What is faith? Must faith be blind? What is biblical faith?

9 Feb

I once had a discussion with an atheist who started our dialogue with this statement, “given that faith is belief without reason or evidence…”  I had to stop him there, of course, since he assumed two things I disputed.  First, that he didn’t have faith of any kind.  Second, that Christian faith is blind.  Michael Patton has provided a nice post on this over at Parchment and Pen:

There are four different ways to define faith. It is incredibly important that we, as Christians, don’t go wrong here.

1. Blind Faith: Faith is a blind leap into the dark.

“Faith is a blind leap into the dark. The blinder the leap, the greater the faith.” Have you ever heard this? In the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, this mentality was put on the big screen. Indiana Jones was making his way through the caves through tests and trials as he attempted to retrieve the Holy Grail, which would bring life back to his dying father. The last test was a “test of faith.” Here Jones was challenged by a great chasm which separated him from the grail. But when he looked, there was no way across the chasm. The solution? A step of faith. After much hesitation, he closed his eyes, held his breath and took the blind leap. His faith was rewarded as a bridge, unseen to the naked eye, suddenly appeared.

Take something as simple as a chair. God is the chair. He is asking you to sit down (rest) in the chair. If faith were a blind leap into the dark, this is what it might look like:

Faith1

2. Irrational Faith: Faith as an irrational leap

In this view, faith is something we have in spite of the evidence. While everything may militate against our faith, we are to make the most irrational choice of all. The more irrational the faith, the greater the faith. Here is what it looks like with the chair (notice all the rationality is behind you):

Faith2

3. Warranted Faith: Faith as a step according to the evidence

The next option is that faith is a step taken according to rational evidence and inquiry. In other words, we believe because it makes sense. Everything in life, according to this view, takes faith. Even getting in your car and driving to work takes faith. You have to have faith that your car’s brakes won’t go out, that other drivers will not cross the yellow line, and that you won’t fall asleep at the wheel. These are all steps of faith, but they don’t need to be irrational or blind steps. We can have warranted trust in ourselves, other drivers, and our car due to our knowledge of these things. This is called “warranted faith.” We make our decisions precisely because the evidence supports it, but this is still faith. This is what it might look like:

Faith3

4. Biblical Faith: Warranted faith brought about by the Holy Spirit

It might surprise you to know that while all of these are legitimate ways that the word “faith” is used today, none of them represent the faith expressed in the Bible. The faith that God calls on us to have is neither blind nor irrational. And while we believe our faith is the most rational choice that we can make given the evidence, rational alone is not enough. The Bible says that without outside intervention, we are antagonistic to spiritual truths. If we rely on naked intellect or personal effort alone, even as Christians, we will never truly be able to rest in God. The most important component to our faith has yet to be revealed. What is this element? It is the power of the Holy Spirit. The third member of the Trinity must ignite our faith. Yes, he uses rationale , inquiry, evidences, personal effort, and our minds to do so. But these things alone can only get us so far. In order to have true faith, the power of the Holy Spirit must move within us, releasing us from the bondage of our will. True biblical faith looks like this:

Faith4

It is our will that is the problem. We don’t have the will to trust in God alone. Listen to what Paul says to the Corinthians:

1 Cor. 2:12-14 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Any time we rely on ourselves to rest in God, we are acting as “natural” people. We have to act as spiritual people and call on God to increase our faith through the power of the Spirit as the Spirit energizes our will and intellect.

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One Response to “What is faith? Must faith be blind? What is biblical faith?”

  1. Rev. Bryant J. Williams III February 9, 2013 at 11:19 am #

    I think that people confuse faith with wishfulness and hope. I agree that faith is not blind. First, it is objective, requires an object: faith, belief or trust in something. Second, can be subjective in that it is personal. Third, faith and knowledge are both intuitive, intellectual and experiential. The difference is that while knowledge is limited and take a person so far along the line, faith will take what knowledge has revealed and based on that knowledge lead the person forward. Faith requires the person to trust in what God has done in the past and will also do in the present and will also do in the future.

    Example: I Peter 4:17, “For the time has come that judgement must begin at the house of God, …” It is quite clear that God has judged the house of God in the time of the Exodus in the Tabernacle with Nadab and Abihu. Judgement with the Israelite nation coming out of Egypt for 40 years. Judgement of the nation at the sin of Achan. Judgement at the time Eli and Samuel and the captivity of the Ark of the Covenant. Judgement of the nation of Israel in 722 BC. Judgement of the nation of Judah in 586 BC beginning with Ezekiel 9 and the marking of the sinning priests in the Temple. Finally, the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.

    Faith and knowledge indicates that all that I mentioned did occur. The difference is that knowledge says that the events mentioned did occur, but can say nothing about the future. But faith takes what God has done in the past (knowledge and faith) and proceeds to say that God will also do it in the future. That is faith.

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