What is Faith?
Faith. It’s a word we hear spoken a lot but what does it really mean? What does it mean to have faith? What is the role of faith in the Christian life? Over my years of pastoral leadership I’ve discovered that these questions confuse a lot of people—believers and non-believers alike. So often I hear sincere Christians say, “There is no evidence for Christianity; that’s why we have to accept it by faith.” Many non-believers would agree with that statement. They equate faith with blind faith. They would define faith as believing something for which there is no evidence. Is this what faith is? Is faith simply believing things without any supporting evidence? As Christians, should we look for evidence to support Christianity or simply live “by faith”?
People are sometimes surprised when I describe Christianity as a reasonable faith. They don’t think of Christianity in terms of reason. As I said, they’ve been taught to believe that Christianity is something one has to take solely on faith. They’re surprised when I challenge this view. But why should this be surprising? Let me ask you, do you truly believe that the most significant questions of human existence—“Is there a God? Is Jesus the Son of God? Is the Christian faith valid?”— are void of all evidential support? In other words, is it reasonable to think that God would call us to believe things for which there is no evidence?
In contrast to this view, I believe that there is a great deal (I dare say an overwhelming amount) of evidence to support the claims of Christianity. Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines evidence as “something that tends to prove; ground for belief.” From this, one can see that evidence and belief are complementary; they go together.
The Scriptures themselves repeatedly urge Christians to question and study and evaluate their beliefs. For instance, Peter urged his readers to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). Paul urged the Thessalonians: “Test everything. Hold on to the good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Speaking through the prophet, Isaiah, God said, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). Jesus, Himself, urged His followers to “Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your MIND” (Matthew 22:37).
I am at a loss to understand how believers and non-believers alike ever got it into their heads that being a Christian involves kissing your brain good-bye. Frankly, if there was not strong evidence to support the Christian faith, I, myself, would not be a Christian. How could I worship a God who asked me to believe something without giving me any reason to believe it?
So, where does faith fit in? That’s an excellent question. Despite the reasonableness of Christianity, faith is still indispensable. Faith comes in at the point where we move from the facts of Christianity to making a heart commitment to Christ. In other words, it’s the gulf that lies between accepting the core doctrines of Christianity as true and valid, and making those claims a part of my own life. You see, it’s one thing to believe that God created you and that through faith in Jesus you can have a relationship with God. It’s quite another thing to surrender your life to God and begin to grow a relationship with Him. The former involves facts; the latter faith. Let me illustrate: Before we got married, I believed that my wife was a wonderful person, loved me deeply, and would make a wonderful life mate. In other words, I believed all the right things about my potential spouse. There came a point, however, where (if I wanted to deepen my relationship with her) I had to move beyond the facts to actually making a commitment to her. In both marriage and religion that takes faith.
To conclude, let me encourage you to hold these two pieces—reason and faith—in balance. God would never ask you to believe in a religion for which there is no evidence. But once you have looked at the evidence, He expects you to act on the truths you have discovered. If you want to begin looking at the evidential support for Christianity, let me encourage you to start your study with two books by Lee Strobel: The Case for Faith and The Case for Christ. Don’t put this off! If Christianity is true, then what you do with it is of supreme importance. The decisions we make around Jesus’ claims will have eternal consequences. There are some things that are too important to put off until tomorrow.