Some More Reflections On The Nature Of Faith

I think one hurdle in people's spiritual journey is a misunderstanding of what faith is. Faith is not belief in a worldview in the lack of any evidence or good reason. Nor is it a blind, unsubstantiated leap in the dark. It's trust in a person to follow through with what they say they're going to do. We Christians have faith because we believe in God's promises for our lives. And the level of faith one has is truly shown when it needs to be called upon.

Sometimes God looks like a potential promise breaker. Sometimes our situations have deceitful appearances. This is why Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in God with all our hearts and not to lean on our understanding. When God called upon Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, I can only wonder what was going through his mind. Isaac was the child of the promise. He was the one whom God would found the nation of Israel through. It was through his lineage that the savior of the world would come. How can God do that if Isaac is dead? But Abraham trusted in God. He was going to go through with it anyway. Same with Moses. Moses had pretty strong evidence for God’s existence. Nevertheless, he still had to trust in God that He was going to do everything He said He was going to do. After all, how did Moses know that God really was going to set the Israelites free? How did he know God wasn’t lying? He likely didn’t even know at that point that God wasn’t even capable of lying. He didn’t have the old and new testaments at his disposal. He stood before Pharaoh, trusting that God would protect him from Pharaoh’s wrath. He believed that God would lead him and the Israelites out of Egypt and put the Pharaoh to shame…which He did. That was faith.

Faith and trust are synonyms. Evidence does not cancel out faith. You can have irrefutable proof that God exists and still not have faith in Him. You have evidence that your spouse exists, but that doesn’t necessarily produce faith in him or her that he or she will stay faithful to you. How do you know he or she isn’t cheating on you?

Jesus ascended into Heaven and promised to come back again some day. I believe we have extremely powerful historical evidence that Jesus not only existed, but both claimed to be God and proved those claims true by rising from the dead…thus, establishing the existence of God and that He has authority from God. Nevertheless, that does not prove that Jesus will in fact return some day. We have to have faith that He will. But based on what we do know about Jesus from the evidence, such faith is reasonable.

There’s a difference between belief that and belief in. Belief that is (or at least can be) based on evidence. Belief in is taking a step in the direction of the evidence and placing your faith in a person. All the arguments for God’s existence might convince you atheism isn’t true and that there is a being like The Bible describes, but that won’t make you trust that He’s got a good plan for your life, that He’s working all things together for your good (Romans 8:28),  etc.

If someone asked me “How do you know Jesus is coming back again?” What would I say to that person? I would tell them “I know He is because He said He would and I believe Him. I trust that Jesus will do as He said”. That is faith. That is true blue faith.

Now, If someone asked me how I know God exists, I would give a different answer, I might give The Kalam Comological Argument, The Fine Tuning Argument, The DNA-To-Design Argument, The Moral Argument, or perhaps The Ontological Argument. That’s an evidence based belief.

If someone asked me “How do you know Jesus rose from the dead?” I would point to the historical evidence pointing to His empty tomb, the historical evidence that His followers and even a couple of skeptics (i.e James and Paul) saw Him appear to them shortly after His death, and that the disciples of Jesus believed that He had risen from the dead so strongly that that were willing to die horrific deaths preaching to people that He had risen from the dead…even though…as Jews…they had every presupposition against the resurrection. I would then tell them that the resurrection hypothesis makes sense of all this data and that no naturalistic hypothesis can explain these pieces of evidence as well as the resurrection hypothesis. That’s a belief based on evidence.

On the other hand, if someone asked me how I know God will do what He says and will let those who trust Christ into Heaven, I will say “because He said He would. I have faith that God will do what He said. He said He would let us into Heaven if we trust in Christ and I believe Him.” Once again, we’re back to faith. Although I should point out that since the Moral and Ontological arguments demonstrate that God not only exists, but is morally perfect (in fact He's the standard by which we measure the moral character of people), He cannot lie, therefore this is a reasonable faith.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1

Scripture says that faith is the evidence of the things unseen, confidence in what we hope for, assurance about that which we do not see. I take this to mean things such as God’s promises; Christ’s second coming, that God is faithful to do whatever He says, that He loves us, that if we trust in Christ, we will have eternal life, etc.

You know it’s interesting how Hebrews 11 is all about faith, yet it describes several Old Testament characters who had seen pretty powerful evidence for God’s existence. People such as Noah (verse 7), Abraham (verse 8), Isaac and Jacob (Verse 9), and Sarah (verse 10). Moses too (Verse 23). All of these people had pretty strong evidence that God existed yet the text places them in a sort of faith “Hall of Fame”.

Moses and the Israelites saw God turn all of the water in Egypt into blood (Exodus 7:14-25), Aaron raised his staff again over the streams and rivers causing frogs to come out of the river. The frogs overran the country. The Bible says that frogs were in their bedrooms, beds and kitchens. (Exodus 8:1-15), and several other plagues such as the plague of flies (Exodus 8:20-32), The plague of pestilence (Exodus 9:1-7), plague of boils  (Exodus 9:8-12), plague of pail (Exodus 9:13-35), plague of locusts (Exodus 10:1-20), plague of darkness (Exodus 10:21-29), and the plague of the death of the firstborn (Exodus 11:1-12:36)

Most of us, if we witnessed those things occurring, would conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that God exists, right? Nevertheless, in spite of this evidence the text says the Israelites had faith. Hebrews 11:29 says By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned.”

"When the Israelites saw the mighty power that The Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before Him. THEY PUT THEIR FAITH IN HIM and His servant Moses." - Exodus 14:31

The NIV of Exodus 14:31 says “they put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.”, the NLT says “They put their faith in the LORD and in his servant Moses.”, The ESV says “they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.” The KJV says “the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.”

Clearly, the Israelites had reasons to believe that God existed and was helping them escape Egypt and yet the text they put their faith in Him anyway (for a little while at least. we all know they lost faith a bunch of times after this). They especially had evidence that Moses existed and the text says they placed their faith in him as well. So given this piece of scriptural evidence we know that a Christian can still base his belief that Christianity is true on the basis of evidence and still be able to have faith in God. You see, faith means the same thing as the word “trust”. Or as I’ve said before “Faith is when someone is holding you over a ledge and knowing in your heart that not only will they not let you fall, they’ll pull you up to safety”. You know that person holding onto you exists. You have very powerful evidence that that person exists, yet all the evidence in the world is not going to make you trust that that person will help save your life. This is the real definition of the word “faith”.

Faith is not blind. Despite what many non-Christians and many Christians (unfortunately) want you to believe; biblical faith is not blind faith. Biblical faith is a Cerebral Faith.