Dr. Horace Patterson, pastor of Mt. Canaan Baptist Church in Talladega, said “religious faith” has something strong to back it up.
“Real biblical faith is not a hunch,” Patterson said. “It is not positive thinking. It is not a leap in the dark. Real biblical faith has a basis in the Word of God. If faith does not rest on the Word of God, then it is not worth having.”
He called it a “solid foundation,” using the Bible as the authority and not basing it on feelings, emotions or traditions.
“Faith is greater than your feelings,” he said, “because sometimes you can be miserable doing the right thing. And sometimes you might not feel as miserable as you ought to when you fail to do the right thing.”
The Rev. Lewis Archer of First United Methodist Church in Sylacauga said faith begins with trust. He called it “the great struggle,” living in the world and maintaining a constant attitude and trust in God.
“When you talk about faith, it is more than a simple affirmation of the existence of God,” Archer said. “It is a personal trust in God. Christian faith is the result of that. Christian living, Christian ethics and behavior are a result of that trust.”
Along with faith, the ministers spoke on the topic of compassion to all neighbors.
Pastor Bill Rutledge of Lakewood Presbyterian Church in Pell City said people should be kind and considerate to everyone, even if they are not of the same faith.
“I think we should be tolerant and loving to all people, but as a Christian I would not agree that Islam is right because that would mean that Christianity is wrong,” he said. “Tolerant in today’s world can mean to accept a certain viewpoint. But if you mean by tolerant that we should care about them, they were created by God and we should love them and treat them with respect, then I would agree with that.”
Patterson said the Bible teaches people not to be the judge of others.
“You have to be careful,” he said, “because you may have an individual judging someone for something they see as a horrible sin. But in the eyes of God, your judgment may be worse than the sin they are committing.”
The Bible also teaches that we are all brothers and sisters and of the power of love.
“The most powerful tool that we have to shape people and to lift people is to genuinely love them,” Patterson said. “And not just as a matter of evangelism, but a very practical and real way. The Bible tells us how to do that, to meet people where they are, and tell them they are prized and they are valued.”
Rutledge also spoke about the terms “spirituality” and “religion,” and some of the different meanings people have for those words.
“When some people say they are spiritual, they mean they don’t believe in any one thing,” he said. “They just believe in general principles of a spiritual being. In my opinion, when you do not really believe in one thing, you just believe in anything, you really believe in nothing.”
Rutledge also said someone could be “religious” while not necessarily being a Christian. He talked about the difference in having faith in something and a “saving faith.”
“Saving faith is one who puts their hope, faith and trust in Jesus,” he said. “Then there is general faith where people have faith that God will be good to them. Or they have faith that they will somehow make it to heaven, or just faith that God will help them get through the day.”
Archer talked about the perceived difference between Christian spirituality and religion. He said someone who is religious must also be spiritual.
“I think it is a false dichotomy between faith and religion,” he said. “I think your religion is in spirituality. If it is not a lived trust in God, then it is not religion. It is counterfeit.”
Archer said he encourages his congregation to try to live with integrity and see themselves as servants of God and their neighbors.
Archer said true faith involves people giving themselves up to the service of God.
“One of the church fathers (St. Irenaeus) said, ‘The glory of God is man fully alive,’” he said. “St. Francis talked about, ‘In losing yourself, you find yourself.’ So I think it is not purely a denial of self. It’s a denial of your false self, so that you can find yourself as viewed in the image of Christ.”