The Rev. Dr. Ray Jones III answers a question from ‘A Matter of Faith’ listener
November 9, 2022
Can faith and knowledge co-exist? They can and they do, the Rev. Dr. Ray Jones III said during a recent edition of “A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast,” and our faith can deepen even as we add to our knowledge base.
Jones, director of Theology, Formation & Evangelism in the Presbyterian Mission Agency, was a guest of the Rev. Lee Catoe, editor of Unbound: An Interactive Journal of Christian Social Justice, and Simon Doong, a mission specialist for the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program, who co-host A Matter of Faith each week. Previous episodes can be found here.
“I think there is a real difference between knowledge and belief,” Jones said in response to a listener’s question, “but I see there is also a connection. Within that connection we can have a deep conversation about faith.”
Drawing on the example of scientific disciplines that are constantly being updated, “I believe what happens to belief systems is when you no longer are processing information, they become very restrictive and legalistic,” Jones said. “One of the things I love about Jesus is that the only real harsh words Jesus ever spoke to people were religious leaders who were stuck in a religious belief system that was narrow, restricted and rigid.”
“One of the reasons I’m drawn to the gospel is I believe it’s all about life,” Jones said. “There’s always more knowledge coming our way as Jesus teaches about how to live, how to love our neighbor, how to pray and how to be in relationship with one another. But then his life actually reveals his teachings. We see his love, his compassion, his healing, his justice, his mercy — and it’s just a way of life that I believe will enhance a belief system.”
Belief systems “expand as knowledge is made available and we learn more and more about who we are,” Jones said. “Faith for me in that process is that trust, the trust to say, ‘OK, this is the way I’m going to put my life together: I’m just going to love God and love other people and allow God to continue to change me and open me to who God is and what God desires.”
Anxiety and isolation brought on by the pandemic, the racism that’s resurfaced over the past two years — and the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — all got Jones to thinking.
“I think it was fueled by a belief system that was so rigid it would not allow any other information in — would not even allow the truth in,” he said. “I think it’s an example of what happens when we settle for something small and rigid that is only for a few people and not for everyone. We can get trapped into something very dangerous that has nothing to do with life.”
For Jones, “I become a person who is more alive when people are flourishing. … We always need a faith that trusts in something bigger, which is God — something bigger, which is love, which will carry us through and be there in the end.”
For Doong, “During dark times in our lives, we say, ‘Is there justice anywhere?’ But when we look closer, we find God continues to be at work. We have to be willing to look for God and ask a better question — not just, ‘Why?’”
Jones said he finds going deeper “into the meaning of life causes a sense of humility in us.” But “when we come to that place and say, ‘There is so much I don’t know,’ there’s a tendency for doubt to creep in.”
That doubt, Jones said, “is the avenue by which we begin to ask those questions that take us into discovery. We begin to realize, ‘Oh my goodness, this life is so much bigger than I am!’ We begin to make our way — but that way is always in relationship with other people and learning from them, and in relationship with God.”
Mike Ferguson, Editor, Presbyterian News Service
Today’s Focus: ‘A Matter of Faith’podcast
Let us join in prayer for:
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Debra Jones, Risk Management Assistant, Administrative Services Group (A Corp)
José Jones, Mission co-worker serving in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Let us pray
Loving God, thank you for giving us more opportunities to serve better and love more genuinely. Amen.