A Systemic & Semiotic Understanding of Faith

I am a big fan of semiotics and understanding our reality in a semiotic way (for an intro to semiotics click here). I am in the middle of writing my thesis for my MA- Leadership & Organizational Studies degree. Over the past 10 years, semiotics has found its way into organizational behavior/dynamics and religion. I wrote the following in my thesis recently:

Faith at a fundamental level is a shared vision of life for an individual and group. The symbols and vocabulary that are used, the methods that are employed, the rituals that it enacts, and the ways it approaches daily functions such as problem-solving and decision-making all convey a shared meaning—a shared narrative. As such, when one looks at a particular function of the organization (e.g. stewardship practices, communication strategies, methods of communal worship), the language and methods it employees give clues about the real shared vision and narrative of an organization whether it be a corporation, a church, or even an entire culture. Such an understanding of culture, faith, narrative, and shared vision and meaning sheds light on the contemporary state of affairs of Corporate American and American Christianity.


Most people do not view faith this way. They see it as some inner experience. George Lindbeck, who wrote the now classic seminary text, The Nature of Doctrine, discussed how many people see and describe their faith in an experiental-expressive way. This experiental way is very focused on thoughts, feelings, emotions, and existential orientations. As I talk with many Christians (both conservative and liberal), I find them discussing faith from the experiental-expressive view. However, faith is indeed a linguistic system. Such an understanding of faith will revolutionize every aspect of how one does ministry. The truly simple and profound conclusion from this is: most Christians do not realize that Christianity wants to make a claim on every aspect of their lives!

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