Robert Meyer
The nature of biblical faith
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By Robert Meyer
June 26, 2017

A common quip regarding the topic of faith is that "Faith is believing something you know ain't so." Perhaps Christians are themselves guilty of perpetuating this epistemological straw man by virtue of the comments and bromides they have used habitually in reference to faith. This is largely the product of theological ignorance, and unfortunately often the stance of believer and unbeliever alike.

The precept of biblical faith has virtually nothing in common with the imagery conjured up by the concept of "Blind faith." God never expects a believer to just believe without evidence, or worse still, against the evidence. In the book of Romans, Paul informs us that God reveals his existence to humankind through the revelation of the natural order, along with the self-attesting witness of the conscience. Those who deny or ignore these sign posts are said to be "Suppressing the truth in unrighteousness."

Think of the clever fellow who shows up at the swimming pool party. During the volleyball game he snatches the ball when others are distracted, thrusts it underwater, sits on it, then remarks inquisitively "Hey, where's the ball, where's the ball?"

Blind faith, on the other hand, would be to unshakably hold on to an idea that we have good reasons for believing false. For example, we could argue that a colony of 1119 purple ants live in a mound on the surface of Venus. Not only do we have no good reason for believing this to be true, but we have good reasons to presume it is false.

A false understanding of scriptural teaching is at the heart of unbelieving responses to biblical faith. Such a record is found in the 20th chapter of the Gospel of John.

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

The nonbeliever often uses this passage to conclude that Jesus delights in belief without evidence. The passage never states that one should believe without evidence, but points to those followers, present and future, who would believe on Christ, though they had never been graced by his personal, bodily presence. Only two verses later we read...

31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

The biblical writer infers that we may come to know without actually physically seeing.

A few nights ago, I had a hankering for a hot fudge sundae. I asked my wife if there was a carton of ice-cream in the freezer. We know how she would go about investigating that question; by looking in the freezer to see if the ice-cream is there. To assume that we can answer the question of God's existence, or reduce it to the methodology we use to answer the "ice-cream in the freezer" inquiry, is not merely over-simplified, it is clearly mistaken. But that's exactly the method of operation used by the unbeliever when irreverently asking "Where's the beef."

My own definition of biblical faith is summarized in this statement: "Faith is belief in what we cannot see on the basis of those things we already have perceived and understand." We could call this confidence based on experience, and the process is little different from the scientist who must believe a priori in the uniformity of nature in order to make sense of his experimental results.

Confirming this, physicist Paul Davies wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece exclaiming: "Science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview...even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith the existence of a law-like order in nature that is at least in part comprehensible to us."

Reason itself rests on a foundation of faith in God's universe, not in contrast to it. If we extend the atheists' meta narratives to their logical ends we wind up with unintelligible nonsense.

J.B.S. Haldane once commented thoughtfully and conclusively, "If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose that my beliefs are true...and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.

Faith is not a leap into the arms of Nothing.

© Robert Meyer

 

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Robert Meyer

Robert Meyer is a hardy soul who hails from the Cheesehead country of the upper midwest... (more)

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