A friend of mine well said that “Faith is not a formula; faith is a relationship.” Sometime back I wrote an article entitled “Not a Formula, but a Fountain,” an article which agrees with my friend’s statement. But there is more to say, and I think, a need to clarify this matter more thoroughly.
First I must confess that I personally have a natural disdain or contempt for formulations and rote-like learning models; I suppose I developed this dislike because even though I was a fast study who usually understood things very quickly (without too much repetition) I had to endure a mind-numbing amount of repetition at the snail pace speed of instruction made to the entire class I attended. I was religiously taught elementary things in elementary ways for too long by strict catholic nuns (ugh!). Though I speak this way, it probably did me more good than harm.
To train by formulation is a proven method, a method which undoubtedly results in making what is first a plastic overlay into an inner-laid second nature. I have come to realize there is room for a formulation in both fountains and relationships; in fact, a fountain with no form sprays all over the place, and a relationship without rules has no definition and is therefore no relationship at all.
The law which is a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ is a formula which brought us to a relationship, and the law which is holy and fulfilled by Christ is forever subsumed into His graceful nature. The mercy which triumphs over judgment is now the judgment and is never one whit less holy as the grace given (as was the given law which was broken which required it).
A relationship far exceeds a formula, rules, or law, but never to the degree to which it throws off any of them as an unnecessary part of the whole; I use grammar and other literary rules as I write this, but it is so mature and automatic to me, as though it were my very nature, enough as to be fountain-and-relationship like rather than rule-or-formula-driven like.
When we are young and immature in this way, when we hardly know God yet, we do well to live by defined disciplines, and yes, even formulations. Though forms are restrictive, only as wide and as deep and as high as they are made by us, they also quantify a limit to be learned, a measure we can handle. We must absorb God in bite sized and digestible portions. Although God cannot be placed into a box or any other form, his Word, the Bible, by which we learn of Him aright, is learned in a way that must be line upon line and precept upon precept. Though God is outside the box, He is also inside it; yes, He inhabits eternity, but He also graciously infuses Himself into our puny boxes and simple formulations.
A revival is coming, no, a reformation; and there is going to be an enormous wave of new births, salvations. God is preparing the mature to teach what the young and zealous harvest. God is preparing many pastors and teachers and mentors in this hour, and these mature saints must be knowledgeable beyond formulation, yes, but also well versed in formulas too.
Our goal is to be like Him, to MATURE no doubt; and the mature, to be mature, have internalized the formulations and disciplines of the faith. Our walk with God is now habitual, our nature. But to the immature and adolescent, there are yet formulated lessons to absorb and personalize. Let us, the mature, us personifications of the faith, do our job, our Christian duty. Let us stoop down, change diapers, and instruct the children; let us also teach formulas, because babies, well, they drink milk, yes, but nowadays, they drink FORMULA!