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Section 2 .. Reasons To Believe/Faith and Facts

 

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by Gregory Koukl

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Also See 003white Critically Examine Everything? (below)
 

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Can you give a good definition of biblical faith? How does it relate to science?

I don't like the word "faith." Not because faith isn't valuable, but because it's often deeply misunderstood. "Faith" in this twisted sense is what you use when all reason is against you. It's religious wishful thinking, in which one squeezes out spiritual hope by intense acts of sheer will. People of "faith" believe the impossible. People of "faith" believe that which is contrary to fact. People of "faith" believe that which is contrary to evidence. People of "faith" ignore reality.

Some suggest we cannot find facts to support our faith, nor is it preferable to try. This is silly. We're enjoined to have faith in part because we have evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.

I think part of the confusion is because Christians are often told to ignore circumstances, meaning that we're not to get overwhelmed or discouraged by them because God is bigger than our troubles. "Have faith in God," we're told. I think that's good counsel as far as it goes, but sometimes it breeds misunderstanding, implying that faith is a blind leap that has no relationship to fact.

Some suggest we cannot find facts to support our faith, nor is it preferable to try. Faith is not the kind of thing that has anything to do with facts, they say. If we have evidence to prove what we believe, then that takes away from real faith.

Somehow these people think that genuine faith is eviscerated by knowledge and evidence. We've made a virtue out of believing against the evidence, as if that's what God has in mind for us. This is all wrong.

Think about it for a moment. J.P. Moreland has suggested that if this is really the Christian view of faith, the best thing that could happen to Christianity is for the bones of Jesus to be discovered. Finding His bones would prove He didn't rise from the dead. When Christians continue to believe that He did, then, they would be demonstrating the most laudable faith, believing something that all the evidence proved was false.

This is silly. We're enjoined to have faith in part because we have evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. If we're encouraged to believe because of the resurrection, then that proves this other view of faith is false. It may be the view Christians hold in many cases, but it is not the view of the Bible. It is not the view of Christianity.

Frankly, if religion is merely an exercise in wishful thinking for me, I wouldn't wish up Christianity. It's far too inconvenient. Indeed, it seems that's part of the reason people hold many of the ludicrous religious views they do. They're appealing. They wish God was impersonal, because an impersonal God can't make the kind of demands on them that a holy God can. An impersonal divine force doesn't cramp their style on Saturday night. Eastern religions are high on individual liberty and low on individual responsibility. That's appealing.

 

Biblical faith isn't believing against the evidence. Instead, faith is a kind of knowing that results in action.

 

No, biblical faith isn't believing against the evidence. Instead, faith is a kind of knowing that results in action. Let me explain what I mean.

If we want to exercise biblical faith--Christian faith--then we ought first to find out how the Bible defines faith. The clearest definition comes from Hebrews 11:1. This verse says, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Now, there's something very important in these words. We see the word "hope," we see the word "assurance," and we see the word "conviction"--that is, confidence. Now, what gives us confidence?

If you buy a lottery ticket, do you hope you'll win the lottery? Yes, of course you do. Do you have any assurance you'll win the lottery? Absolutely not. You have no way of knowing that your ticket is any better than the millions of other lottery tickets out there competing for the same pot.

But what if you had x-ray vision, and you could see through the gray scratch-off coating on the lottery tickets you buy at the supermarket? You'd know if you had a $100, $200 or a $1,000 winner, wouldn't you? In that case, would you merely hope you'd win? No, you'd have assurance , wouldn't you? You'd have assurance of those things you previously only hoped for. It would be hope with conviction, not a mere hoped, but a hope buttressed by facts and evidence.

That's why the Christian faith cares about the evidence, friends. For the biblical Christian, the facts matter. You can't have assurance for something you don't know you're going to get. You can only hope for it.

This is why the resurrection of Jesus is so important. It gives assurance to the hope. Because of a Christian view of faith, Paul is able to say in 1 Corinthians 15 that when it comes to the resurrection, if we have only hope, but no assurance--if Jesus didn't indeed rise from the dead in time/space history--then we are of most men to be pitied. That's what he says: We are of most men to be pitied .

This confidence Paul is talking about is not a confidence in a mere "faith" resurrection, a mythical resurrection, a story-telling resurrection. Instead, it's a belief in a real resurrection. If the real resurrection didn't happen, then we're in trouble.

The Bible knows nothing of a bold leap-in-the-dark faith, a hope-against-hope faith, a faith with no evidence. Rather, if the evidence doesn't correspond to the hope, then the faith is in vain, as even Paul has said.

So, faith is knowing, and that knowledge is based on evidence leading to confidence or conviction. But biblical faith is more than that. There's another element. Faith is not just knowing. Faith is also acting. Biblical faith is a confidence so strong that it results in action. You're willing to act based on that belief, that faith.

Many of you know that my engineer, Bobby the Bouncer, got married today. Bobby has believed in marriage for a long time, but Bobby never exercised faith in marriage until he walked down the aisle and said "I do" to Jennifer. That's when he put his life on the line for what he believed to be true. He exercised faith.

 

Friends, Christianity is not denying reality. Biblical Christians don't deny reality, they discover reality. And once they've discovered it, they act on what they've learned.

 

It's the same way with biblical faith. It's not just intellectual assent. It's not just acknowledging that certain facts about Jesus, the Bible, the resurrection, or whatever, happen to be true. It's taking your life and putting it on the line based on your confidence in those facts.

Consider a guy who pushes a wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls on a tightrope every day. You've seen him do it so many times it doesn't even occur to you he won't make it. You believe with all your heart he can do it.

One day he comes up to you and asks, "Do you believe I can push this wheelbarrow across the tightrope without falling?" And you say, "Of course I do. I've seen you do it hundreds of times." "All right," he says, "get in the wheelbarrow."

Well, now we're talking about a whole different kind of thing, aren't we? The first is an intellectual belief, an acknowledgment of certain facts. The second is active faith, converting your knowledge to action. When you climb into the wheelbarrow, your belief in facts is converted into active trust.

Faith is knowledge in action. It is active trust in the truth. You go to the airport. You say, "This plane goes to New York. I believe it. I'll get on the plane. I'll invest myself in the things I believe to be true." That is biblical faith.

So, when someone asks me the question, Are faith and science compatible?, I'm going to immediately ask for a clarification. What do you mean by faith? If you think faith is mere fantasy and science is complete fact, well then, fantasy conflicts with fact, doesn't it? If faith is a blind leap in the dark, if faith has no concern for the facts, you're in trouble.

If, however, your faith is an intelligent trust in what can't be seen that's inferred from evidence that can be seen--if your faith is a commitment to reality, to acting on what you have good reason to believe is true--well then, there doesn't need to be any conflict at all.

Friends, Christianity is not denying reality. Some people think it is. I'm sympathetic to them because some Christians act as if faith is a kind of sanctified denial. But that isn't what biblical Christianity is about. Biblical Christians don't deny reality, they discover reality. And once they've discovered it, they act on what they've learned.

Indeed, if Christianity is true, in the deepest sense of the word, then it must fit the facts of the real world. So, when we discover the facts of the real world, they can only support Christianity-- if Christianity is true--given that you've interpreted the facts of the world correctly and you've interpreted the scriptural teaching correctly.

Christianity does comport with the facts. If science and religion both have truth as their ultimate goal, then there's no inherent conflict between the two.

Reproduction permitted for non-commercial use only. ©2002 Gregory Koukl

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Critically Examine Everything?
But I thought this was all 'Blind Faith' kinda stuff...

(or at least the politically correct 'intellectually challenged' kinda stuff...)
by Glenn Miller (www.christian-thinktank.com)

 

Au Contraire--
The Judeo-Christian faith is surprisingly ruthless in its insistence on proof (broadly considered), evidence, truth, examination, 'cordial skepticism'...and correspondingly disdainful of those who believe nonsense.

Consider briefly the following passages in the Bible:

    Gen 15 - When Abraham asked God "how will I KNOW that this future will happen?", God did not rebuke him, but made a legal covenant with him.

    Exodus 33 - Moses argued with God that God should not destroy Israel, so that there would be evidence of His work in history

    Number 16 - Moses argued with the Israelites over the leadership issue, and appealed to evidence.

    Deut 18 - God is VERY explicit-if a prophet EVER misses a prediction, this proves he is not a prophet of YHWH. The test was evidential--pure and simple.

    Deut 29 - Moses appeals to their MEMORIES as a basis for decision...historical events .

    Joshua 3 - Joshua sets up, in advance, a criterion for knowing that YHWH was among them--a future, visible, abnormal event in Israel's history.

    2 Sam 1 - David wanted factual support for the report that Saul was dead.

    Lam 3 - we are to EXAMINE our lifestyles - looking for evidence that reveals our true character and orientation to ultimate issues

    I Cor 11 - we are to examine our hearts and conduct--testing them against standards

    2 Cor 13 - we are to examine our life vis-a-vis the content of the worldview

    Judges 6 - Gideon and the 'fleece test' - and yet God 'humored' his weakness and provided the evidence he needed

    Isaiah 7 - King AHAZ was rebuked by the prophet for NOT asking God for evidence!

    Dan 1 - Daniel in a foreign situation, didn't appeal with a simple 'trust us'--he said 'test us'...and depended upon God for concrete, visible results.

    Mal 3 - God challenges Israel to test His faithfulness, He invites them to test His commitment to His promises...and in the area of finances!

    Rom 12 - Paul challenges his readers to continually expand their thinking--SO THAT they can examine and prove what God's will for their direction is...an active searching and examination of all the data.

    2 Cor 8 - Paul wanted to TEST the sincerity of their love -- he was looking for concrete evidence that would reveal their inner selves.

    Gal. 6:4 "Each one should TEST his own actions. Then he can take appropriate pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else"

    Is 43 - The prophet draws a picture of a courtroom scene. The prophets are to bring forth their evidence that they are indeed speakers of truth. The only admissible evidence is a proven track-record of future prediction!

    Ezek. 13:2 "Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying. Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: 'Hear the word of the LORD!'" --Accuracy and legitimacy is of critical moment! John 2 - the Jews of the day where always demanding proof. Jesus appealed to his coming resurrection as the capstone proof of his deity.

    Act 17 - Paul referred to the historical resurrection as "God's proof" that people will have to answer for their innermost attitudes toward God.

    2 Cor 13 - the Corinthians demanded proof of Paul's authority. He submitted historical evidence and lifestyle as data.

    Luke 1 - Luke investigated the sources and wrote the account for his royal reader, SO THAT he could know for CERTAIN.
     

Or consider the following actions on the part of Jesus...

    He is constantly doing overt miracles and "out-loud" prayers, for His followers' benefit--so they might see the evidence, understand what's going on, and believe.

    He doesn't scorn the 'doubting Thomas' but provides his nail-scarred hands and open side-wound as evidence for him (Jn 20)

    He constantly refers people back to the data of the OT--as a means to judge His claims and teachings.
     

Or consider the NT leaders, with their emphasis on the factuality of the Christian events (and their preference for the 'critical thinkers')...

    Luke who praised the careful and thorough Bereans in Acts 17:11 "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true."

    Paul, who challenges us in I Thess 5.21: " Test everything. Hold on to the good."

    And appeals to the 'openness' of the historical facts of early Christianity in his public trial: "The king is familiar with these things, and I can speak freely to him. I am convinced that none of this has escaped his notice, because it was not done in a corner." (Act 26:26)

    And appeals to natural phenomena as evidence of a good God (Acts 14, 17).

    Peter, who tries to 'force his readers back into the bedrock of data' in 2Pet. 1:16: We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

     

Hold it a Minute!

I thought 'Testing the Lord' was VERY bad, even Fatal! (as in I Cor 10)...

...Good question (shows you're thinking, eh?)

If you compare the "DON'T test" passages with the "DO test" passages, you can see the difference in the contexts.

    The "DON'T test" passages are those in which the people are NOT seeking evidence/proof IN ORDER TO learn truth, grow, or develop their worldview, but rather are trying to manipulate God into satisfying illicit desires, or into satisfying illicit needs, in destructive ways. For example, in Exodus 17, the recipients of an earlier water-providing miracle are now DEMANDING water in a combative manner! (See Ps 78 and 106 for a later historical account of this.)

    The 'DO test' passages are those in which the people are enjoined to take a small step of commitment, in EXPECTATION of success (sounds a little like giving someone the benefit of the doubt, doesn't it?). The negativism and close-mindedness of the former situation is not present in the later. The later applies to people who are OPEN to learning, not just trying to engineer the situation for their practical gain.

As a matter of fact, this 'openness to learning' and 'positive expectation of good' is rather basic to ALL types of personal discovery situations. We ourselves tend not to 'participate' in these kinds of situations, if we feel we are being 'interrogated' in an abusive manner.

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