Monthly Archives: August 2008

Thoroughly Vetted Faith

Blind Faith (No. 35, 2008)

Everyone these days, from candidates for President and Vice- President
to judicial appointees to school teachers are subjected to vetting, although
almost no one had heard of the process a couple of years ago. Now, everyone
and everything must be thoroughly vetted before any decision or action can
proceed. Similar processes have been occurring all along, but the term,
vetting, seems to have emerged as a word of the decade in recent
years.

I was curious about where the term, vetting, came from.
Merriam-Webster reports that the first appearance of the word in print occurred
in 1891, so it is not just a recent invention of political pundits or security
operatives. Wikipedia explains that “‘to vet’ was originally a horse-racing
term, referring to the requirement that a horse be checked for health and
soundness by a veterinarian before being allowed to
race. Thus, it has taken the general meaning ‘to check.'” Vetting in
journalism is done by fact-checkers to assure that assertions made in print are
correct. Software is vetted during development to verify that the code is
error-free, and that the program performs according to specifications. Stocks,
bonds, and other financial securities are vetted prior to committing capital to
an investment. Intelligence assets are vetted to determine their reliability
and usefulness. An employee may be vetted before a firm job offer is extended.
And, of course, candidates at all levels of political life should be thoroughly
vetted before they are selected for office. In each case, the subject is
evaluated for possible approval or acceptance.

Another plausible etymology for vetting proposes its root as
the Latin verb, vetare, “to forbid.” The contemporary usage of
vetting in this sense refers to thoroughly investigating a subject and
having an opportunity to veto a decision before it is finalized. Although the
notion corresponds well with many applications of vetting , evidence is scant
to support this derivation. This etymology simply cannot be positively
vetted!

Deciding to live as a follower of Jesus is a matter of utmost
importance. The New Testament says again and again that it is a life- or-death
(or eternal-life-or-death) matter. It is a decision that should be thoroughly
vetted. Part of the process is on our side, deciding that the claims and
promises of Christ are worthy of our total commitment. The other side of the
process belongs entirely to God, who, alone, is in any position to measure our
response to his grace.

Vetting the claim of Christ on our lives draws on an abundant supply of
credible witnesses. Jesus, himself, offered complete transparency for his
disciples to vet him for faith. He told them during a time of severe criticism
from religious leaders opposing him, ” Don’t you believe that I am in the
Father and the Father is in me? The words I say are not my own, but my Father
who lives in me does his work through me. {11} Just believe that I am in the
Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of what you have
seen me do.” (John 14:10-11 NLT) Jesus appealed to the disciples’ first-hand
experiences of his words and deeds to authenticate who he was and why he was
worthy of their faith. Peter also cites Jesus’ public ministry to vet him for
the crowd at Pentecost: “People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus
of Nazareth by doing wonderful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you
well know…. This prophecy was speaking of Jesus, whom God raised from the
dead, and we all are witnesses of this…. So let it be clearly known by
everyone in Israel that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified to be both
Lord and Messiah!” (Acts 2:22, 32, 36 NLT) Other witnesses provide documentary
support and eyewitness accounts to verify Jesus’ qualification as Lord and
Savior. Paul submitted this report: ” I passed on to you what I received, of
which this was most important: that Christ died for our sins, as the Scriptures
say; {4} that he was buried and was raised to life on the third day as the
Scriptures say; {5} and that he was seen by Peter and then by the twelve
apostles. {6} After that, Jesus was seen by more than five hundred of the
believers at the same time. Most of them are still living today, but some have
died. {7} Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. {8} Last of
all he was seen by me….” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8a NCV) The strongest vetting
sources are the people who know the subject best. John, the “Beloved
Disciple,” certainly was one of Jesus’ closest associates, and he openly
presents the facts of who Jesus was and the significance of who he is: ” The
one who existed from the beginning is the one we have heard and seen. We saw
him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is Jesus Christ,
the Word of life. {2} This one who is life from God was shown to us, and we
have seen him. And now we testify and announce to you that he is the one who is
eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was shown to us. {3} We are
telling you about what we ourselves have actually seen and heard, so that you
may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his
Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:1-3 NLT) John’s more complete report is
available in the gospel that bears his name. Book after New Testament book
vets Jesus as the only one deserving our total commitment, as well as detailing
the cost-benefit analysis of surrendering our lives to him.

We may remain tentative – some might say fickle – about our commitment
to Christ as we continue to vet him. Doubts and questions may cloud our side
of the vetting process. God’s side of the process, however, is always crystal
clear. His vetting of us is supremely important, and only God does it with
perfect justice, combined with grace and love. God’s vetting of us is always
for the purpose of leading us to eternal, right, loving relationship with
himself. David welcomed God’s vetting, and faithfully sought its intended
result: ” Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me;
cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; See for
yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong – then guide me on the road to
eternal life.” (Psalm 139:23-24, The Message) Our most pervasive
departure from God’s way is to assume that we can manage to save ourselves on
our own terms. God’s examination lays such designs bare, guiding us away from
our own hubris to the only authentic saving faith in Jesus Christ. True faith
seeks God’s vetting and his veto before we fall prey to our own misplaced
confidence in ourselves. Paul sought God’s vetting in this sense: ” God forbid
that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the
world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14 NKJV)
Those words inspired one of Isaac Watts’ most cherished hymns, When I
Survey the Wondrous Cross
. Written in 1709, almost two centuries before
anyone wrote about vetting, verses 2 and 4 of the hymn magnificently express a
desire for God’s careful examination of our faith, and the faithful
relationship to which we should aspire:

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast, Save in the death of
Christ my God:
All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to his blood.
Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.
(Isaac Watts, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross, 1709)

How well will your faith stand thorough vetting? If you have questions
or doubts about God’s love demonstrated in Jesus Christ, consult the
documentary reports in the Bible, or talk with someone who has both done the
research and has personal experience as a faithful follower of Jesus. What
will vetting by God’s Spirit reveal about your faith, your actions, your
attitudes, your life? Allow God to guide you in the only way to authentic
life, faith in Jesus Christ.

– J. Edward Culpepper, Ph.D.