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.
3 thoughts on “The Foundation of Faith”
I have to look no further for examples and events that make me certain of what I do not see than in my own life. For me, faith is personal, and the proof is in the pudding. I can consider a host of philosophical illustrations, historical accounts, and archeological evidence, and all of it can be quite convincing and interesting, as well. However, for me, the strongest factor in the development of my faith has been my own life. When I look back over my life so far and see some of the choices I have made and some of the roads I have chosen, it is not difficult at all for me to see where God has worked and intervened on my behalf. How many times could the outcome have been completely horrible? How often has He spared me from ruin or extreme detriment? How many times has He gently guided me to a better place? I do not deserve to be where I am today or to be as blessed as I am, yet here I am. Look at my life! I didn’t get here by my own accord. My present status has nothing to do with my choosing well. My circumstance has not evolved through some random set of events. No! He is here, and He has led me all the way. To me, faith is personal, and His presence in my life is all the proof I need. The rest is interesting and fascinating, but academic by comparison. Whenever my faith is shaken or when I start to question where He is or what He is doing, this is where I return. This is where I go. I just look back over the journey so far, and then I can clearly see that He is still with me and that He has a plan for me. He is in control, and that is all I need. He is who He has said He would be. He’s even more than He promised. I love Him, and I love His presence in my life. That is the foundation of my faith. Isn’t it funny how something that can’t necessarily be seen is so entirely beautiful.
I will find it interesting to read where others find the foundation of their faith. What makes you certain of what you do not see?
I had a conversation with a relative the other day who had been to a Bible study where people were talking about their conversion experiences. My aunt said she was very quiet throughout the evening, listening to the amazing tales of the others in the group. But she felt like she didn’t have anything to offer. Her faith is something she grew up with and into naturally and fairly easily, and she feels humbled by that and not able to be a part of “conversion conversations.”
I told her I could certainly understand her feelings. I once thought I had no testimony to give. How could I explain my faith when I had no crisis event that turned my life around and brought me to Jesus? I thought my story was not interesting enough, and so not worth telling. I grew up in a loving household and a loving church. I don’t remember a time that I didn’t believe that Jesus was my Lord and Savior. I have never had a time in my life that I didn’t know with complete certainty that I was loved. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had my faith questions and my life problems, but I consider questioning periods as times of growth, and I believe God was with me in all of those times, answering my questions and letting me mess up my life a bit to learn some of the answers.
What I’ve learned, though, is that we are ones that have AMAZING testimonies. We are truly and richly blessed. My aunt came back with, “Why us?” My reply was, simply, “Grace.” It is humbling, but we are the ones that should be out there shouting our joy and telling about our faith. We have a wonderful story to tell. We are blessed. We don’t deserve it. That is the point.
Faith is a very personal thing, and we each have our own stories to tell. Doesn’t that make it all the more amazing?!
People confuse faith with belief, but the Bible is pretty clear that there is a big difference. I can believe and airplane will fly because I’ve see it happen many times on TV and in the sky overhead, but I may still be terrified of flying and never actually been in an airplane. ON the other hand, I can have faith in the airplane will fly this time because I’ve flown many times before, maybe not in the plane or this time of day or to this destination, but I have faith it will happen.
Faith is based on a relationship and experience. The bible says “The righteous will live by faith” another way to say that is “the righteous will live by a relationship”. I am sure of what I do not see because I know in whom I believe that He is able to accomplish all things. I don’t doubt, because I know I can count on the God who offered his Son on a Cross for Me! I can have rock solid faith in a God like that!