THEME: Remembering and Forgetting
This week’s lessons recount Joshua’s charge to Israel’s leaders, which teaches us how we should respond to God in light of what he has done for us in the past, as well as what he promises to do in the future.
“Remember these things,” he says quite naturally. I say “naturally” and yet, that is true in one sense and false in another. It’s true in that it was natural for Joshua to remind them of the things that had happened. But it’s most unnatural in the sense that it’s natural for us to forget. God does great things for us, and God has done great things. Still we find ourselves drifting away from the memory of what God has done and so falling away from a following after God as we should do.
There are a couple ways in which we do this that are very familiar to us today. One thing we do is divorce what we regard as our religious experience from the facts of our faith. By that I mean that we have a tendency in our day to put feeling ahead of thinking. It used to be when someone sought your opinion about something, they would rightly ask, “Well, what do you think about this situation?” The one being asked would naturally answer what he thought, based on the facts that were available to him. Nowadays, people don’t say that so much. People ask, “Well, how do you feel about a given situation?” We take those two terms as if they’re synonymous. What do you think about it? How do you feel about it? But they’re not at all synonymous. Thinking involves reason based on facts, and feeling is just an emotional thing. It has nothing to do with the facts. And I am afraid we slip into that kind of thinking in our Christianity with the result that what is important to us is how we feel at the moment, and not necessarily what we know God has done. And so, we find ourselves adrift on a sea of feelings—a sea in which many people in their faith have made shipwreck.
Joshua didn’t want the people to do that. Joshua knew that the time would come, as they made contact with some of the people of the land that remained, when they would come to feel that, perhaps, what those people were doing was alright after all. And maybe it would make them feel good if they would follow after the gods of the Canaanites. But Joshua said, “Look, you must not drift into that. You have to remember that this religion of ours, this biblical faith which is the product of God with His people, is something based on facts. It’s based upon what God has done in history. If you want to live for God, build your feelings on your faith on what you know, rather the other way around.”
There’s a second way in which we fail to do what Joshua has told the people to do. We fail when we regard faith itself as what Søren Kierkegaard called a “leap of faith.” What this suggests is that we can by faith leap over the evidences because we don’t need any proof for our religion. We don’t have to have any historical documentation. We don’t have to have any basis for what it is we believe. All you have to do is have faith and take that great leap over the chasm, and everything will be alright. This has been hailed by many of our contemporary theologians as a great thing because they think that it releases us from the embarrassing obligation to provide sound Christian evidences. Of course, it does nothing of the sort. All it does is abandon evidences; and when it abandons evidences, it abandons important aspects of the faith as well.
The Bible knows nothing of a leap of faith. Oh, faith itself is something that God works in our hearts, and we don’t have saving faith apart from the work of God in our hearts. But it is not apart from evidences; in fact it is based upon them. In other words, faith is linked to reason. The biblical approach is that faith is added to reason, and understanding is added to faith. And the facts and evidences of Christianity lie as a foundation of it all.
So it’s very important for Joshua to say to the people when he begins to talk to them, “Remember all the things that God has done.” This is something that we need to hear as well.
From the lesson, what is the first way we can forget what God has done in the past?
What do you think has led, or contributed, to this change from how one thinks to how one feels about something?
What is the second way we forget what God has done in the past?
What are some ways in which the contemporary Church seems to elevate religious experience over the objective facts of the Christian faith?