Go deeper into faith
Alister McGrath explores the meaning of discipleship
For many people, the word ‘discipleship’ seems very old-fashioned. It sits uneasily alongside the emphasis on entrepreneurial leadership which has become so important to many denominations. Yet we need to keep on using this word and valuing this idea. Why? One answer has stood the test of time: it’s about growing in wisdom as we grasp and take to heart the deep truths of our faith, and allow them to transform our understanding of ourselves and our world. It’s about not resting content with a superficial faith, skimming the surface of the Christian gospel, but diving deep into its profundities. And this is best done in company.
We all have our favourite writers, whom we adopt as travelling companions along the road of faith. That’s why the Church – the community of faith – is so important for discipleship. Other people help us see further, go deeper, and become wiser. I know how much I was helped by others in the past. Now I’m trying to do the same for others myself. While I have many such companions, I keep coming back to CS Lewis, who helps me see further and more clearly than I could on my own.
But there’s another reason why discipleship is so important. We live in a cultural climate which seems to be increasingly suspicious and critical of religion. Many Christians were caught by surprise by the rise of the New Atheism of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens a decade ago. Their aggressive rhetoric pilloried and ridiculed both Christians and Christianity. Some Christians found they had such a shallow grasp of their faith that they couldn’t respond to these arguments and criticisms. There was clearly a need to help Christians understand their faith better, gain confidence in its basic themes, and be willing to talk about their faith in public. Christian discipleship is partly about helping believers to love God with all their mind, as Jesus instructed. We need to think about the substance of our faith…
Alister McGrath is Andreos Idreos Professor of Science and Religion at Oxford University. Mere Discipleship: Growing in wisdom and hope (SPCK, 2018) is available for £6.49 from spckpublishing.co.uk
This is an extract from an article that was published in the November 2018 edition of Reform