Faith and Trust
“…for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7).
What is faith and is it reasonable? Because the term faith is tossed around so much and defined in so many ways, believers may be concerned that their faith does not really stack up to the rigors of modern academics or intellectual discussion. Much of this is likely due to the ways in which faith gets defined. The world often sees faith as equated to superstition, defining it as belief without evidence, or worse, belief in spite of or contrary to evidence. They can then set up the divide between faith and reason. To admit that we have faith is like admitting that we are anti-intellectual and don’t accept real evidence. Faith is thus seen as being against reason and to be avoided by those who value real knowledge and science. Then, because faith is connected to religion, this makes religion stand against reason and, therefore, bad for society. If people buy into these definitions, we can see why so many would want to give up on any vestiges of faith or religion. No one wants to be seen as unreasonable.
Unfortunately, viewing faith that way ignores what the Bible actually teaches about faith in favor of a definition that Scripture would not sanction and Christians ought not to accept. Seeing faith as superstitious and unreasonable creates a straw man for the biblical concept, and Christians do not need to bow to the definitions assumed by the world. In other words, don’t let the world define your faith! When we let Scripture define faith, we see something very different from how it is so often portrayed.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). Faith stands under hope and demonstrates a conviction and trust about the reality of what we cannot see or have not personally witnessed. Does that make it unreasonable? Hardly, for this is what we do every day. We trust that our senses give us good information even when we are not able to scientifically verify something. We do not require that we see and verify everything personally before we trust that something is true or that someone is telling the truth. There are many things I have not personally witnessed, but I do not question their reality. I suspect this is the case with everyone. Faith is a normal part of life.
Faith is reasonable because trust, which is the heart of biblical faith, is reasonable. Faith does not require that every question be resolved before it can proceed; that would not be considered trust. A child does not wait for parents to answer every question about difficult matters before trusting them. The child simply trusts that parents know what they are doing, and the child takes comfort in that. Yet how much greater is the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of God? We act like we cannot show faith unless God first answers every difficulty to our satisfaction. This is not faith. It is, instead, an attempt to bring all of reality under our own finite reason, and that is itself unreasonable.
This does not mean that faith is naive or without evidence to back it up. Yet there is only so far we will go in understanding overarching reality with finite reason or having the knowledge and wisdom to discern all matters of ultimate concern. If we cannot be humble enough to admit our own frailties, limitations of knowledge, and need for greater wisdom than we can offer, then our hubris will have destroyed us. Sometimes I fear it already has.
We all trust something or someone to provide a greater perspective on reality, moral authority, and wisdom. Choosing self or other people with the same limitations is self-defeating and unsustainable. Even more self-defeating is relying on an ultimate nothing, for then we are trusting mindless, purposeless, accidental processes to give us a solid grounding for our own ability to think and reason. Yet how can that be considered reasonable? And what about denying that we have faith at all? That is unrealistic at best and dishonest at worst. At the end of the day, we all place our trust in something, and that is the only reasonable option.
In what, or in whom, do you place your trust? That’s where your faith rests. Is it reasonable? That depends on whether what or whom you trust is truly in the position for which such trust is warranted. We are not saying that we trust anything and everything. We are saying that all of us place our trust in an ultimate authority, and we live a life based on that authority. Do we know the difference between what collapses and what gives us a solid foundation? The psalmist said it this way:
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
They collapse and fall,
but we rise and stand upright. (Psa 20:7)