Faith, the Yes of the Heart:
A Theology of Christian Spirituality for Everyone
In 1541 Martin Luther gave a rather nondescript sermon in which was hidden a sentence which is a treasure: "Faith is the Yes of the Heart... a confidence on which we stake our lives."
Luther was describing the very essence of our response to God. Faith is not just an idea for him. Thus it is not just a series of statements about what we believe such as a creed. It is not just a list of theological answers to profound questions or sanctioned words we use to win an argument. And it is not just belief in what our authorities - parents, teachers, and pastors - have taught us.
The deepest faith is trust. Like love, it is a relationship, a commitment, a response to the one in whom we say we have faith. When we "stake our lives" on that trust, it will involve cost. That kind of commitment may bring enormous challenge but also magnificent joy.
Biblical faith is compared to married love, where man and woman "know" each other in the most intimate and most profound way. Their lived relationship is their "Yes" to each other, day after day. Their "Yes" is one of the most important words they ever say.
To the God who is the life of our lives we offer, in love, our "Yes." It becomes the commitment which is more important than any other. And it will affect all whom we know and love.
"For a wise and insightful treatment of faith...see
Grace Adolphsen Brame, Faith, the Yes of the Heart."
Faith, the Yes of the Heart
Among the meanings of "faith" are the two most important: belief and trust.
Trust is primary because it is about a relationship and experience.
Belief comments on, explains, makes a statement or a proposition about what is observed. A person observes a relationship, or looks back on an experience and, through thinking about it, deduces what it was, what caused it, what it meant, its value, and how it compares to other relationships and experiences.
One can believe in something that does not exist. It is imagined, given form in the mind, and may cause feeling and emotion. Thinking about it causes a belief to be formed about it.
But trust is involved in the experience. It is participatory in the relationship.
The difference between belief and trust
is the difference between observing and describing love
in comparison to being in love or loving.
Belief is composed of objective conclusions such as: "Ah, I will define this as love. From where I stand, it is a desire and need to be with one in preference to all others. There is no higher value."
Trust is personal and intimate, an involvement in a relationship with a chosen one. It is participating. Therefore it affects both parties (affectivity) and emotions or feelings are involved. This experience of relationship usually involves not only need, desire, and attraction, but commitment and often, sacrifice, willingly given. Therefore, in addition to sacrificial commitment, affectivity refers to effect as well.
Brame's writing is enhanced and supported by quotes from Martin Luther and Evelyn Underhill, Augustine and Henry Nouwen, Calvin and Joan Chittester, Dorothee Soelle and Jan Sobrino, Rosemary Radford Reuther, Mother Teresa, and others.
"Faith is the conduit for God's life-giving love. It is not faith that saves us, but God's incredible grace. But grace needs a way to be incarnate. It needs people, lives. It needs a word that can be heard and lips that will speak it. It needs nature to manifest it and sacraments to share it. It needs songs sung and silence in which to listen. Faith receives the love that saves."