“Others who say I won’t make it [as a professional player] are wrong. They don’t know what I’m capable of and what’s inside me. My family and my friends have been bothered by what’s gone on, and I tell them to pay no attention to it. I’m relying as always on my faith.”
– via The Denver Post
It’s the last line that catches my eye: “I’m relying as always on my faith.” This is interpreted in the article by the columnist as “his religious faith and his faith in himself as a player.”
Another article, which cites the first, places the following interpretation on Tebow’s words: “This statement, in itself, shows that the famed football player believes strongly in his faith.”
Now, I’m not necessarily assuming anything about Tebow himself here, and I know that words can be quoted out of context and re-interpreted based on journalistic bias. I consider Tebow a strong Christian based on what small amount I know of him, and it is not my purpose to attack or belittle – keep that in mind.
My purpose in writing this is simply to draw our attention to the concept expressed in the phrase “I’m relying on (or alternately: believing in) my faith.”
What does this even mean? To rely on or believe in something is by definition to have faith in it. So to say, “I believe in my faith” is actually to say “I have faith in my faith.”
To many ears there is no problem with this type of statement. In fact, there are evangelical groups who take great pride in how much faith they have in faith. When bad things come, it’s okay because “I believe in my faith” or “I trust my faith will get me through”. It sounds almost pious.
Let me briefly here explain what is wrong with this concept, and why evangelicals need to stop saying it.
#1 – It is Self-Centered
When someone says, as with Tebow, “I am relying on my faith”, they are making something internal of theirs the object of faith, instead of something of God’s that is external and objective. It is a very individualistic way of thinking for faith to be “MY” faith and not “THE faith once and for all delivered to the saints” (cf. Jude 1:3).
#2 – It is Subjective
What if your faith wavers? What if you have an off day and it’s just not as strong as otherwise? The fact is that your faith will go through dry periods, you will encounter valleys on your way – not just hills. What sense does it make to put your faith in something so uncertain – so subjective? Rather, putting one’s faith in the promises of God, now there’s something else.
#3 – It is Christless
Where is Jesus in this paradigm? Why not say, “I put my faith in Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Lord of Glory?” Rather here the focus is on ME and MY faith – that’s where the power is. Not Jesus will sustain me, but my faith will sustain me.
#4 – It is an Infinite Regression
To say, “I have faith in my faith” ends up turning in on itself and perpetuating a vicious cycle in which “I have faith in my faith in my faith in my faith in my faith…”, ad infinitum. After all, if you have placed your faith in your faith, then the faith that you have placed your faith in must also be placed in something (faith is not faith unless it has an object), which is faith, which then also requires an object for it to be true faith, but the object is faith… on and on.
Christians need to stop pointing to their faith as an object of trust and hope. Rather, when we talk about faith it should be placed in the atoning death and resurrection of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
Our faith is not to be placed in faith – it is to be placed in the Gospel of God-for-us.