15 Jun Three Myths about Faith
Three Myths about Faith
Myth 1: Faith is Religious
The word “faith” is probably used in a religious context more often than not. At the very least, this word triggers associations with religion. Ironically enough, though, biblical faith is actually not religious at all.
Biblical faith can be described this way: the committed belief and trust that something is true. You do not need to be religious at all to be committed to a belief or to trust in something. We all have faith. Maybe we do not all have faith in God, but we all have faith in something. We have faith in our education or training. We have faith in our income or savings account. We have faith in our parent or spouse or other provider. Even when we feel faithless–when we think nothing is certain and no one is trustworthy–we have faith in ourselves and our ability to accurately evaluate the world!
“You can know everything there is to know in the scriptures, practice every spiritual discipline, and participate in every church activity, but until you resolve to trust that all of it is true, you have no faith”
Just as a person does not need any religion to have faith, a person does not need faith to be religious. The way we refer to Christianity as “the faith” can easily lead us to believe that identifying as a Christian means that we have faith in God. This could not be further from the truth.
You can know everything there is to know in the scriptures, practice every spiritual discipline, and participate in every church activity, but until you resolve to trust that all of it is true, you have no faith. At least not faith in God. Take the example of Jonah, who did not trust God and ran away from his assignment (Jonah 1:1-2). Jonah was an Israelite, one of God’s people, and a prophet at that. Yet he did not have faith in God. The pagan sailors and the grossly sinful Ninevites had more faith in than Jonah did (Jonah 1:9-10, 3:5). Likewise, the Pharisees, religious elites of Jesus’ time, were the last to believe him if they ever did.
Myth 2: Faith is Independent of Evidence
Modern use of the word “faith” tends to imply that it is entirely independent of evidence or proof. In fact, dictionary.com gives one definition for “faith” which says “belief that is not based on proof.” With this definition, faith has no place where there is concrete reason to believe something. When you believe something, you either have evidence or you have faith, and in this scenario, evidence is always better.
Even scripture agrees that we should have good reasoning for what we believe! Proverbs 14:15 says, “the simple believes everything, but the prudent gives though to his steps.” When God created the human mind, he gave it the ability to reason, to use logic, to assess information to draw conclusions. I personally believe that is one of the ways we reflect the image of God: God has perfect knowledge and logic and reason! When we “have faith” in the way modern culture has defined it, we are actually betraying some of the greatest gifts God has given to us. Believing something with no logical reason does not make you a super-Christian. It actually just makes you a fool.
Remember, Biblical faith is the committed belief and trust that something is true. It is not blind, and it is certainly not blind by definition. Biblical faith–and all of Christianity for that matter–is actually incredibly reasonable and built on evidence!
The apostles and disciples of Jesus had evidence. They watched Jesus fulfill prophesy after prophesy “as was written” in the Hebrew scriptures. They literally witnessed Jesus’ baptism, transfiguration, resurrection, and ascension with their own eyes. They had good reason to believe that Jesus was who he said he was and would do what he said he would do. I would say their evidence led them to faith in Jesus.
The apostles also used evidence to bring others to Jesus. One example (of many) can be found in Acts 17:
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. (Acts 17:1-4, emphasis mine)
The apostles did not show up and demand that people believe because they said so. They never asked their audience to trust them and to trust God for no reason, and God does not ask that of us either. He gives us ample reason, proof, and evidence of all kinds to put our faith in him (John 20:30-31). His Word is overflowing with evidence of his trustworthiness!
Now we must be careful here also, lest we fall into the same trap that we just found our way out of. We should not take scripture as fact simply because it says we should just like we should not take anyone’s word as fact just because they spoke with confidence. “Because the Bible says so” is a horrible reason to believe something unless the Bible itself is proven to be reliable. The good news is that there is ample evidence in support of the Bible’s trustworthiness. I will not get into the evidence here, but there is a lot of good material on this topic written by others that deserves your time and attention!
Now with all of this said, faith’s relationship with reason does not mean we should understand everything before we choose to trust God. It does mean that we have good reason to trust God in the things we don’t understand. Hebrews 11:1 reminds us that faith is “the conviction of things not seen.” Naturally, if we have evidence to believe a specific fact (or in other words, we see it), then we don’t require conviction of things not seen. Rather, our convictions of things not seen are securely supported by the visible gifts God has given us to trust in his existence, his power, and his Word.
“Faith’s relationship with reason does not mean we should understand everything before we choose to trust God. It does mean that we have good reason to trust God in the things we don’t understand.”
Myth 3: Faith is a Feeling
It is worth noting that faith in God is not natural. Faith or trust in ourselves is most natural, actually. I think that because our natural trust in ourselves feels so much like a feeling, whether boldness or empowerment or confidence, we can easily expect trust in God to feel that way. Certainly you can experience the joyful, freeing feeling that can come from radical faith. But faith itself is not a feeling. It is choice. It is a decision that what God says is true.
“Certainly you can experience the joyful, freeing feeling that can come from the radical faith. But faith itself is not a feeling. It is a choice. It is a decision that what God says is true.”
Hebrews 11 provides several examples of faith:
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks… By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. (Hebrews 11:4, 7)
Notice that these examples of faith are embodied by action. Abel offered a sacrifice. Noah constructed an ark. This is good for us if we want to live a life of faith in God. We can act in faith without feeling very faithful at all. We can submit our actions to God and his authority even when we don’t feel like it because we have the committed belief and trust that something is true. We don’t have to decide what we believe when faced with the challenge because we have already decided: God is right.
Father God, thank you for giving us every reason to trust you. Thank you teaching us through your Word what faith really is, and empower us by your Spirit to have faith in you even when our feelings tell us to have faith in something else. Lead us and guide us in all knowledge and wisdom as we pursue a life of faith in you, Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.