Ecclesial Faith

Personal or collective?

Every believer makes his or her own journey of faith. This journey is a personal adventure in which each pilgrim experiences his or her own certainties and confusions, joys and hopes, grief and anxieties. The pilgrimage has a common destination, but every person climbs the slopes and descends the mountains on their own. And yet it does not make sense, within Christianity, to say that ‘every one is on their own pilgrimage’.

Some theologians assert that ‘the Church is an essential prerequisite without which I cannot believe’.1 Such an affirmation of the centrality of the Church to Christian faith seems to run against the personal character of faith which every believer experiences. Faith is a life’s adventure with God, as uniquely personal a thing as a lifelong marriage of two lovers. We seem to experience the highs and lows of our beliefs in God and about God within ourselves, not as a collective group like the Church. How could the subject of the act of faith be ‘we’, the Church, not ‘I’, the individual believer? How could it be that the person who confesses faith in the Creeds is not any one particular speaker, but the Church as a whole? Who could be churchy enough to want an ‘ecclesial faith’? Wouldn’t they have to march along in lockstep with everyone else?

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