Archive for June, 2012

The nature of faith

June 4th, 2012 No comments

Since starting my job at Sevenstar Academy two years ago (time flies!), I have had the privilege of teaching four courses, three of which on different occasions, on an as-needed basis.  One of these courses, the one which I teach most often, is a fairly open-ended course – while the final exam looks for particular answers, I have the luxury of reviewing students’ opinions, encouraging and pressing them in their writing, and helping them to refine their thought process as they prepare their 1-2 page essay assignments.

The other two courses, each theology/doctrine courses, are fairly objective.  For the most part, it is a standard Arminian presentation, so  I don’t have a problem with most of it.  I also enjoy these courses because I have the opportunity to push students a bit, sometimes beyond what is communicated in the course material.  Often they will express an opinion that differs from the reading, and as long as they are also aware of the correct answer, I give them credit.

The early part of these courses, the second-semester doctrine course, is concerned with “defending” one’s faith.  Various arguments are used, such as Paschal’s wager, the “court-proof” argument as I call it (if the Gospels were written by eye-witnesses, their testimony would be held up as true in today’s legal system), and the fact that since Jesus’s bones have not been found, there is no concrete evidence against the idea of a resurrected Savior.

Recently, I have begun to scrutinize this type of theology.  I do not think the faith is this easily articulated.  No doubt, it is good for my high school students.  Most of them I judge to be fairly young in their faith – every once in a while, when the extra-inquisitive student comes along, I am able to go beyond what is written; otherwise, I tend to leave well enough alone – it is good that they have a sense of security in their faith as they grow and mature in their relationship with Christ.

Having these kinds of defenses is good for any Christian, really. But sooner or later, these types of arguments come up short.  Why?  Because they are theoretical only.  One of these arguments is, in a way, an argument against itself: though we certainly have not found the bones of Jesus (and our faith says we never will), neither can we “prove” that the resurrection happened.  There is no tangible evidence to support EITHER claim.

Valuable though apologetics is when articulating one’s faith to others, is it necessary for our own faith?  Some folks, no doubt, are comforted by the idea of having a logical argument in support of their faith at arm’s reach, ready to be articulated.

But for a personal faith, is it necessary?

Anyone who has spent any length of time in Christian circles is undoubtedly familiar with Hebrews 11:1:

“Now faith is sure of what we hope for and evidence of things we do not see.”

What is this verse saying?  It seems quite clear: Though we believe–and indeed, know–things to be true, the essence of faith is not needing these types of arguments to  have a personal, vibrant faith in Jesus Christ.

One of my younger friends asked me once, “Jon, how can we actually know for sure that what we have in history books actually happened?”

Good question.

We have plenty of artifacts, plenty of eye-witness accounts, letters, documents, and the like to suggest that history did happen.  But the fact is that since we did not live it ourselves, all of this evidence is ultimately questionable (now it should be understood that I don’t believe that a person with any common sense would deny that what is said to be “history” actually happened, and in fact, this is also one of the arguments to be use d for Christianity, since  again we do have these documents that claim to be eye-witness accounts).

One of the most profound truths of the Christian faith is also the most unsettling–it is that while witness of the Spirit that speaks of the truth of these things, one cannot get around this fact:

There is absolutely no empirical evidence to support the idea of the risen Christ.

We do have the eye-witness accounts presented in the Gospels, but a ney-sayer can just as easily write them off as fabrications.  We don’t have the bones of Jesus, but one could just as easily use the centuries-old argument that his body was stolen and is yet to be recovered.

Folks, this is what faith is.  Faith is the witness of the Holy Spirit in our lives, witnessing His truth that the events recounted in Scripture did actually happen.  Faith is believing, and in fact knowing something to be true when there ultimately is no hard-and-fast evidence.  Ultimately, the crux of Christianity is uncertain, yet certain.

That’s why I think these arguments for Christianity ultimately come up short, because (for me, at least) they are un-necessary.  I do not know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus rose from the dead in a sense that can be proven.  But I do know that the Spirit of God speaks a faith into me that cannot be shaken, that is unproven yet proven by the witness of the Holy Spirit.  For me, THAT is the nature of faith–believing and knowing something to be true so that no logical argument is required.  Sure, such arguments help to articulate our faith to others, particularly when witnessing to non-believers, but as far as a personal faith, are they really necessary?

What does it say if we rely too much upon said arguments to prove our faith?  What does that say about the condition of our faith, that we must go to such lengths to prove it?

Anyway, these are just some thoughts I’ve been kicking around lately.  Some if not most have room for critique and criticism.  But, if nothing else, they make for good food-for-thought.


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