Study Guide: Twisted Scripture: James 1

Sunday July 13, 2014 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

For many, faith is about attaining as much certainty as possible in order to be a true follower of Christ. But the Bible tells us faith is about committing to a course of action in the face of uncertainty. God is not seeking all the right answers from his people in order to let them into heaven; no, he is our loving Bridegroom who seeks to be in a covenantal relationship with us in the midst of our uncertainties.

Extended Summary:

For many people today, we try to attain as much certainty as possible before making a commitment. We try to eliminate most, if not all, risk if possible. This has naturally impacted the way we do faith. We see faith as a contest of who has the least amount of doubt because that directly demonstrates how much faith a person has. Greg calls this the strength tester model of faith or certainty-seeking faith, where people try to convince themselves that they have little to no doubts at all.

This view assumes an un-Christ-like portrayal of God, for it assumes God is holding out on answers to prayer until people reach a certain level of certainty. It becomes a form of psychological torture for those yearning to have their prayers answered. This view also afflicts people with a learning phobia. If salvation is dependent upon being right and having the right beliefs, then that can cause Christians to avoid truly engaging with people who have other beliefs. Christians can become too busy refuting people and their different views that they can’t truly empathize with them. This view also sets people up to fail. The real world is messy and full of ambiguity and people with different beliefs, whereas certainty-seeking faith likes to pretend everything is neat and tidy and imposes clarity on a world that is ambiguous. It doesn’t prepare people for how to engage with others who are different from them. And lastly, this view is idolatrous. Certainty-seeking faith causes people to get life from what they think about God rather than getting life from being in a loving relationship with God.

Additionally, when James 1:5-6 is read in context, we find that James is talking about wisdom and not certainty-seeking faith. So this verse has been twisted to mean something that it doesn’t. Biblical faith isn’t about trying to attain certainty; it’s about committing to a course of action in the face of uncertainty. The demons believe all the right things but they won’t commit, so it doesn’t do them any good. Being in a covenantal relationship with God involves risk, but all love and commitments involve risk. You love somebody enough to take the risk. So faith will naturally have uncertainty, but that doesn’t mean you can’t commit to Christ. No, God is okay with people asking questions! He’s given us our minds to use as an act of worship. It’s always good to be growing in our faith, to be asking questions and seeking answers. We leverage everything on Jesus Christ and him crucified (I Corinthians 2:2) and learn to be okay with unanswered questions and ambiguity. Biblical faith is messy and ambiguous and God is okay with that!

Reflection Questions:

  1. How do you address your uncertainties while being a follower of Christ?
  2. How has certainty-seeking faith affected your relationship with Christ?
  3. Do you feel able to commit to Christ in the midst of your uncertainties? Why or why not?
  4. How can we help each other get life from Christ himself and not just from our beliefs about him?
  5. Do you feel you have good reasons for believing Jesus Christ and him crucified? Why or why not? If not, what can you do to help find the answers you’re seeking?