believe INTO[εισ] me

I’ve never been much for new year’s resolutions. If you have a goal, why put it off until January? Having said that, I’ll just go ahead and claim this post as my new year’s resolution – mostly because I happened to be thinking about it over the past week, which was the start of the new year. Good timing I guess.

I got this book for Christmas from my favorite soon-to-be sister-in-law: Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation by James K. A. Smith. Honestly, I had forgotten that I had even added it to my Amazon wish list (which is growing exponentially), but I’m glad that I did. I haven’t even made it through the introduction yet and I’m already excited.

The book examines how what we DO informs what we THINK. Smith asserts that the Church has been dominated by “worldview thinking” which is built upon the belief that human beings are primarily thinking beings. The emphasis is that we think rightly, ie that we have sound doctrine. He does not want to get rid of this, nor does he deny the influence of our thinking capacities. However, Smith wants to present a more basic understanding of human beings which will then provide a balance to our obsession with “worldview.” Basically, he says that our thinking arises from our material, embodied practices. The things we do everyday, or often – like going to the mall – shape and form our desires. He calls these “liturgical” practices simply because they form our desires. As indicated by the title, he wants to discuss how the Church might provide an alternative practice (alternative to practices like shopping) that will shape the people of God to desire the Kingdom. Pretty cool stuff…

You may be wondering: what on earth does that have to do with the title of this post? Well, good question. Here’s your answer: I began my first New Testament Greek class this week at Palmer. It has been pretty good so far and I’ve really enjoyed it (I’ve decided that I just love learning in general). Today, we discussed a very exciting topic… PREPOSITIONS! Exciting, I know.

Well, as we were going through the major prepositions, we came to this one: εισ [ pronounced as “ace”]. So, what does it mean? In Greek, nouns can take 4 forms. One of the forms is accusative, which just means that the noun is the direct object (I throw the ball). When εισ is used with an accusative noun, it means into but it can be translated as simply in. In general though, a preposition used with an accusative nouns implies movement in time or space and this understanding is key.

In John 14:1, Jesus says to his disciples,

Believe in God; believe also in me.

Pretty simple right? This seems like a pretty straightforward command and one that virtually all Christians accept. However, you may have noticed those pesky little prepositions. Guess what? that’s an εισ and it is used with accusative nouns (“God” and “me”). So, it implies MOVEMENT! This little preposition begs the question: is belief simply a thought that we accept or is it necessarily an action – a movement? Is Jesus commanding us to mentally affirm the idea that He is the Son of God, the Messiah, or is He commanding us to move into Him? 

Do you see the connection? In Desiring the Kingdom, Smith is asking us to consider how our practices, our ritual actions, our movements shape the way we think. Too often, we look at this verse, and our faith in general, as a mental exercise. Our brains are our gods. But could it be that our actions – what we actually do with our lives on an everyday basis – mean more than our systematic frameworks? Do our actions shape our desire more than our thoughts? I say yes. I say we need to do a LOT more thinking about how we act and move in this world so that we might move INTO Christ.

What does our liturgy (literally, the work of the people) say about what we worship? What does it say about who we believe? Our faith is not merely a mental exercise. As James subtlety reminds us: “Faith without works is dead.” I fear that we have simply taken this to mean something like, “Oh, ok, well I’ll try to help some poor people every once in awhile.” We live the same, but with a little bit of “works” sprinkled on top. Unfortunately, I don’t believe this is the kind of life Christ is calling His Church to bear. We are called to bear witness to the reality of His Kingdom on earth in every part of our lives.

In 2012, how bout we spend a little more time believing INTO Christ?


One comment on “believe INTO[εισ] me

  1. Joseph Fischer says:

    How can the Church provide “alternatives to practices like shopping”? I used to know a family that would go to the mall every Sunday after church and have lunch at the food court. I don’t know about their spiritual life, but they sure owned a lot of nice stuff! Maybe churches should expand beyond coffee and muffins and share more fellowship meals together?

    The Jewish Sages suggested that you start to walk in some of God’s ways, even if your faith is weak. As you walk in God’s ways, your faith will grow and you will find it easier to adopt an even more godly lifestyle. In Christianity, some folks wrongly think it is all about having complete faith. “If I don’t have strong faith, or if I have doubts about a particular doctrine, I’m a failure and I can’t walk with God.”

    Likewise, some modern psychologists suggest that you act in line with who you want to become. Rather than being hypocritical, this is actually an effective way to change. Your behavior will then influence who you are. For example, even if you don’t feel like being friendly, if you act in a friendly manner and say friendly things to other people, you will start to feel like a more friendly person and develop the habits of being a good friend. (This is especially applicable to us Introverts.)

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