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Beliefs shape behavior

Thinking about the faith should lead us into a new way of life, said Cynthia Campbell

August 3, 2013

Cynthia Campbell

Cynthia Campbell, pastor and theological educator, speaks to the Theology, Worship and Education conference. —Danny Bolin

LOUISVILLE

Think about someone you know who really lives the Christian faith. What does that look like?

This opening exercise sparked lively discussions around tables at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday (Aug. 3) morning in a plenary session under the Big Tent led by the Rev. Cynthia Campbell, pastor of Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville and former president of McCormick Theological Seminary.

By the way they live, other Christians “can call us to a higher and deeper faith,” Campbell explained at the end of the table discussions.

Her presentation was jointly sponsored by the Big Tent Theology, Worship, and Education Conference and the Seminary Support Network Conference. It was the final talk in a three-part series on the theme of the Theology, Worship, and Education Conference: Thinking, Praying, Living the Faith.

“For Reformed Christians, thinking the faith and praying the faith are in fact ways of living the faith,” Campbell said. “They are woven together.”

Religion is a way of life, she explained. “Some people think Christianity is holding a particular set of ideas, believing certain things.” They think “you’re not a Christian unless you believe particular doctrines.”

But Christianity is not just a set of ideas. It’s also about practices, Campbell said.

“Christianity is a tradition that holds together beliefs and practices,” she continued. “Beliefs matter. We always want to try to express it as clearly and correctly as we can. That is why we have a ‘Book of Confessions.’

“But we’re never going to get it right,” she said. We’ve discovered over time that “each of these confessions is flawed in some way.”

The book of James admonishes Christians to “be doers of the word and not hearers only” (1:22), Campbell said. This means “your understanding of who God is will shape your behavior. All that thinking is designed to lead us into a new way of life.”

Campbell walked listeners through a quick history of how Christians have practiced the faith. The Reformation, she said, stressed “the importance of everyday life as the place to live the faith.”

Calvin and the Reformers wanted to take spiritual practices out of the monasteries and into the world. In other words, Campbell said, they believed that “real Christianity is not just for the superstars.”

So how do we live the Christian faith today? Campbell offered these suggestions:

• In our ordinary life, by how we do whatever we do everyday.

• Through devotional practices: prayer, reading Scripture, worshiping together, singing.

• By caring for others and sharing our time and resources with people in need.

• By advocacy, working with others for justice, freedom and peace.

• By giving our testimony, witnessing to what God is doing in our lives, sharing the story of our faith with others.

Big Tent, Aug. 1–3, is a celebration of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission and ministry organized around the theme “Putting God’s First Things First.” It’s composed of 10 national Presbyterian conferences, more than 160 workshops and special events to mark the 30th anniversary of the formation of the PC(USA) and the 25th anniversary of the opening of the Presbyterian Center here.

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