Faith and Obedience
When you are a kid you believe almost anything that somebody older than you tells you. And, unless you have been deprived of proper affection and discipline (or stand some kind of abuse at that early stage of your life) you are also likely to do what they tell you. It is so much easier then to recognize that we are vulnerable and need somebody bigger, stronger, wiser and overall more capable than us to do well in life. But things begin to change as we grow older.
Trust in our development
In the first stage of our lives (0-18 months) –according to Erik Erikson’s psychosocial development theory- depending on how well our needs are met by our parents or caretakers, we develop trust and hope to satisfy our needs and desires or -sadly- distrust and fear to a cold and selfish world.
As we enter our teenager years (as proposed by famous psychologist Jean Piaget) we enter in the last stage of our cognitive development. In this stage (known as the formal operational stage) humans develop hypothetical thinking and metacognitive abilities. These newly developed powers give the adolescent the opportunity to think more abstractly and have a greater feedback of his own thoughts. Naturally, young folks begin to question everything; including authority (After all, they are a lot more capable and stronger now and –as they soon find out- neither parents or teachers know it all).
Later, in the first part of our adulthood, as our beliefs are put to the test by our experiences, we begin to care a lot more about facts and less about wishful thinking. And, as our responsibilities grow, so does our practicality. It is no surprise then, that as we grow older we rely a lot more on crystallized intelligence (based on facts and past experiences) than on fluid intelligence (abstract thinking and ability to solve new problems), which explains also why the older we get, the less likely we are to change our way of thinking.
Finally, I would like to add that Erikson also identified as a stage (he proposed eight in his theory) a period (ages 40-65) in which adults fight between a sense of generativity (to guide younger generations) and a sense of stagnation (inability to be involved in the care of others).
All of this gives us valuable information about how we perceive our world and how we develop trust based on our experiences and relationships with others. Which makes me think about the fifth commandment.
The fifth commandment
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Ex 20:12)
Probably more than ever, many may be asking themselves why did God made this a commandment and what does it have to do with living longer.
It is hard to imagine why you would need an authority figure when you have never had one present in a significant way and you can apparently find the answers to all of your questions on the internet. However, after reading the book of Proverbs the answer becomes clear: parents (according to the Bible) were meant to be not just providers, but forgers of character; because men and women of strong character will live longer as they grow in strength and walk with wisdom. This of course, was meant to be achieved not by mere words, but by example; which is totally sound with the vicarious learning thought by cognitive psychologist Albert Bandura.
There is, however another reason (I believe) why this commandment is so significant. And that is that the perception that we have of our parents, greatly affect the perception that we have of God (Cf. Gen 5:1,3; 1 John 4:20). And here, is where it becomes clear the relationship between faith and obedience.
Faith and obedience
Let´s make a summary: When we are children, we believe almost anything with ease. When we are teenagers, we question almost everything with ease. When we become adults, we stop questioning for the sake of being practical and, as we grow older, we seek to transmit that practical knowledge to younger generations. Between all of that, our parents are (beside providers) models and forgers of character and, the impression that we have of them, will affect significantly what we think of God.
God, as the Bible teach us, is not just the king of the universe but also, our Father. And because of that, He is not just interested in supplying for our needs but also, in forming our characters; something very important to understand if we seek to believe in him and understand why He does not always accomplish our every desire (more of this in coming articles).
As psychology teaches, the relationship we have with our fathers affects the way we deal with authority figures, and this, of course includes the greatest authority figure of all: God.
Faith and obedience are directly related because every act of natural obedience, it’s also an act of faith; an act of trust –as we discussed in my previous article- not in something, but in someone.
Trouble believing in God
If you have trouble believing in the existence of a God that made the universe and cares for you maybe you should start by examining what is your perception on authority figures.
However, far from that I want you to know that I agree is only natural not believing in someone that you don’t see like everyday matter. God knows this, and that is why Jesus spoke about a second birth (Cf. John 3:3); a birth in which you can perceive God with a lot more ease and depend on God as you did (or should have) with your parents when you were a child.
Before we talk more about the second birth, however, we will first examine (on my next article: “Spiritual Warfare: A Battle for Reality”) how the spiritual realm may be connected to reality. Until next time.