What is Faith?
Faith is the personal and active expression of what we believe is true, it is trust and hope in the physical and/or the invisible based upon reason and knowledge. Our faith experience begins at birth. We bond with our parents, mother first and then our father. Being so dependent and having little choice, we develop a faith in them knowing they will provide our every need. We cry when the needs are not met and are comforted as they are. This faith grows and is based upon past experience, knowledge and love. Good parents will want to assure their child that they love them and can be trusted to provide for their needs and the faith of the child in them is justified and desired.
The great theologian and philosopher St Augustine said “Thou hast created us for thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee.” We are created with an emptiness that must be filled with something. In filling our innate spiritual need we turn to the supernatural and put our faith in things invisible. In the days of Nero the infamous ruler of Rome, the Apostle Paul visits and debates with the teachers and leaders of thought. He sees that the people have many gods who control or represent many things. They have established for themselves a god for the river, a god for thunder, god of the sun, moon and sky. Their daily conversations where about pleasing the multiple gods they had put their faith in. Paul points at the inscription they had for the unknown god, and declares this is the God of creation, the God of all things seen and unseen, this is the one true God. He tells them of Jesus Christ and many become believers. Paul’s faith was made complete and effective when he realized as Jesus had said, there is but one way to a relationship with God and that is through His son Jesus who is Emmanuel, or God with us. Today as in Paul’s day many continue to insist they have a way to please their god and a way to ultimate fulfillment or nirvana. Many of us live in doubt and fear that we have not been as morally good as we would like to be and anguish over our relationship with God. There are those who count it all foolishness, denying the existence of a moral law giver claiming moral relativity while pointing out the moral failings of others, picking and choosing the absolute of the day. All of us have a desire to fill the void of the soul. Faith in Jesus affirms that God has reached out to man and in His love has done the work for us.
Christians come to faith in God based upon our understanding of scripture and the revelation of Jesus. As we read through the Bible we come to passages that inform us of the reality of Jesus and His life death and resurrection. Based upon evidence, facts and reason we build up knowledge and assurance that Christ is Lord and Savior. It is by trusting in what you know based upon evidence, facts and reason that you develop a personal relationship with God. This relationship is only possible by investing yourself in what you know is true. In today’s culture biblical faith is under assault and abused in many ways. We will look briefly at where the current dangers are in several areas of the life of faith.
People of Faith
As we grow we place our faith in people, family and friends, doctors and teachers, churches and institutions and government. Each of these sincerely want to assure us they can be trusted to provide for our needs. Historically many have suffered at the hands of those who manipulate and abuse this faith. Those who survived the latest communist and statist regimes of persecution, tyranny, death and suffering attest to the fact that they had mistakenly succumbed to the promises of a brighter future where all the needs of the populace would be met. They had misplaced their faith.
There is a world movement gaining momentum embraced by world leaders to unite all people of faith regardless of what their faith is in. We read a warning in the Bible from 2 Timothy 3:1-17 that speaks of deception in the last days.
“They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!
He continues “They have depraved minds and a counterfeit faith.”
The Christian faith is exclusive of all other faith claims. We must stand firm in this distinction and lovingly point out where the truth claims of other faiths miss the mark. For this reason through the ages Christians have suffered persecution.
“Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived.
“But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the Holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” 2 Tim 3:12-16
In following the faith that we know is true we are confronted with truth claims from other faiths. We must be prepared to give them a reason for what we believe and allow the Holy Spirit to complete the work in bringing them to a saving faith in Christ Jesus. One major distinction of our faith vs all others is that we are saved by grace not by works.
“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.” Eph 2:8-9
This is a concept that is not embraced in the personal sense by any other faith, or religion including but not limited to Catholics, Jews, and Muslims. This truth is certainly not understood in the eastern religions and philosophies and even some supposedly Christian denominations and other faith institutions such as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Faith and Freedom
For the Christian a secure faith is found in the liberty of Christ. As the recipients of a supernatural redemption we are free to live out the forgiveness, mercy and grace Christ has brought us. Our faith is in the one who set us free from bondage to our fallen nature and to death. Thus the Christian may
“Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and don’t be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” Gal 5:1.
We are no longer tossed to and fro by the deceptive propaganda of the oppressive state which seeks only to control and build it’s empire of power and lust, it’s ultimate goal governing the whole world. It is no wonder that Christians suffer persecution from those who are not likely to ever win over our faith. Our freedom and faith in Christ is a threat and an obstacle to the globalist agenda. The followers of other religions whose faith is placed in deities or beliefs other than the state are a stumbling block as well. Thus Communist China’s crackdown on Tibetan Buddhist.
Realizing that completely removing people of faith from the planet is not possible and will always bring about a negative reaction in the form of rebellion and revolution or a state of constant war, these wise leaders are cautiously infiltrating all faiths.
In his article “Patriotism, Piety, and The Perfect Storm” Michael D. Peabody writes how many can be deceived by leaders who usurp the credibility of faith and use it to their advantage in building up the central powers of the state. He gives the example of how Hitler merged Christian themes with nationalism “Hitler had wrapped himself in the nation’s flag and spoken to their Christianity, and though he may not have followed that faith himself, it was a tool he used to persuade and launch his nation on a hellish path.”
Peabody continues with a statement that must be understood as we mature in the faith and we disciple others.
“If religion is to survive in an authoritarian state, it must remain shallow and symbolic, eschewing the intellectual and uplifting the emotional. A would-be dictator finds his greatest strength in associating unquestioning faith with clueless obedience to fabled patriotic prerogative.”
The current tide of relativism paired with a mistaken notion of freedom has made the Christian message more difficult to explain and thus many have abandoned the effort. Our nation no longer enjoys the benefits of a society nurtured and immersed in a Christian consensus. The Marxists proponents of their form of social justice take the emotionally charged new Christian believers hostage and recruit them into building an ever more dependent populace. These leaders have little understanding or need for the true message of Christianity put in place policies and programs which on the surface appear reasonable and charitable yet tear apart the banner of a free and responsible society.
Considering President Obama’s rejection of the Founding vision of the United States, Author Rick Pearcey reminds us of the words of Francis Schaeffer;
“When the Christian consensus died, it left a vacuum, and this will tend to be filled by an elite to form an authoritarian state. When we speak of an authoritarian state, we must not think of the model of Hitler or Stalin, but rather a manipulative authoritarian state. The governments of the world have at their disposal forms of manipulation beyond anything the world has ever known before.”
— Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? DVD, Episode 6, “The Scientific Age”
It is well that we Christians guard and focus our faith in Christ. We must consider that as we allow educational and cultural institutions and government policies to assume more control over our welfare, and lately even our opinions, thoughts and beliefs, we essentially hand over our birthright for a mess of pottage.
In maintaining our faith in Christ we must be alert to deception and discerning of the intents of those we place in positions of power as our representatives. Our faith is indeed a reasonable faith and it has grown and matured and manifested itself in the creation of a form of government like no other. Let us be aware of the consequences of resting quietly in the comfort of our reasonable faith. For the needy world around us is being called to challenge the beliefs of the past and are chopping away at the Judeo Christian values upon which this nation was founded. We are facing an assault from two fronts. One will use our faith deceptively to establish themselves in power and the other will challenge our faith as they seek total liberation from the chains they perceive our faith has bound them in. Are we prepared?
Faith and the Intellect
In the recent past the church has been ignoring the intellectual and embracing the emotional. The focus of teaching has mostly been focused on evangelism with less emphasis on discipleship, engaging the intellect and developing apologetic reasoning. An effective vibrant faith is built with all of the faculties of reason and a spirit filled heart of gratitude and joy, in a sense a Holy Ghost union of the heart and mind, of love and reason.
William Lane Craig writes on the importance of maintaining Christian scholarship at all levels in order to preserve our Christian heritage and to be salt and light in our culture.
“The average Christian does not realize that there is an intellectual war going on in the universities and in the professional journals and scholarly societies. Christianity is being attacked as irrational or obsolete, and millions of students, our future generation of leaders, have absorbed that viewpoint.” Read more
Having absorbed the irrational secular logic of the times and embracing cultural relativism these children are barely approachable with the gospel. For they have been taught that the way forward is progressivism buoyed by the affirmation that absolutes are the cause of strife in all relationships.
Rather than dedicate themselves to the pursuit of truth they are discouraged from this endeavor by being taught that truth does not really matter and claims to truth lead to violence. Craig references this quote from Allen Bloom’s book “The Closing of the American Mind”
“The study of history and of culture teaches that all the world was mad in the past; men always thought they were right, and that led to wars, persecutions, slavery, xenophobia, racism, and chauvinism. The point is not to correct the mistakes and really be right; rather it is not to think you are right at all.”
As he describes today’s church as being in intellectual neutral, Craig exhorts us to be engaged in this cultural battle at all fronts.
“But finally, it is not just Christian scholars and pastors who need to be intellectually engaged if the Church is to make an impact in our culture. Christian laymen, too, must become intellectually engaged.”
Unreasonably Sharing a Reasonable Faith
A reasonable faith would be one that is guided or affirmed by past experience or knowledge. One may have faith in an individual’s likelihood of responding a certain way in a situation. One may come to assist another in difficult circumstances without hesitation. A person may be relied upon to be supportive in times of need. You may have faith that your uncle will lend you money based on the fact he has done so before.
A reasonable faith may be in regards to nature and physics. Because of past experience you may be confident in assuming that a leap from any height will result in you dropping to the ground, the effect of gravity. However that faith would be tested as you board a plane to fly over the ocean to visit your relatives. Past experience reminds you that objects by nature are pulled to the ground. Your knowledge informs you that working within the laws of nature one can fly with the appropriately designed machinery and equipment. However when we look at Jesus we see that in many circumstance he operated outside the realm of our understanding, of our past experience and knowledge of nature.
Your reasonable faith is within the construct of past experience and knowledge circumstances. It would be unreasonable to expect to be able to walk upon the surface of the water like Peter did as described in the Bible. However he did! I have a faith that allows me to believe this story is true.
Against all understanding of past experience, knowledge and common sense, Peter did what no one but God could do, he walked on water. You may say in this instance Peter had an unreasonable faith.
Many Christians are at this place where Peter was, teetering between reason and un-reason. Our reasonable faith is based upon trust that God’s word is true. It has been proven true by its effect in our lives and in the lives of those who have walked before us. It is proven true by its accurate and unquestionable description of the nature of man and his state of depravity. It is proven by the numbers of prophecy fulfilled and the historical testimony of eyewitnesses by both friend and foe. So we may be deemed reasonable by saying we walk by a reasonable faith.
Was Peter walking a reasonable faith when he walked upon the water towards Jesus? I believe it was this very question he asked himself when he began to flounder and sink. Reaching his hand up to Christ in total surrender Peter realized that his faith in Christ had to be one that is beyond reason and comprehension it had to be complete and childlike. It had to be like that of a child who trust his father to catch him as he leaps into the pool. This childlike faith is based upon trust that is formed by past experience and love. Was Peter’s relationship with Christ such that he had reason to believe that he could do the un-reasonable? Could he place himself at the mercy of the natural world to experience the reality of the supernatural world that Christ himself created? I believe Peter was able to venture beyond his reasonable faith only when focusing his whole being upon the reality of who he was in relation to his Creator, Lord and Savior.
As we grow in our knowledge and experience of the reality of our Lord and Savior, we will grow in our trust in Him and our love for Him. Each step we take that brings us closer to Him will allow us to walk in those places which may seem unreasonable to others but are perfectly natural for the believer. We will be empowered in our heart and mind as we share the reasonableness of our faith in the gospel and the grace of our Savior.
In today’s world generational distinctions have occurred in a rapid pace. Intellectually, the major distinction is the exalted ideals of relativism and the rejection of absolutes. We see generations living a life of inconsistent morals and reason. As Christians we are called to speak the truth in love. This unconditional love is what trust is built upon. However, the culture around us has been taught to view truth claims that argue in opposition to current norms, values and morals as being hateful. Our challenge is to continue to speak the gospel truth in love. Reaching out to others today in this fashion with an understanding of their need for a Savior may appear as unreasonable as walking on water. However, the gospel message and its supernatural power will be evident for all, as we do this in love, maintaining our focus upon the person of Christ as Creator, Lord and Savior!
2 Timothy 3:1-17
2 Tim 3:12-16
Video – A Personal Faith: From Doubt to Conviction | William Lane Craig, PhD
Francis Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? DVD, Episode 6, “The Scientific Age”
“The Closing of the American Mind” Allen Bloom
Video-Is Faith A Blind Leap? oneminuteapologist