Is Faith ‘More Like Falling in Love’?
Sometimes bad theology is attractive because it endorses the way you already think and legitimizes the way you already live. Relativism is a good example here. Most impassioned relativists aren’t in it for the intellectual satisfaction or theological integrity of the system. Instead, they recognize a philosophical shield capable of protecting them from probing questions and invasive accountability, so they take it up! Sometimes, however, bad theology is attractive because it is carried by a melody that you can’t get out of your head! Through the power of this musical appeal, you can find yourself singing, and therefore being shaped by, lyrics that you would quickly reject if you met them as propositions on paper. Jason Gray’s recent single, “More Like Falling in Love” is an example of this second stripe. Because of the power of song as a medium in general and the popularity of this song in particular, we would do well to step back and think about the way Gray is calling our generation to “love Jesus.”
He takes the title of his song from the first line in the chorus: “It’s got to be more like falling in love than something to believe in.” To start right in, placing faith over against falling in love, the head over against the heart, clear reasoning over against compelling emotion, is a false dichotomy. These things cannot and must not be separated. In fact, if we define our terms carefully enough, we can see that there is no “falling in love” without faith.
Faith is belief in or trust in a person. And that faith is not blind. Nor is it unfounded or without reason. In other words, we don’t trust somebody “just because.” We know things about them, we see things in them, we learn what they are like in different circumstances (under pressure, when no one is looking etc). And because of all we have seen (and therefore all we know), we make a decision to place our trust in them. This is true of the lifeguard at the pool, the policeman on the corner, and the neighbor who watches your dog while you are on vacation. It is true, perhaps most powerfully, in a marriage relationship. I have grounds for faith in my wife. I trust her because of who I know her to be. If I pretended like I could nor or did not care to substantiate this trust, it would be no true faith and it would be no honor to her. Imagine saying to your spouse, “I would rather fall in love with you than have faith in you!” We are jarred by the false dichotomy when we say it that way. Isn’t it amazing that music is so powerful that it compels us to sing these jarring, dishonoring, nonsensical words to the Son of God!
We can go a bit further. Not only is “more like falling in love than faith” a false dichotomy, it also denies our only access to the knowledge of God. Jesus has earned our faith. And he has earned that trust by acting in history. To put it somewhat crassly, we don’t fall in love with Jesus by taking sunset walks along the beach. We fall in love with Jesus by seeing Him revealed in the Scriptures. Scripture is the place we have been given to see Christ. It is the perfect, authoritative revelation of who our Bridegroom God is in the Person of His Son. This means that the only way we “fall in love with Jesus” is by encountering Him on the pages of Scripture and having our eyes opened to see what He has done as strong and wise and beautiful rather than weak and foolish and a stumbling block. Embracing the Christ that we see in Scripture as our Treasure, as the Love of our life, so that we give ourselves wholly to Him, is called faith. The process I just described is called conversion (from what I understand, the “it” in “it has got to be more like…” represents conversion). Falling in love with Jesus is the result that requires the prior cause of our coming to faith in Jesus! So our coming to Christ and walking with Christ cannot be “more like falling in love” than it is “like something to believe in” because the heart that falls in love with Him is moved by what the eyes of the heart see in Him, which is called faith.
Later in the song Gray sings along these same lines: “it was love that made me a believer in more than a name, a faith, a creed.” The short answer to this jumble, other than to say that he is now acknowledging the relationship between love and faith, but he has them backwards, is to say that any “belief” that does not already include “more than” the symbol of a name or a religion or a confession is a vain and false belief. If the substance of the Person that the symbol (like a name or creed) points to is missing, there is neither true faith nor the grounds for true faith. In this case what is needed is not “more love” but “more truth.”
So even here, where Gray has diagnosed a problem endemic to our generation, he does us no service in the cure he prescribes. Anyone who finds themselves believing in a summary rather than the Substance should not be told to love more. They should be taught the truth as it is in Jesus and so be helped to see and believe deeply and rightly. The fire of love is fueled by the logs of truth. Biblically, love doesn’t make you a believer. Faith makes you a lover.
This post is already too long, but I can’t resist a brief comment on the second line of Gray’s chorus: “It’s got to be more like losing my heart than giving my allegiance.” With the word “allegiance” meaning “loyalty” and “devotion”, we have another false dichotomy. Losing our heart, by which I take him to mean devoting ourselves completely to another person, cannot be separated from loyalty. Our loyalty is an expression of our lost heart! We are faithful to Him because we owe Him our life. Again, try saying to your spouse “you have stolen my heart but I will sleep with this stranger.” A “lost” heart without a loyalty doesn’t work.
If “allegiance” is a negative term for my generation, we need to pray for the grace to get over it, quickly. Jesus is a Bridegroom who wins our affection. He is also a King, worthy of our allegiance, indeed commanding it. Submission and sovereignty and obedience and allegiance and fealty and tribute and honor and discipline – these are all words we have seen abused to be sure, but they are the requisite currency of the Kingdom of God and of His Christ. And they are good and life-giving words when they are wielded by our Bridegroom-King. Jesus will not be divided, but He can be disobeyed. And where we disobey Him (when we do not keep His commandments) we prove that we do not love Him. Allegiance is the feet of our life walking out the feeling of a lovesick heart. Loving a Bridegroom and obeying a King are one – no matter how many times we sing otherwise.
So away with false dichotomies. Away with connecting our conversion to emotions that are “more like” an 8th grade crush. Away with notions of faith that dishonor our glorious Savior. Away with a hollow love whose fervency is denied by our disobedience. Away with singing things to Jesus that we would never say to our spouse. And may the Lord raise up sweet songwriters in His church who are able to capture the poetry of good theology and wed it with a soul-stirring melody so that our spirits can feed on truth as our feet tap and our mouths sing!