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Does God Require Blind Faith?

  

It is a common assumption among both Christians and non-Christians that “faith” is some kind of mystical quality that enables us to believe in things that have little or no foundation.  It is commonly referred to as “blind faith.”  In a recent discussion on his late night talk show, Craig Ferguson made the following observation:

I always feel that people who are certain give me a problem. And I’ll tell you what I mean by that: people who say “I absolutely know what God wants.” And I say, “Well, if you absolutely know about God–that He exists and you know what He wants, and you know all this stuff, then you don’t need faith. Because faith is only for people who experience doubt. Because if you have no doubt, then you can’t have faith. You have certainty. Or…pathology. In order to experience faith, it is necessary for you to experience doubt.

This is based on a common misunderstanding of the word faith.  Another application of this misunderstanding occurs in a passage from the humorous science-fiction spoof, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

The Babel fish is small, yellow, and leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier, but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the unconscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them.

The practical upshot of this is that if you stick a Babel fish in your ear you can instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language. The speech patterns you actually hear decode the brainwave matrix which has been fed into your mind by your Babel fish.

Now it is such a bizarrely improbable coincidence that anything so mindbogglingly useful could have evolved purely by chance that some thinkers have chosen to see it as a final and clinching proof of the non-existence of God.

The argument goes something like this: “I refuse to prove that I exist,” says God, “for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing.”

“But,” says Man, “the Babel fish is a dead giveaway isn’t it? It could not have evolved by chance. It proves that you exist, and so therefore, by your own arguments, you don’t. QED.”

“Oh dear,” says God, “I hadn’t thought of that,” and promptly disappears in a puff of logic.

“Oh, that was easy,” says Man, and for an encore goes on to prove that black is white and gets himself killed on the next zebra crossing.

While intended as a humorous satire, there are those who hold to similar ideas, based on this notion that “proof denies faith.”  This notion in turn is based on a common misunderstanding of the word faith.  So what is faith?  The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as follows:

1 complete trust or confidence.
2 strong belief in a religion.
3 a system of religious belief.

Merriam-Webster has a more complex definition:

1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

Most people use the word faith according to definition 2b(1) above, but as you can see it’s not the only definition.  What, then, is the meaning of faith in the Bible?  The word faith is translated from the Greek word pistis, which Strong’s defines as:

persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God or a religious teacher), especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstractly, constancy in such profession; by extension, the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself:— assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.

Pistis is a noun, while pisteuo is the related verb, defined as:

to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ):— believe(-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.

The root word of both of these words is peitho, defined as:

to convince (by argument, true or false); by analogy, to pacify or conciliate (by other fair means); reflexively or passively, to assent (to evidence or authority), to rely (by inward certainty):— agree, assure, believe, have confidence, be (wax) confident, make friend, obey, persuade, trust, yield.

OK, enough definitions.  What’s the point?  The whole idea of faith, as used in the Bible, is not the blind acceptance of something for which there is no proof.  It means to be persuaded, to have trust and confidence.  Someone tells you something, you believe it. It’s that simple. Why do you believe it? Either because you trust them to begin with, or because they persuade you. People speak of “accepting on faith” a doctrine or belief that one cannot explain or understand. But is this kind of “blind faith” what God expects of us? Jesus spoke of believing, but in the vast majority of Scriptures, it had to do with believing what God said, and believing who Jesus was.

God does not ask us to believe in Him without proof. He has worked in mighty ways to reveal Himself to mankind. The greatest of these is His only-begotten Son. That is why it is stressed over and over in the Bible, that one must believe in who Jesus said he was – the Messiah, the Son of God. He did miracles to prove who he was, as well as the fact that many prophecies were fulfilled in him. And the ultimate sign that he was who he claimed to be is the fact that he got up from the dead (Matthew 12:39-40; 16:4; Acts 17:30-31; Romans 1:4; I Corinthians 15:12-19). Without the resurrection there is no foundation to Christianity. But there are many infallible proofs of the historic fact of the resurrection. We do not have to take it on “blind faith.”

Once we have a foundation for that trust, there will be times when we will need to have faith in spite of not being able to see the outcome of things. (“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” – Hebrews 11:1.) But God has given us a solid foundation on which to base that trust. Even if we can’t see how a prayer can be answered, He still answers them in His time. The ultimate example of trusting Him for what we can’t see is the hope of the coming Kingdom of God. We don’t see much in the way of “evidence” in the world around us, but we have seen other proof that the Scriptures are trustworthy, and that God keeps His promises (including the resurrection of Jesus). That provides a basis for our continued faith. It is a reasonable faith based on an intelligent receiving and acceptance of the Gospel message.

13 Responses to “Does God Require Blind Faith?”

  1. on 28 Dec 2009 at 12:20 pmrobert

    “And the ultimate sign that he was who he claimed to be is the fact that he got up from the dead”

    I could support this whole article if you could correct this false statement. my guess it was just an oversight on your behalf

  2. on 28 Dec 2009 at 2:39 pmDoubting Thomas

    Robert
    I don’t understand why you think this is a false statement. Do you not believe in in the Resurrection of the body?

  3. on 28 Dec 2009 at 4:42 pmrobert

    Thomas
    God raised Jesus
    He did not just get up from the dead

  4. on 28 Dec 2009 at 5:21 pmMark C.

    If God raised him, he got up. I didn’t say he raised himself. And the fact that he was raised/got up is the ultimate proof that he was the Messiah as he claimed to be. So we don’t have to take it on “blind faith.” That was the point I was making.

  5. on 28 Dec 2009 at 5:30 pmrobert

    He got up after GOD RAISED HIM. 2 different things.
    Only the fact that God raised him is the proof

  6. on 28 Dec 2009 at 5:36 pmDoubting Thomas

    Robert
    Is there a way I can change the settings or something so that I know that someone has responded to one of my posts. Right now I have to go searching through the different threads (or blogs or whatever the proper name is) to see if anyone has responded to one of my posts.

  7. on 28 Dec 2009 at 5:40 pmrobert

    Yes
    up at top you need to subscribe and it will show recent post

  8. on 28 Dec 2009 at 5:57 pmJohnE

    Thomas,
    the website will not notify you of responses to your comments. But you can view all the comments (and not just the last seven as they are shown on the front page) if you subscribe to the comments.

    You can easily subscribe using Google Reader: http://www.google.com/reader/

    You need 1st to create a Google account if you don’t already have one, then click on the “Add a subscription” button (upper left), and paste this blog’s address (without including the date and the rest – that is, w/o “2009/12/28/does-god-require-blind-faith etc”), then click “Add”.

    Hope it helps.

  9. on 28 Dec 2009 at 6:27 pmMark C.

    He got up after GOD RAISED HIM. 2 different things.
    Only the fact that God raised him is the proof

    I don’t see how you get two things out of that. He got up after God raised him, and he was able to get up BECAUSE God raised him. The proof that God raised him was that he was seen by eyewitnesses after he got up. These are all different ways of saying the same thing – the resurrection is the ultimate proof that Jesus was the Messiah.

  10. on 28 Dec 2009 at 6:37 pmrobert

    one is an action of God and other is an action of Jesus. it wasnt Jesus’ actions that were the proof as you falsely stated which i gave you a benefit of the doubt but am begginning to think it was on purpose.
    was it an oversight or not? if so admit it.
    It is very important to state this correctly because there are they who believe Jesus got up on his own as what your statement implied whether or not you meant it that way

  11. on 28 Dec 2009 at 6:53 pmMark C.

    one is an action of God and other is an action of Jesus. it wasnt Jesus’ actions that were the proof as you falsely stated which i gave you a benefit of the doubt but am begginning to think it was on purpose.
    was it an oversight or not? if so admit it.
    It is very important to state this correctly because there are they who believe Jesus got up on his own as what your statement implied whether or not you meant it that way

    Jesus’ action is the result of God’s action. He was able to get up because God raised him. Thus his walking around and being seen was the proof that God raised him from the dead, which is the proof that he is the Messiah.

    I know there are some who believe that Jesus raised himself, but I pointed out in my first response to you that I did not say that. Trinitarians who interpret it that way are the ones making false statements. But to say that Jesus “got up from the dead” does not imply that and thus is not a false statement, especially when I clarified that I did not say he raised himself.

    Can we just agree that the resurrection was the ultimate proof that Jesus was the Messiah, as the Bible tells us?

  12. on 28 Dec 2009 at 7:12 pmXavier

    Mark C. & robert

    Chill brethren! 🙂

    …he was able to get up BECAUSE God raised him.

    robert does have a point though that we have to be specific since not all of us have this knowledge [1Cor 8.5-7].

  13. on 28 Dec 2009 at 8:12 pmrobert

    we do agree that the resurrection is proof but that wasnt the issue.
    your first post after mine should of been sorry i didnt make myself clear instead of trying to justify it by saying it meant the same thing.
    but it is now clarified and harm is undone if they read comments

  

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