While preparing to teach a Confirmation class about Faith, I’ve been doing a bit of “Google-ing” to see how different folks define what Faith is. I’ve read everything from commentaries by Biblical scholars and Christian leaders to message board conversations between agnostics and athiests. And I’m amazed at how often I see faith basically defined as (paraphrasing here) “a belief in something without evidence to back it up.”
Now, I can see where folks with no foundation in the teachings of Christ might come up with that definition, or something very similar to it. It mirrors the dictionary definition of “belief that is not based on proof.” But it kinda troubles me to see Christians defining faith as something they have no evidence for.
Most folks point to Hebrews 11:1 for their definition of faith:
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
Where does that imply a lack of evidence? Just because we “hope for” something and “do not see” it doesn’t mean there’s no evidence for its existence. The Bible is full of the evidence. It isn’t a collection of fantasies…it is a proven, actual, historical account.
Now, some would say it takes faith to believe in that statement. But there is a clear body of evidence outside the Bible itself to prove its historical accuracy.
So maybe it actually takes MORE faith to NOT believe in the Bible. One would have to be willing to ignore a vast archeological record to discredit the Biblical account of history. Talk about believing something without proof!
But back to the point…the evidence for our faith certainly abounds in the Biblical account, which, after all, is the story of God’s relationship with people. Let’s look back at Hebrews 11:1, but let’s take the statements in reverse order.
First, the certainty of what we do not see. Many people use the example of wind to illustrate our faith….we cannot see the wind itself, but we can certainly see the results of the wind. We can’t see the air in a balloon, but we can see how the air shapes the balloon. In many ways, we can say the same thing about God the Father. We may not be able to see his face, but we can see his creation, and the preponderance of our human experience tells us that creation is far too intricate and complex to be the result of an accident (talk about something else that requires belief wihtout evidence!!).
That takes us to the first part of the definition: being sure of what we hope for. Because much of what we hope for is something that has been seen: God the Son. If we believe the historical accuracy of the Bible, we have to also believe the eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus. We can’t presuppose that a fictional tale was inserted into an otherwise factual historical account. So even though we may not see the actual face of the actual man Jesus in the year 2008, we have an accurate historical record that he walked the earth, performed miracles that would even today confound science, endured a torturous death, and was raised from the dead. Even the resurrected Jesus was seen by hundreds of witnesses. So the proof is in the historical account. There can be no question that Jesus existed, and that his actions proved that he was who he claimed to be: God in human flesh.
Being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see is also manifested in our personal experience with God. The principle of prevenient grace illustrates how God pursues us even before we become aware of it. Granted, most unbelievers would not be able to relate that experience, although I’m sure some could speak to it. But once we choose to accept the evidence and confess that we believe the evidence, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit begins to work in us. We do things that we only begin to understand later as we mature as Christians.
In his book How Now Shall We Live, Chuck Coulson lays out the arguments for why a Biblical Christian worldview is the only worldview that makes sense of the human experience. Naturalism and utopianism are entirely contrary to the human experience. Faith in the truth of Jesus Christ is the only thing that explains how good and evil, joy and suffering, intelligent design and science can co-exist in this universe. All other explanations fall short. The evidence is there. The shadow proves the sunshine. The creation proves the creator.