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What is faith?

Faith is under attack by many today. It is considered the antithesis of science, and even a dangerous menace to society by some. Those who criticize faith would do well to consider whether they might have faith themselves, and how not only their world view, but also the future of our planet, would be impacted if faith were totally dispensed with.

Faith is confidence in that which can not be proven through our senses and reason alone. Faith is not so much an overpowering conviction as it is a peaceful assurance that something is true. This assurance is consistent with reason but is not ultimately founded upon reason. It is true that humans are easily led astray by emotions, and can do great evil in the name of "faith", which is part of the reason "faith" has been given a bad name lately. It is also true that distinguishing genuine faith from mere emotion is often not an easy matter. However, it is imperative that we remember that great atrocities have often been done in the name of reason and of athiesm as well. How to avoid the pitfalls of abusing what we call "faith" is a serious question to take up at another time, but is certainly not grounds to dismiss faith altogether.

Some may say, "Well, I don't have faith. But I have hope." Very well. But sad, because without faith, we must always be hopeful that there is some meaning to our universe that transcends what we can observe with our senses, but we can never really know. Ironically, many are willing to have faith in their senses, in their powers of reason, and in a purely materialistic paradigm for the human mind, but are fearful to have faith in the Spirit of God, which alone can give the spiritual satisfaction we crave.

Reflect on the following statements. If you find that you agree with any of these statements, consider the possibility that the reason you agree is because you have faith - i.e. confidence in that which can not be proven through the senses and reason alone. If you don't believe this, ask yourself if you can honestly defend the statements on the basis of pure induction and empiricism alone.

  • There is inestimable value to life that goes beyond what can be observed through the senses alone, value that goes far beyond our own fickle neuro-physiological attachments.
  • The abandoned, unwanted and forgotten mentally challenged quadriplegic child left to starve to death in a deserted place has value that infinitely surpasses his weight in fertilizer.
  • There would be something terribly wrong with consoling oneself after the loss of a loved one with the thought, "She was just protoplasm, anyway."
  • The preservation of our planet has a far greater good than to merely assure the continued propagation and development of the gene pool.
  • The thought of a society that esteems its members solely on the basis of their utilitarian value is a horrific one.
  • It is absurd to compare the holocaust of the Nazi regime to boiling a culture of bacteria over a bunsen burner, and not simply because humans have greater biological complexity.
  • If the entire universe were to painlessly vanish away tomorrow, it would be a most terrible loss, notwithstanding the fact that there would be no one around to bemoan it.

Consider also the following:

Without faith, our appreciation for life, for the fine arts, for our friends and family, for a walk in the woods, for the wonders of the universe, for truth and justice, for a worthy cause, indeed, for anything we may consider noteworthy and good, is truncated significantly from what it could be because the value of everything becomes necessarily reduced to the positive intellectual and emotional responses that are thereby elicited from our nervous system. Any value beyond that is of logical necessity ruled out, unless we make room for faith.

Is faith a bad thing? Perhaps - that is, if faith is merely a mental illusion. But may I suggest that this is not so if the faith that we have comes from God.

According to Scripture, God has given everyone a measure of faith (Romans 12:3). We can argue it away, trample it down, and pretend it doesn't exist, or we can affirm, cherish, and nurture it and seek to know God, the Originator and Author of our faith.

. . .

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

"Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven." Matthew 16:17

"...God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith." Romans 12:3

"The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof." Matthew 13:31,32

Last updated February 11, 2008

Image of Hubble Ultra Deep Field by NASA and ESA

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