First, the confession -- this little series of blogs on the process of salvation has been a Lenten Discipline of mine. Holy Week is waning, so I must hop to with my final post.
Salvation -- not just forgiveness, but a healing and wholeness -- is a gift, not a wage, not an award, not a personal accomplishment (for if it were, then the whole process of ego-trancendence would clench in a Catch 22) but a gift -- received through "faith."
I was on a plane recently sitting beside a woman who was saying how her mother had insisted that certain things must be believed unquestioningly, unthinkingly, because religous teachings are based on "faith" -- meaning blind acceptance of things unevidenced, unreasoned, and not understood. She justifiably objected to such an epistemology.
One test of good religion vs bad religion is whether it grows or diminishes its adherents. A religion that shuts down the mind diminishes it adherents. Thankfully, that is not what "faith" has traditionally meant.
"Faith" is not an opinion embraced or assent to an intellectual truth claim. Faith is an orientation of the heart toward the ultimate mystery. It is not faith that certain facts are true, but trust in the Giver of grace. Faith is actually the opposite of dogmatism. It may be expressed in formularies but the faith is not in the forumlaries. Faith is in the Giver toward whom the formularies feebly point. (I say this as one who is rabidly committed to the regular recitation of the Ancient Creeds.)
Faith is not a closed mind. It is an open heart. Faith is not the opposite of doubt. But faith does insist that when we doubt grace, we doubt our doubt, and so remain open the possibility of miracle and wonder. That openness to possiblity is the open gate through which the grace of salvation passes.