What does faith mean from a Biblical perspective? Do we use the word today like it was used back then? Is biblical faith blind or a leap? Is it believing in-spite of evidence?
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Hello and welcome to Unapologetic, a podcast about defending, not apologizing for, our Christian convictions. My name’s Brian and today we’re going to answer some important questions; for instance, what is faith? Is it a way of knowing something? Is it what we do when we don’t know something? Is it a way of acting? We’re going to tackle these questions today on Unapologetic.
(0:24) So, faith. We’ve got two different usages of the word. The first would be a collection of beliefs. So, for instance, Christianity is a faith, Islam is a faith. Hinduism, I guess you could call a faith (it’s a little different in that regard). It’s just a collection of beliefs, so that way you could say, “a people of my faith; a people of my collection of beliefs.”
(0:48) But there’s another usage of the word and it’s, “I have faith that such and such is going to happen.” “Can you prove that God exists?” “No, but I have faith”‘ And so faith really seems to have taken on this idea of something you do when you don’t know something. And in fact, sadly culture has put a couple of words in front of faith, like “leap of” faith, or “blind” faith, and it’s distorted, and we’ve let people distort, what the Biblical usage of faith really is.
(1:24) Faith doesn’t have really anything to do with knowing. That’s the first thing I want to tell you. Faith isn’t believing in spite of something, it doesn’t have to do with how you know. Faith has to do with how you act.
(1:37) In Mark 2:9-11, we see “which is easier to say to the paralytic, ‘your sins are forgiven’? Or to say, ‘stand up, take your stretcher and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you, stand up, take your stretcher, and go home.'” What did Jesus say here? “So that you may know.” Not “have faith” but faith would flow from what he knew. So many times in the New Testament, we see knowledge being talked about when coming to faith in Christ is being talked about.
(2:14) Here’s another example. Peter makes a case and then says, “‘Therefore, let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus, who you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ Now when they heard this, they were acutely distressed and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘What should we do then, brothers?’ Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.'” There’s no “have faith” in that passage; what it says is, “repent”. Now, this is another word that, sadly, has been watered down in Christianity. But repent in the Bible, when it’s used like that, actually means to change your mind. So, Peter makes this case and they say, “what do we do?” And he says, “change your mind”!
(3:07) Now, if you change your mind, will you change direction, like is often said of the word repent? Yes. Will you say you’re sorry? You will. If you change your mind about your sin, you’ll say you’re sorry. However, it starts with a change of mind. What we see is that the mind, knowing, knowledge, these things are key to Christianity. They don’t say, “have faith”, and what they don’t say is, “believe in spite of evidence.”
(3:35) Another example, this time with Jesus. A centurion comes up to Him and wants Him to heal his servant. And Jesus says, “OK, I’ll come,” and the centurion says, “no, don’t do that, I’m not worthy to have You come in my house. Just say the word and it’ll be done.” Now here’s what Jesus said: “When Jesus heard this, He was amazed and said to those who followed Him, ‘I tell you the truth, I have not found such faith in anyone in Israel.'” Well what’s Jesus talking about here with faith? Is He talking about something this man knew? No, he’s talking about how this man acted.
This man exhibited trust after being convinced by evidence. Jesus had been a miracle worker, He had been going around doing things. This man knew about Jesus and that’s why he came to Him, to ask Him to heal his servant. He exhibited faith, not a way of knowing something. It’s not a belief, it’s an action. He approached Jesus and, you might say “stepped out on faith”, although I think that’s another term that’s been, sadly, redefined, but he acted out of his beliefs. And that action was faith.
(4:48) An apologist, Greg Koukl, likes to use the definition for faith, ‘active trust in something you have good reason to believe is true.’ And that captures the heart of it, we need good reason to believe something is true or we’re not going to act, most of the time, but it is the acting that is the faith part of things. Here’s an example. You can be very knowledgable about airplanes. You can have done a lot of research and understand aerodynamics and hydrodynamics and fluid mechanics and all of these different things, and how airplanes work. So you can know all about them, you can that know a certain plane can take off here and take you over here and you’ll land. But you do not exercise faith until you get on that plane and it taxis down the runway. That’s what faith is, it’s an action
(5:44) Another example. My wife and I dated for something like 7 years before we got married. Way too long. It was good, it was just a long time. But here’s the thing, I had become convinced that she would be a great wife and based on everything I’d seen, I knew that. But I didn’t exercise faith until I asked her to marry me and we actually said, “I do.” So the faith was an action, it had nothing to do with how or what I knew. That’s important to understand, faith is not acting in spite of evidence, it is acting because of evidence. Faith is not what you do when you don’t know something. Faith is what you do because of something you do know and are convinced of.
(6:30) What about blind faith? Is that what Christians are supposed to have? Well no. Christians are supposed to worship in spirit and in truth. You’ve got to know the truth to worship God that way. Additionally, when the Bible says to be prepared to give a defense, that requires knowing something. So we’re told to know things. In the Great Commission, Matthew records Jesus saying, “Go into all the world, making disciples.” That requires some knowledge, a lot of knowledge. To be a disciple, a follower of someone, you have to study that person.
So having faith can’t be not having knowledge. There’s not some spectrum where faith is over here and knowledge is over there. That’s not how it works. Because if it did, then you could lose knowledge and gain faith, or gain knowledge and lose faith. If faith is trust, and that’s the accurate, Biblical definition, then knowing more will most likely increase your faith.
(7:39) And that’s how it’s been for me. I went through a time in my life where I had no faith, pretty much, no active trust, because I didn’t feel I had good reasons to believe that the Gospel was true. But the more i’ve learned, the more truth I’ve devoured, the more of a disciple I’ve become, because of the things I’ve known, the more I’ve put into practice, and that’s faith. Active trust, doing the things that God told me to, that’s active trust in something I have good reason to believe is true.
(8:19) American evolutionary biologist Richard Lewontin said the following, “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated, just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.” So this is someone who’s very much not a Christian, and he’s saying, “we believe science, in spite of the fact that some of it’s absurd, in spite of the fact that it doesn’t deliver on the promises that it claims to. But why do we do it? Because we have a pre-commitment to materialism”. That’s the claim that only material things exist.
Ok, so if you can’t touch it, taste it, smell it or feel it, it doesn’t exist. Well what does that exclude? That excludes God, that excludes a soul or a mind, it excludes moral values – they’re not material. What he might not realize is that numbers, mathematics, is immaterial. Logic, the laws of logic, those are also immaterial. But he uses those all the time as a scientist. That’s another conversation for another day.
My point is, is that Richard Lewontin puts faith, and I use this word in a non-Biblical way, in science. He believes without evidence, or even in spite of evidence. If you can say something’s absurd and doesn’t deliver on its promises and still believe it, because you have a pre-commitment to something, you’re exercising trust in something, that’s true. But it’s not something you have good reason to believe in.
(9:56) On the other hand, a Biblical faith is something that is based on reasons. It is based on knowledge, it is based on truth. A foundation that can support you as you act in trust.
(10:11) So I would encourage you, maybe don’t use the word faith; maybe use the term convictions, because when we use the word faith, we’re talking about, sadly, things we believe, or how we believe or know something. And that’s not really a Biblical usage. So maybe talk about your convictions instead. Not my ‘faith’ in Christ, but my conviction that Christ is Lord and God. That communicates well in today’s culture. People have convictions about all types of things. Like animal rights, or not eating meat, or these different types of things. So the word faith, sadly, has been corrupted: the words, “leap of”, “blind faith”, and these different terms, so let’s use convictions, or trust, something that actually is a little more powerful of a word, which can convey the more powerful way we think about things.
(11:00) Well, I hope this episode of Unapologetic has been helpful to you. And I hope that you will act in faith in your daily life, that you will continue to grow in knowledge, as Paul says we should, and that our faith may abound. Thank you for joining me on this episode of Unapologetic. I hope you’ll join me next time.