Q&A: What is Faith?

I don’t like the word “faith.”

It’s not that faith isn’t valuable.  True biblical faith is essential for salvation.  But faith is often deeply misunderstood in a way that hurts Christianity and harms Christians.

Some think that having a level of certainty about the truth of Christianity makes “belief” unnecessary or irrelevant.  That kind of knowledge undermines genuine faith and offends God.

The reasoning goes something like this.  We all know God wants us to have faith.  In fact, without faith, it’s impossible to please Him (Hebrews 11:6).  However, gathering evidence for God and Christianity leaves little room for faith. After all, how can one have faith in something he knows is true?  Faith, then, is opposed to knowledge.  Therefore, apologetics undermines the faith project and thus displeases the Lord.

On this view, faith is believing the unbelievable, clinging to your convictions when all the evidence is against you.  Faith is a “leap,” a blind, desperate lunge in the darkness.  When doubts or troubles beset us we’re told to “just have faith,” as if we could squeeze out spiritual hope by intense acts of sheer will.

This view of faith reduces Christian conviction to religious wishful thinking.  We can hope, but we can never know.

But this will never work.  Someone once said, “The heart cannot believe that which the mind rejects.”  If you are not confident the message of Scripture is actually true, you can’t believe it even if you tried.

The “I just take Christianity on (blind) faith” attitude can’t be the right approach.  It leaves the Bible without defense, yet Peter directs us to make a defense for the hope that is in us.

Also, the biblical word for faith, pistis, doesn’t mean wishing.  It means active trust.  And trust cannot be conjured up or manufactured.  It must be earned.  You can’t exercise the kind of faith the Bible has in mind unless you’re reasonably sure that some particular things are true.

In fact, I suggest you completely ban the phrase “leap of faith” from your vocabulary.  Biblical faith is based on knowledge, not wishing or blind leaps.  Knowledge builds confidence and confidence leads to trust.  The kind of faith God is interested in is not wishing.  It’s trust based on knowing, a sure confidence grounded in evidence.

The following biblical examples make my point.

Continue Reading ->

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