23 Jun Why This Christian Hates Faith
*The following is adapted from Prove It: The Art & Science of Understanding & Articulating Why You Believe What You Believe.
Okay, the title may be a little strong. I certainly don’t hate faith… depending on how you define faith. What I hate is what faith has come to mean. Understand that words are used in many different ways – depending on time, location, context, etc. This can create confusion when the exact usage of a word becomes unclear (read about verbicide The Plot To Make Us Idiots). For many, “faith” means “blind faith.” Faith has come to mean belief in something without any evidence.
However, I want to know what God defines faith. According to Jesus, the greatest commandment is to love God with with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your MIND (Luke 10:27). Proverbs says, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding (Proverbs 3:13). Paul commends healthy skepticism in Acts 17, calling it noble! “Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:11).”
Apologetics (the field of defending the “Faith”) seeks to establish (construct) or dismantle (deconstruct) certain truth claims. Determining the role of faith and reason is vital to developing an appropriate understanding and presentation of truth claims. For example, if humans are perfectly rational and faith does not play a role in understanding truth, then faith need not be addressed in, or through, apologetic presentations. Likewise, if humans are perfectly faithful beings, and reason does not play a role in understanding truth, then reason need not be addressed in, or through, apologetic presentations.
Faith is a loaded word. If you ask a room to define faith, you might get twenty different answers. Hebrews describes faith as, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hb11:1).” To simplify even further, think of faith as trust. Christian faith, then, is specifically trusting in God. But that is not an anti-intellectual trust. God is not insecure. He knows that if we test things (honestly and appropriately) that evidence points to the fact that He is THE TRUTH, THE WAY, AND THE LIFE. Faith is not meant to be anti-intellectual. God chose to give us brains for a reason. Faith (trust) simply means that we don’t rely exclusively on our own understanding. We all have to trust something beyond ourselves (Read: Why Atheists Need Faith Just Like The Rest Of Us).
Of course, most reasonable(pun intended) persons recognize that all humans utilize some degree of reason and faith (trust). Indeed the very act of reasoning requires having faith (trusting) in one’s own capacity to reason. Likewise, even the most anti-intellectual, “faith”-filled individual uses some rational faculty to arrive at their conclusions. With this in mind, it is important to acknowledge that people do not follow the Christian “faith,” as many errantly proclaim of themselves (at least not as faith is commonly defined). Christians follow a Christian belief system, which is a collective worldview consisting of both faith and reason, though unquestionably to varying degrees. Faith is only one dimension of the complex eternal relationship that we have with God. Calling it the “Christian Faith” (in the sense that it is often used) is quite literally one-dimensional.
As mentioned, the Great Commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind (Lk 10:27).” Every part of us is responsible for responding to, following, and loving, God. Indeed, this response even extends beyond just faith and reason. Following God is emotional, relational, rational, experiential, and willful, among others. Recognizing and addressing the completeness of the human being is foundational to a healthy, broad, and accurate apologetic.
While I postulate that following God involves more than just faith and reason, these two do stand as key pillars of belief systems. Without both pillars intact, the belief structure will collapse. The relationship between these two pillars is perhaps best described as pedals. Think, for a moment, about the mechanics of bicycle pedals. Each foot applies pressure, constantly driving the machine forward. When the leverage or force of one begins to lack, the other pushes harder to make up for the backward motion of its partner. Together, faith and reason keep momentum moving in a forward direction, with one filling in when the other is not producing positive energy.
So what shall we do with this information? BE CAREFUL when you use the word faith. Understand that just because you know what you mean by faith, doesn’t mean other people know. The word faith has been hijacked and is often portrayed as anti-intellectual, which is simply not the case. I often avoid the word faith because of this ambiguity. In its stead I use the word trust when I am speaking of choosing believing something that I don’t fully grasp and I use “belief” to describe my collective understanding which is made up of both trusting and reasoning. If you don’t want to let go of the word faith, make sure that you clarify what you mean every time you use it or you may be misrepresenting your point to the detriment of the Gospel.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Should we be cautious about using the word faith without explaining it? Leave a comment below and share to get your friends in on the conversation.
For more like this, check out: IS ATHEISM A RELIGION?