Thursday 6 July 2006

Faith as recognition

“Faith is not first of all accepting certain truths about Jesus.... Faith is knowing Jesus for who he is. It is like when you recognise a friend and say, ‘It’s you of course.’ And then you go on to say, ‘Do you remember when we met in the pub? I’ll never forget how you rescued me from that terrible old bore.’ Those memories are rather like the articles of faith or the story in the gospels; we use them to celebrate our recognition. We recite the creed out of our exuberance at meeting Jesus again. But the doctrine, the statements of faith, the scriptures, are nothing without the faith, the recognition of who Jesus is that they contain and express.”

—Herbert McCabe, “Resurrection and Epiphany,” in God, Christ and Us, ed. Brian Davies (London: Continuum, 2005).


Joanna said...

That is GOOD! And thanks, Kim, for the tribute. I bought a little collection of McCabe's sermons a while back, having never heard of him - and loved it.

PamBG said...

This is excellent. Tried to say that in last week's sermon, but did it far less eloquently.

Linking to this post.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for the McCabe quote to go with my tribute: it's a perfect text for the image of the man and his work that I tried to convey - and it's so typically thoughtful of you.


Looney said...

McCabe conflated faith with familiarity to produce a colossal theological 101 error.

Faith is when you meet your friend at the pub at 5:00 because you have an appointment with him and you have faith that he will show up.

Anonymous said...

No, Looney, you have made the quite understandable 101 error of taking Ben's quote out of context - understandable because if you don't have the book, what else could you - or anyone - do? So let me put the quote in context. It comes from a sermon entitled "Resurrection as Recognition", based on the text Luke 24:30-31 (the Emmaus moment).

McCabe begins his sermon by saying "I want to talk about recognizing, and the special kind
of recognizing that Luke is talking about here." He goes on to suggest that "People are not just recognizing Jesus as the man they knew was killed. They are recognizing him as the man they sort of knew and thought they knew, but didn't really know until now."

So McCabe is not "conflat[ing] faith with familiarity" but suggesting, on the contrary, that, due to the aporia of the cross, resurrection-recognition entails a de-familiarising and reconfiguring of who Jesus of Nazareth is. Further, "It is in the mystery of who Jesus is that his divinity lies," which can be grasped only by faith, which is precisely "knowing Jesus for who he is."

McCabe concludes: "In the end Jesus is identified, he is who he is, by being the one whom God loves. . . And, in Jesus, we share in this love, this identity."

Does that help?

Looney said...

Thanks Kim. I don't have any argument with the familiarity observations. Knowing Christ is everything. Familiarity can reinforce faith and it certainly helps as we try to understand what to put our faith in. As we place our faith in Jesus and he responds, familiarity is increased. Still, I don't think we can put an equivalence in between faith and recognition.

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