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Is faith necessary?

How much weight do you put on faith? Do you look down on people who don’t believe the way you do? I used to feel sorry for Protestants. I’m not kidding. My Catholic faith was so strong that I pitied those who couldn’t believe in the pope and the Eucharist and us priests who could erase sin like chalk marks from the blackboard. However, many of my Protestant friends used to pity me because I didn’t believe their way. Both of us thought that faith (our own way, of course,) was the essence of Christianity and the only path to salvation.

I don’t think that way anymore.

I know the word faith is used over 140 times in the New Testament and I’ve studied every one of them — in the Greek — and I know my critics will quote them all back to me in the comment section. But the one quote I like the best is the one where Paul says that love is greater than faith. He’s talking to his converts in Corinth about all the different talents and gifts they have; some can teach and some can preach and others can speak many languages, and some even have faith to move mountains.

But love is better. St. Paul says that love is greater than faith. (1 Cor. 13:13) What does that mean?

First, he’s not talking about the love of God, he’s talking about the love for our fellow men; that thing we call charity and which Jesus said was the same thing or “identical” to loving God (Matt. 22:39). So, does that mean I should focus more on helping others than on trying to believe in a Trinity? I think so.

Many religions have made faith in dogmas more important than understanding gays and lesbians; they have let faith in the Trinity supersede supporting our local non-radical Muslims; they have used faith in the atonement to exclude non-believers. This might be faith, but it’s not love. And love is greater than faith.

When I stopped writing about leadership and began writing about the Bible, I knew I would have critics. (I didn’t realize there would be so many.) Some call me names. Some pray for me while others write me sermons hoping to convert me. But one of them, a freelance writer named David Mann, has carefully analyzed my columns over the years, and has challenged me to defend my claim to be a Christian. And now the famous and talented Erick Ericson has done the same.

Their point is this: if club membership in Christianity demands unquestioned faith in the Trinity and the sacrificial death of Jesus to appease his sinned-against Father (the atonement) and his virgin birth and bodily resurrection, I am out of the club. And they’re right.

But the Mormons and the Unitarians interpret the Trinity differently and they’re still Christians. I think (but Erick disagrees with me) that St. Paul is saying that the resurrection was not a physical thing, but a vision or an image that the early Christians used for inspiration (1 Cor. 15:8). Finally, when it comes to the atonement concept (invented by Anselm in the year 1093), I simply will never accept a God who made his son die on a cross as payback for sins. But I find my belief in dogmas irrelevant.

I say Christianity has but one rule and one dogma and that’s love. Help that employee who’s struggling with his schedule and be kind to that irate customer and try to understand that boss who is overwhelmed with pressure. Be a giver not a taker, constantly giving what you’ve got to those who have nothing. When asked for a dollar, give five. When asked for volunteers, raise your hand. What else is there? Dogmas? I don’t think so.

Dr. Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corporation and Cummings Management Consultants. His blog is www.progressiveheretic.com.

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