Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Faith has its Reasons

People often talk about faith as belief without any evidence. Oddly, some Christians as well as atheists recognize this proposition as true. Sometimes when Christians get together to discuss matters of faith that seem unanswerable, or encounter objections that, on the surface, pose a serious problem toward belief in the Christian religion, they fall back on this quip that faith is belief without any evidence. To the mind of many well-meaning Christians, this absolves them of having to do any legwork or intellectual wrestling with pressing issues, for faith is beyond logic, beyond reason, beyond argumentation, and beyond evidence. Perhaps faith is even opposed to it….

However, this is not the type of faith that is espoused in the biblical corpus. Faith always has an object, and the object of faith—God himself, or more specifically the person and work of Jesus Christ, is given in circumstances where the person called upon by God to have faith is given sufficient reasons for doing so.

For example, Abraham, when he offered up Isaac, had faith in God that God would raise Isaac up from the dead. The author of Hebrews notes that Abraham had the objective revelation from God that Isaac would be the seed of the covenant promise. “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, “In Isaac your seed shall be called,” concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.” Abraham reasoned within himself. He thought about the promise of the covenant, the objective, divine revelation, and made a rational decision to follow the Lord’s call. That is faith. Abraham’s whole, thought-out process here is faith.

When Jesus chides his disciples for reasoning amongst themselves for not understanding his statement to “beware the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod,” he appealed to the evidence of his miracles of feeding the five thousand. (They had stepped in to a boat with him after the miraculous feeding with only a single loaf of bread). He also appealed to the evidence of the left over baskets full of fragments. The disciples did not understand what Jesus meant by the “leaven of the Pharisees” and of Herod. Jesus is asking his disciples to have faith in him to provide for them. In fact, they missed his whole point about the “leaven” of the Pharisees and of Herod (their teachings), and were focused on physical needs. Jesus therefore appeals to the evidence of his miracles and his ability to love and care for his disciples. He calls for them to have faith in him, based upon what he had done for them in the past. When Jesus calls someone to faith, it is not without reason, nor without evidence.

In John 10:38, Jesus says, “But if I do it, even though you (the unbelieving Jews) do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." The purpose of the miracles serve as evidence for belief, and a reason to have faith.

In Romans 15:18-19, Paul says, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done— by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.” Paul ties the Gentiles’ belief in the gospel with the evidence of his miraculous sign gifts done in the power of the Holy Spirit. These miracles serve as evidence, and as good reason for a person to put faith in Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and adoption into God’s family.

The faith that the Bible commends, therefore, is one of a belief based upon evidence. Faith is not a blind, irrational leap in the dark in the Scriptures. On the contrary, it is the fruit of eyewitness accounts of the preaching, teaching and miraculous sign gift ministry of the apostles.

However, you may be saying: “Sure, in the first century, the first Christians believed in Jesus based upon the evidence of the miracles of Jesus and the Apostles. But we don’t have that today. We have a Bible which tells these stories, and we have to believe the stories on blind faith.” That is not true, really. First, Peter says the word of God is better than any mountain top experience (1 Peter 1:16-21). And Peter saw Jesus transfigured on a mountaintop. Secondly, evidence is something that can be examined, and the Scriptures can indeed be examined: have they been transmitted accurately over time? Is there any archeological corroboration to support their claims? Do non-biblical writers of antiquity mention Jesus or the Christian religion? Have any prophecies written in the Bible come true? Is it unified in its message about God, man, salvation, etc.? There are these evidences, and these evidences serve as good reasons for faith. (These evidences don’t prove Christianity to be true, but that’s for another essay). Do some Christians have blind faith? Yes. Do they have to? No. Faith always has its reasons.

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