There are some who feel very uncomfortable with the notion that Christianity contains a collection of statements to be believed. They want to say that Christianity is an experience or tradition that one practices, rather than propositions to be believed. Describing Christianity as propositional seems to reduce it to an academic subject rather than acknowledging it as a dynamic living experience. Yet these positions do not need to be understood as contradictory, rather the faith includes both a propositional and experiential element.
Seeing Christianity as propositional and experiential is not a dichotomy beyond our grasp. I fully experience my wife as a living and personal relationship yet I also love her by understanding many truths about her that can be expressed as propositions. Rather than reducing Christianity to a mere tradition or system of authority that one follows as an existential practice, it is best understood in the fullness of both its propositional and experiential realities.
The Christian theologian Aquinas held faith to be propositional and affirmed the forming of particular expressions of belief that we in faith affirm. He called this a symbol of faith, from the Greek σύμβολον- meaning literally a throwing together of elements. We search the scriptures and find those truths that are given priority and then collect those together into statements that we affirm in our belief. Thus we form a symbol of the faith or as it is more commonly called, a creed or confession. Our faith is open to questioning and dialectic, but affirmation and belief is the mode, not the endless wanderings of dialectic.
Greek orthodoxy, and its various national derivatives, finds difficulty in expressing the propositions of the Christian faith. Rather than enter into the rough and tumble of conversation that it usually takes to express such statements, orthodoxy seems to be unable to get beyond the stark fact of God’s incomprehensibility. Without the ability to unify around collections of propositional truths, Orthodoxy focuses on tradition, authority and apophatic theology. Though God and his nature are far beyond the understanding of our human intellect, we are non-the less presented with the relentless parade of truths about him given in the Scriptures showing that our minds can in fact meaningfully express truths concerning God.
It is a mystery that God is so far beyond our comprehension and can still be expressed in verbal form however, with a humility such as that found in Einstein, we might say, “The most incomprehensible thing about nature is that anything is comprehensible.” We need to fully accept the incomprehensibility of God, while continuing to firmly investigate the truth that he presents about himself in the Scriptures.