation are called into question.
Here’s an example: Let’s say you hold to a literal view of Genesis that God created everything in 6 days and therefore reject any notion of evolution or that the earth is 6 Billion years old. If you place that belief on the same level as the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, then you are placing yourself at great risk. If someone were to show you incontrovertible proof that the earth is 6 Billion years old, your whole faith would be in tatters. Because if you have to give up on your belief in creation, then you also call into question the resurrection. You would have no choice, if everything is just as equal in importance as everything else.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can hold to a young earth creationist understanding of Scripture, you just have to place the importance of that doctrine in context of the overall picture. Ultimately, what gives us life is not an orthodox understanding of Creation, but an acceptance of the Gospel message. The Gospel message does not include creation. According to the early church, the Gospel message in its shortest form is: Jesus is Lord. Yes, Jesus is Lord of all and that includes his role in creation, but we don’t get life from that. Eternal life comes from an understanding of Jesus role in the redemptive story. Simply put: Jesus was incarnated in human form (fully man, fully God), lived, taught, announced the coming kingdom, died and was RESURRECTED. He conquered death once and for all and we can now share in that promise.
It is our faith in Christ that brings us life. That should be the only card in the desk. The rest can be important, but much of what some of us think is important, is not worth loosing our faith over.
Greg Boyd has a great image (I don’t know if he invented or not) to replace the house of cards analogy. It is a series of concentric circles.
The Inner most circle is where the cross lives. Where we get our very life. Also included in here would be certain beliefs about Christ, such as his identity as the second person of the Trinity.
Next circle is Dogma. In here are the essential teachings of Christianity that have more or less always been believed by the confessing church.
Next is Doctrine which interpret the dogmas. This the level at which most church splits happen.
Finally, we have opinion. This is where we can all agree to disagree and dialogue without threat to our faith. There’s a lot of stuff that we think lives in the middle that really needs to live in this outer layer.
How would describe your Christian faith up to now? Has it been a house of cards?