I have three weeks left in this semester at Denver Seminary. Working on two language classes at once has not been a treat, so I feel very ready for a break. This semester I had to prepare my thesis proposal, which was a daunting task because it’s a topic I’ll need to work on until next May. I wanted to find something that was compelling and interesting, since it will take up a lot of my time and whining capablities for the next year.
I’ve decided to write my thesis on the idea of faith as belief and action in the Bible. The very opening words of Scripture reveal a God who is active and dynamic — “In the beginning God created” (Genesis 1:1). (In fact, in the Hebrew, the verb — the action — comes first.)
From the very beginning, a variety of Hebrew action verbs let us know that God creates, speaks, calls, makes, builds, blesses, gives and sees. Immediately He involves himself in the physical world — walking with humanity, speaking to those He created, asking questions, fashioning garments. God questions Cain, calls Abraham, argues with Moses, covenants with David. Over and over throughout the Old Testament, we are reminded of God’s faithfulness because of what He has done. And ultimately, the activity of God is incarnated; fleshed out; a living, breathing example. God becomes a man and lives out divinity, revealing what it looks like to be active completely and fully.
The revelation of God is dynamic and active, not always linear or systematic. So, through my thesis, I want to understand theology — understand God — as defined by action. I will attempt to do this by studying the acts of God; the response of individuals Scripture remembers as faithful; and the community’s response demonstrated through law, festivals and liturgy, and the Hebrew language itself, which expresses God’s story in a uniquely active way.
I want to form an argument for a biblical theology that truly understands faith through action rather than just mental assent to a particular set of beliefs. Active faith is not relegated to the preferences of the God of the Old Testament or even to the particular worldview of the Hebrew mind. Faith in action is core to who God is, which is clearly shown throughout the Bible. It is not antithetical to grace. Action does not equal legalism. It is in the very nature of God — it is how He shows His love to us and how He asks us to show love to Him.
What do you think? For me, this process has been a bit revelatory because growing up, I’d always considered action or “works” to be akin to a four-letter word. But the more I study Scripture, the more I learn about how God has presented himself to us, the more it seems like He is all about action. And it’s not so that we can earn our salvation, but it’s so that we can better reflect His image.