by Jefferson David Tant
The topic of “faith” is often discussed and often misunderstood. Skeptics accuse Christians of having “blind faith,” or taking a “leap of faith,” meaning that there is no basis for what we believe. Thus our faith in God’s existence is no different than what I have encountered in South Africa, i.e. the practice of ancestor worship. It is believed that if one does not properly respect one’s ancestors, that they will inflict harm on you.Even modern dictionaries lend credence to the matter of blind faith. Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary claims faith “is a firm belief in something for which there is no proof” (1998). The American Heritage Dictionary similarly states “belief that does not rest on logical or material evidence” (2000, p. 636). Such definitions are totally absurd. I have faith that when I flip the light switch, the bulb will be illuminated. That faith is based on years of evidence than it really does work. Now, some may argue that this is not faith, but knowledge. To a point, that is true. But sometimes the light doesn’t come on. The bulb may have burned out, power lines may be down; the lamp might be unplugged, or the switch itself may have malfunctioned. But I do have faith that is based on solid evidence.
I believe the sun is 93 million miles from earth. I haven’t been there, nor conducted experiments to ascertain this for myself. But I have faith in the evidence science has presented. I have faith that I have a heart. I have never seen it, but the evidence that I have one is quite conclusive. Otherwise, I would not be writing these lines.
Atheists are rather dismissive of Christians, claiming that our faith is based on emotions and some sort of generic warm fuzzy feeling. I am not sure how they establish their non-belief. Do they have knowledge that there is no god? Knowledge is based on facts, and I have never seen the facts that prove their claim.
The noted atheist, Richard Dawkins states, “Christianity, just as much as Islam, teaches children that unquestioned faith is a virtue. You don’t have to make the case for what you believe” (The God Delusion, p.306). That is so far removed from logic and reason that it is difficult that an intelligent man could state that. One might say he is “delusional.”
The evidence for a creator is beyond logical dispute. Oh, I know many deny God’s existence, but their faith is more like that “warm, fuzzy feeling.” Suppose I was in some African jungle and dropped my watch. Some native might find it and wonder what it was, as he had never seen one before. Would he imagine that this device made itself and just appeared? Who would think that? He might have no idea what its purpose was, but I think all would agree that he would understand that someone made it.
How much more complicated are the workings of our universe, yea, even the human body. And all this just made itself? Who can believe it? Well, there are some who can believe it, and such people have been around for a long time. Nearly 2,000 years ago, a learned scholar wrote these words about unbelievers in his day: “… that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Paul, Romans 1:19-22).
In ancient Lystra, Paul declared, “In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness" (Acts 14:16-17). Note the statement that God “did not leave Himself without witness.”
Yes, God gives us free well. We can deny his existence if we wish, but that’s what we call “wishful thinking.” If I have cancer, I can wish it away all I want. But my “wishful thinking” will not alter reality. That ignores the evidence
Now, back to the title. Just what is “genuine faith?” Genuine faith is faith that is based on evidence. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, KJV). Consider some of the words. “Substance” is from the Greek hypostasis (“a setting under, support). “Evidence” is from elegchos (“proof, conviction: -- evidence, reproof”).
Among other things, the resurrection of Christ from the dead is one of the most provable events of history. The evidence is overwhelming. “… the firm foundation of God stands” (II Timothy 2:19).
I believe I’ll accept the Bible’s definition of faith rather than Webster’s or Dawkin’s.