I have just finished reading a book called ‘The Awakening of Hope’ by a friend of ours named Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove which looks to address the question ‘Why we Practice a Common Faith’ by focusing on seven ancient practices/disciplines and this excerpt on faith and conversion really stood out for me:
‘No one gets to start from scratch. But each of us, from within the story we’ve received, decides whether we will continue to trust what we’ve first received or inhabit a different story. This decision is what we usually call “faith.”
The Bible says that faith is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen [Hebrews 11.1, KJV].
Faith is what we trust for those questions that we cannot know the answer to, for the presuppositions that undergird whatever story we call our own. In the modern world we are in the habit of thinking that faith matters for our personal and religious lives. When we talk about “people of faith,” we usually refer to people who are committed Muslims or Buddhists, Jews or Christians. On the other hand, we usually assume that what matters in economics and politics, science and medicine is facts, not faith. Religion is about what we believe while science is about what we know.
But good scientists agree with the woman in Sarah’s writing seminar that whatever we know (including the facts), we know within a story that we have chosen to trust. That is, we are all people of faith. Of course, doubt plays a role in the pursuit of truth for scientists, just as it does for theologians. But none of us can ever doubt everything. Whether the truth we seek is best described as scientific or religious, our pursuit of it depends on holding experience up against the story we assume to be true. In science, when the facts demand a new story to explain how they can all be true, we call that necessary change a “paradigm shift.” When the facts of our lives cry out for a story that can help us tell the truth about ourselves, we call it “conversion.”
For Jesus, the invitation to welcome God’s story is a call to conversion: “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent ad believe the good news” [Mark 1.15]. To trust that what Jesus says about the world is true is to, quite literally, have a change of mind. This conversion – this paradigm shift – does not invalidate the truth of the story that came before it. In calling God’s people to conversion, Jesus says, “Do not think I have come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” The new story that Jesus brings incorporates the truth of the old, offering both a framework for understanding what we knew before and a lens for seeing truth we could not recognise within our old story.
Even so, the only way people who have inhabited one story can learn to trust another is to experience a change of mind.’
We must be “born again,” as Jesus says to Nicodemus in John’s gospel [3.3] Or, more literally, we must be reconceived from above.” That is to say, conversion is about reimagining our human story from the place that Jesus starts His – not with the mixing of two human stories, but with the miraculous union of God’s story and a human story.’
[from the chapter ‘Why we share good news’ from the book ‘The Awakening of Hope’ by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove]