It’s a standard thing in church to tell people that ‘belief in God’ in the church context does not simply mean assent to or acknowledge the existence of God, but implies also a trust in him. I was thinking about this the other day as I was preparing for another baptism service – how to make clearer to the visitors what it means to believe in God. It seemed to me that I had an illustration right in front of me in the baby with its parents but that this illustration gives such a full image of ‘belief in God’ that it rather changes the meaning of the word more than is justified, but still, it seemed good to me:
You may believe in my parents – I can show you pictures and so on, telephone them, webcam/skype them. But you saying it is different somehow from me saying that I believe in my parents because though the umbilical cord was cut years ago, somehow the connection has never been severed. Between you and to me there is little practical difference in the sense that we both live ‘independent’ of my parents and they are thousands of miles away, and even without communication (which we tried for 4 years in Nigeria) somehow there is an attachment, a living reality of relationship which makes my belief in them different from yours. But as I looked at the little baby ready to be baptised it seemed to me that there was a further level of ‘belief’ that the baby was exercising in its parents that I no longer need in mine. It could neither talk nor understand and yet it turned instinctively to its parents for its peace and provision. It had no choice in some ways, but it still nevertheless showed a completeness of trust, belief, faith, even if of necessity, in its parents that seemed to me to add something more than words can express to what it means to believe in God.
I cannot speak any more than that baby can in the language of God my father – I can cry out in shallow words, my soul reaching out to him at levels I am unable fully to discern, my words but vain attempts as adept as a baby’s cry at articulating what is going on inside. But as the baby knows when it held and carried around, ‘in company’ as it were though it knows not yet what ‘company’ is, so I believe in God and walk with him. That ‘belief’ is not mere mental assent, nor conscious relationship, though it includes both of those as enriching characteristics, but a companionship with God in the depths of the soul.