“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, being convinced of what we do not see.” Heb 11:1 NET
The words of Hebrews 11:1 (especially as rendered in the King James Version) are sometimes taken to be a definition of faith, however this is not the intention of the text. John Carter makes the observation “Primarily faith is trust in God’s word…[which] has the result of producing confidence concerning the future, and a conviction concerning things not seen.”1
Those who seek to follow Jesus as a disciple understand faith as integral to their lives. The Bible places great importance on faith as essential to pleasing God, e.g. Hebrews 11:6 and a fundamental requirement to be saved (leaving aside for the moment what “being saved” means) Ephesians 2:8.
But what sort of confidence is Christian faith? A strong faith is one which has a foundation of evidence and reason. Blind faith, while a fine sounding concept, is not consistent with the testimony of God’s word. Scripture provides plenty of passages where God provides evidence of His existence and is happy for us to examine it. Correct reason is an ally to faith and results in a logic-based service.
In 1 Peter 3:15 (NET) the disciple is encouraged to “make a defence” (the Greek word apologia from which apologetics is derived) “to anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that is in you”. God is asking us to develop an evidence based faith/trust and be ready to present this to others. The reason (Greek “logos”) means we should “speak intelligently”.2 I.e. we need to present evidence which is credible and intelligible to our audience. While absolute proof on everything (or anything) is impossible, we “must have reasons for belief such as evidence”.3
Through the Bible we see examples of individuals and groups who were provided with (sometimes repeated) evidence on which to base their faith. Furthermore the Bible openly invites a consideration of internal and external evidence eg:
- The physical world around us Romans 1:19
- The people of Israel Isa 43:10
- Fulfilment of prophecy Deut 18:22, Ezekiel 6:7
- Specific actions in the lives of people Malachi 3:10
- Critically – the resurrection 1Cor 15:5-8, John 20:26-31
If, as is my conviction, God is real and the Bible is inspired then as others have noted “there can never be any real contradiction between faith and reason, between Christian revelation and true philosophy or true science”.4 The Bible expects us to come to faith and obey God based on the exercise of our reason (e.g. Romans 12:1).
- Gaston, Thomas E. (Ed) (2011) “Reasons: Evidence for God, Jesus and the Bible” Tyne and Wear: Willow Publications
- Kreeft, P., & Tacelli, R. K. (1994). Handbook of Christian apologetics: hundreds of answers to crucial questions (p. 43). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press
- Carter, J. (1975). The Letter to the Hebrews Hall Green Birmingham, UK: The Christadelphian (pp. 131–132).
- Zodhiates, S. (2000). The complete word study dictionary: New Testament (electronic ed.). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.
- Gaston, Thomas E. (Ed) (2011) “Reasons: Evidence for God, Jesus and the Bible” Tyne and Wear: Willow Publications page 14
- Kreeft, P., & Tacelli, R. K. (1994). Handbook of Christian apologetics: hundreds of answers to crucial questions (p. 43). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.