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Faith as Allegiance

When I was introduced to Faith as Allegiance last summer it was like a strobe going off inside my head.  It provided some much needed illumination to clarify some pretty muddled thinking.  I got to the idea through reading about Greco-Roman history via both modern and ancient authors.

I’m currently reading Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King [1].  The author’s route (so far) is through readings of biblical texts.  The book is a subject of discussion on Jesus Creed, where Scot McKnight is excerpting and commenting on sections of the book.  The posts are worth reading.  They help flesh out the idea, as do the broad range of comments, which include some objections [2].

Faith as allegiance might be a difficult idea to engage because we don’t understand it.  The notion of Christ as King is completely alien way of thinking, other than in some sort of distant theoretical sense.  The modern world doesn’t have very many kings.  With some exceptions, the few we have are pretty much figureheads without any actual power.  This is a good thing, given the sketchy history of hereditary human monarchies.  But it leaves us with a much weaker image of what loyalty to someone’s person actually looks like.  If we moderns have any loyalties at all, they tend towards ideas and systems.  Or possibly to wholly corrupt state cults focused on object like The Dear Leader.

My suspicion is that this predisposes us to treat faith as purely cognitive at the expense of the relational — following Christ becomes a matter of accepting the correct propositions accompanied in varying proportions by having the right emotions and experiences.  To be clear, faith is not some sterile choice.  But the language of pistis/fides from the first and second centuries does not pull apart in such a tidy way into ideas and experience.  Trust is enmeshed in it.  And allegiance seems to be the binder that holds the thing together.

It might help to contrast the vignettes of a pair of Lenten failures.

There is Judas’ betrayal, which was rooted in divided loyalties.  In addition to following Jesus he was serving his own interests.  In his role as the treasurer for the little band of disciples he was also skimming a bit of coin for his own benefit.  This was a small betrayal.  But the difference between this and the larger payoff by the authorities was only a matter of degree.  Unfortunately for Judas the actual implications didn’t register until after sentence was passed by the Sanhedrin.

Gerard van Honthorst [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
On the other hand, there was no question where Peter’s loyalties lay.  From stepping out of the boat in the storm to whacking off an ear in the garden, he was ready to do whatever the moment called for to follow his teacher.  While it might play out in some personally dysfunctional ways Peter was “all in.”  But he lacked the courage and strength to follow through and buckled from the fear of storms and people.   And after the arrest of Jesus denied knowing him.

If faith is grounded in allegiance then an aspect of grace might include the mercy shown Peter for his weakness.  Which means there is hope for the rest of us.


[1] Matthew W. Bates, with a forward by Scot McKnight.  Salvation by Allegiance Alone: Rethinking Faith, Works, and the Gospel of Jesus the King. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2017.

[2] Jesus Creed, at (I’ve commented on a couple but they are pretty much exploratory):

  • 2 March 2017, Book of the Month: Salvation by Allegiance Alone
  • 6 March 2017, Faith as Allegiance
  • 13 March 2017, What Allegiance (Faith) is Not
  • 17 March 2017, The Gospel of Allegiance
  • 20 March 2017, The Oddest Question Theologians Ask
  • 22 March 2017, Three Elements of Faith
  • 27 March 2017, Is Salvation by Allegiance a Kind of Works?
  • 30 March 2017, Is Faith-as-Allegiance Yet Another Instance of the Law of Moses?
  • 3 April 2017, So How Much Allegiance is Required?
  • 10 April 2017, When the Gospel includes New Creation

This post first appeared on Sat Sapienti | Sifting Through The Distractions., please read the originial post: here

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Faith as Allegiance


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