Years ago, if someone were to ask me why I was a Christian, I might have responded, “I am a Christian because I believe in Jesus. God has answered my prayers and changed my life.” These are good answers, but the problem is that people from various other belief systems might say the exact same thing. Muslims, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses all believe in Jesus and might say that God has changed their lives and answered their prayers.
Is there something outside of subjective experience that can tell us which of these beliefs is true? Do Christians just have some kind of blind faith based on feelings and experience?
Before we can determine what to put our faith in, we need to look at what faith is.
If you ask Oxford Professor and famous "New Atheist" Richard Dawkins, he describes faith this way:
Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to
think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps
because of, the lack of evidence. (1)
Dawkins' blunder is that he incorrectly defines what Christians mean by "faith." In the Bible, faith is another word for “trust." All of us, including Richard Dawkins, put our trust in various things every single day, and we base this trust on evidence. Every time we sit in a chair, we trust that it will hold us. Every time we deposit money in the bank, we trust that it will be there when we go to spend it. We trust that things will perform as they are supposed to—as they have many times before.
In John 17:20-26, Jesus prays:
I do not pray for these alone (His disciples), but also for those
who will believe in Me through their word.
Jesus was praying for us, and He knew that our faith would be based upon the actual eyewitness testimony of His disciples--their word. Of course no one can come to trust in Jesus apart from the Holy Spirit, but we can be sure that the trust we have placed in Him is based upon good evidence.
Nothing illustrates this better than the story of "Doubting Thomas" recorded in John 20:24-29. After Jesus' death and resurrection, He appeared alive to His disciples. Thomas was not with them and refused to believe until he saw Jesus' wounds for himself. When Jesus appeared before Thomas, He could have slapped Thomas' hand away and said, "Thomas, just have faith!" Instead, Jesus invited Thomas to put his hand in His side and examine His scars for himself. Only after offering evidence did Jesus say, "Stop doubting and believe." At this point, the only reasonable option for Thomas was to believe. And he did!
It has been said, the opposite of faith is not reason. The opposite of faith is unbelief. We use reason to assess evidence, and we use faith to trust based on reason. In some cases, unbelief might actually be the unreasonable response.
Hebrews 11:6 says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God." I'm thankful that God doesn't ask us to do that with blinders on. Creation is literally bursting with evidence for the existence of God and the truth of Christianity. I can't wait to share more of this evidence with you!
(1) Richard Dawkins, Lecture from 'The Nullifidian' (Dec 94)
If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to receive my weekly posts by email.