Faith AND Works

This morning I was at Christ Episcopal Church, where Mark Osler and I engaged in a dialogue on Faith and Works during the church’s Sunday Morning Adult Education Hour. These public dialogues with Mark, an outgrowth of our own conversations, are an enormous source of blessing for me, as are all of our conversations; I grow a lot from my engagement with him.

While Mark and I manifest our Christian discipleship in different ways in the world (despite the fact that we both are law professors at the same law school), some important shared underlying premises came out in our dialogue today.

First and foremost is that the Great Commandment that we love God and love one another means that faith and works are inextricably linked. Christianity is an incarnational faith that was always meant to be manifested in the world.

Second, it is God’s plan of salvation we are about, not our own. Mark shared the oft-used reminder, “God is God, and I am not God.” That invites us to a humility and a selflessness. It is not my project, my plans that I author, but God’s plan that I have a role in. That has a lot of implications, several of which we mentioned in our conversation, including that it frees us to rejoice in each other’s achievements, rather than have jealousy or envy over them.

As I said at the end of our time together, for me the bottom line is that the invitation to listen to God’s word and act on it is there for all of us and it is our choice whether to accept it. And our invitation is, to use James’ formulation is to be “doers of the word and not hearers only,” to manifest our faith in all we do. How we each do “works” in the world differs – Mark and I are great examples of that – but our invitation is to live our faith in the world in a meaningful way.

PS – I neglected to record our dialogue, as I often do. This is a conversation Mark and I have had before and, although today’s dialogue was very different from the last time we did it, if you are interested, you can listen to a podcast of the prior talk here.