Faith is More than Feeling
Faith is more than a feeling, more than a blind leap in the dark. Faith has substance, and it includes evidence that is clear and available for everyone, regardless of their background or circumstances. Biblical definition of faith: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Hebrews 11:1.
Many people have different defintions of faith. Here is a random sampling of people-Christian and non-Christians definitions of faith:
- "Faith is believing something you know ain't true." -Mark Twain
- "Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light." -Helen Keller
- "Faith is the opening of all sides and at every level of one's life to the divine inflow" -Martin Luther King, Jr.
- "I think that faith is, in principle, in conflict with reason." -Sam Harris
- "Faith is not being sure of where you're going, but going anyway"-Frederick Buechner
Everybody has faith
When people hear the word faith, they associate it with religion. The thing is everybody has faith, and they have it every day. If you don't have faith, you would never leave the house! For example, you have faith that your car is going to start and get you to work. You have faith in other drivers on the road, that they won't slam into your car. It is possible that your car, will not start or that your car will get hit by other cars on the road. Yes, those things are possible, but they're not likely, so you can move on. In other words, your faith in these objects (your car, other drivers, the weather and so on) rests in your knowledge of them and your experience with them, which add up to trust, confidence and belief.
Faith and Belief
Faith isn't blind, irrational or stupid. Every person exercises faith every day-many times a day. Faith doesn't take away from belief. Faith adds to belief in that it adds trust, and in doing so, faith gives you the confidence to act on or to commit to the things you believe. In fact, without faith, we would never act on our belief in a car, belief in people, or belief in God. Does that mean that your faith in cars and their drivers is the same as your belief in God? No. The difference between everyday faith and the kind of faith described in Hebrews 11:1 has to do with the object of your faith. It is a different kind of faith.
A Different Kind of faith
Christianity is a religion just like Islam or Judaism. Christianity is also called a faith. Faith includes a body of knowledge that Christians believe and affirm. It means that true Christians believe that God exist and that what He says in His word-the Bible-is true. That in itself is good, but it's not good enough. It's not enough to just believe in God. Even demons believe in God!-James 2:19. We need to put our trust in God and commit ourselves to Him. That's what having faith in God means.
This is what distinguishes the Christian faith from other kinds of faith. Objects such as an organization, friends, governments, a machine or even a religion aren't 100 percent reliable. At some point, regardless of how much you put your faith in these things, your best friend can betray you, you might be laid off from your job, your car will stall and die, and that pastor you highly admire has a secret sin that comes to light. Consequently, you would never want to completely stake your life on these objects, especially your life for eternity. It's just too risky. Only one object is worthy of that kind of faith, and that's God.
- God is holy. He is righteous. No fault is found in Him. His moral character is without flaw.-Isaiah 6:3
- God doesn't change. He is immutable-James 1:17, Hebrews 13:8
- God is just. He is fair and impartial-Deuteronomy 32:4
The Object of our Faith
We have faith in the whole person of God-His character traits and the way He interacts with His creation. For the Christain, this includes everything that God has revealed in the Bible about Himself and the world He has created. God have revealed himself in the Bible, but that doesn't mean we can know everything about Him. "My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts."...Isaiah 55:8-9.
At the same time God is knowable. The Bible has given us what we need in order to know God and live for Him. Some parts of the Christian faith are not easy to understand. To put basic elements of the Christian faith into some systematic order-thoughtful people throughout history of the church have organized the teachings of the Bible called doctrines. For doctrinal statements of belief or propositions, we call those creeds. A creed is a measurement or standard of correct belief. Examples are the Apostles' Creed and the Nicene Creed-which were written in order to present in an organized fashion what God has revealed in the Bible about himself and the word.
We need objectivity in our understanding of who God is and what He wants for us. Otherwise faith is reduced to a subjective feeling, where one person's opinion about God and Christianity is as good as another's, even if the opinions are very different.
The Author of Faith
God is not only the object of faith, but also the author of faith in that He is the one who revealed the propositions we believe. God "authored" faith in two ways:
- Through His written word, the Bible
- Through the living Word, Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 1:1-2 summarizes these two ways how God the author has spoken to us.
The Act of Faith
Faith is more than just believing in God. As mentioned, even demons believe there is a God! - James 2:19. Faith at this level puts us in the same category as demons! The point James is making is that believing in God is not enough. We need to actually believe God and put our trust in Him, that who He is and what He says in His word are not only true but also true for us.
Without knowledge, faith is reduced to wishful thinking and empty hope, and at that level it doesn't help us at all. Harold Lindsell writes " No man can be saved without knowing something. Faith is not ignorance. It is not closing one's eyes to the facts. Faith is never afraid to look the truth squarely in the face."
Faith and Trust
Faith and belief means much more than mere confidence in knowledge of a fact. It goes beyond the kind of belief that is based on seeing the truth for ourselves. For example, Thomas refused to believe. He wanted absolute proof that Jesus was alive. He wanted to verify the evidence the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead. Jesus did not criticize Thomas for this. Jesus understood that faith must go beyond what we can personally know and experience with our senses. Jesus said to Thomas "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29) This is the trust part.
Faith and Commitment
Knowledge and trust are both essential to faith but there is one more aspect of faith that is critical. Having true faith means that you also commit yourself to God by conforming your will to God and His will. At this level faith involves attitude and emotions and behavior. At the same time, unless we make a commitment to obey God and to do the things he planned for us long ago-Ephesians 2:10. Our faith is literally dead and useless-James 2:17.
Faith is a decision
Many people believe in God, and they have knowledge about God through the stories of other people and content of the Bible, but they haven't decided to completely trust in God to save them to the person and work of Jesus. Theologian Wayne Grudem puts it this way:
In addition to knowledge of the facts of the gospel and approval of those facts, in order to be saved I must decide to depend on Jesus to save me. In doing this I move from being an interested observer of the facts of salvation and the teachings of the Bible to being someone who enters into a new relationship with Jesus Christ as a living person.
Why did God choose faith?
Why didn't God leave us a smoking gun as irrefutable evidence to show that he exist and to demonstrate without question to the whole world that the Bible is true in a word, the answer is that God didn't want saving faith to depend on us but on Him. He didn't want saving faith to be a condition of the mind. It must also be an attitude of the heart. As Grudem says, "When we come to Christ in faith we essentially say, 'I give up! I will not depend on myself or my own good works any longer.'"
Two extremes to avoid
Evidentialism. This view says that everything we know can and should be understood or proven by reason. People who emphasized his view believe that the Christian faith should be anchored in evidence in historically verifiable facts. They argue that defending Christianity should rest primarily in the evidence of creation, the Bible, and Jesus especially His resurrection.
Fideism. This term comes from the Latin word fide means faith. The theistic view holds that the only knowledge we can have is by faith. While evidentialism says that the best way to come to faith in God is the reason and evidence, fideism says that you should come to faith by believing in God apart from reason and evidence. Faith in God cannot be rooted in rational argument because faith is a matter of the heart, not the head.
A Balanced Approach
The Christian faith is a balanced faith. It is reasonable, and the evidence supports the truth claims of Christianity so you don't have to check your brains at the door when you act in faith to trust and commit yourself to Jesus Christ. But neither do you need to have rational answers for every question in order for your faith to be valid it's not neither faith nor reason. Both faith and reason.
- Christian apologetics is the process of providing reasonable explanations for the truth claims of the Christian faith.
- Faith is more than a feeling or a blind leap in the dark. Faith has substance, and it includes evidence for faith that is available for everyone.
- Faith doesn't take away from belief. Faith adds to belief in the form of trust and commitment.
- It's not enough to believe in God; we need to believe God by trusting him and committing ourselves to him.
- The difference between the Christian faith and other kinds of faith is that the object of the Christian faith is completely reliable and trustworthy. The object of Christian faith is, of course, God, including everything God has revealed about himself in the Bible.
- We have propositions statements of belief to help us understand the basis and the basis of the Christian faith. Although propositions help us define what it means to have faith in God, they are not the objects of our faith.
- God is not only the object of faith, but also author of faith. God has anchored faith through the Bible and through Jesus Christ.
- Knowledge about God guides us to believe in God, and then we must act in faith by adding trust and commitment to our belief.
- Saving faith is trust in Jesus Christ as a living person for forgiveness of sins and for eternal life with God.
- The Christian faith is a reasonable faith. We can find reasons and evidence to support the truth claims of Christianity, but we don't have rational answers to every question in order for our faith to be valid.
Reflection and Discussion
- What's the difference between defending your faith and getting defensive about your faith? What kind of signal do you send to someone when you get defensive? What kind of signal do you send when you present the truth in love?
- Why do you think some people who exercise faith in ordinary things have trouble exercising faith in God?
- What is the difference between knowing God and knowing about God? Has there been a time in your life when you knew about God but didn't really know him?
Bickel, Bruce and Stan Jantz. Evidence for Faith 101:Understanding Apologetics in Plain Language. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008, 21-34