Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Jason Calhon, a good friend whom I enjoy sparring, both with martial arts and with words.
“Faith is an irrational belief in something that is impossible.”
–Emily Deschanel as Temperance Brennan, Fox Television series Bones
I rarely actually hear statements so direct as the one above, but it seems I often hear faith dismissed as something only the ignorant or foolish would possess. The word itself conjures up images of God, churches, and religious rituals of all kinds. Let us not forget the dozens of wars fought and the millions of people killed over the centuries by “faithful” people.
It amazes me to no end that people use this word constantly, as something to be cherished or held in contempt, without any clue at all what the word actually means. As I began to write this article, I wasn’t even sure I could make it long enough to be worth reading, for the meaning of the word “faith” is actually quite simple.
That’s it. It’s no more complicated than that. The word “faith” may carry religious or spiritual connotations or imply belief in unknowable things, but that is not its true meaning. It simply means trust, or belief.
Once that is understood, then what many people do not seem to realize becomes obvious. Faith itself means nothing. Faith is not an end in itself, it must have an object, and even more importantly, that object must be able to provide the need of the faith. If I need to get to work in the morning, I have to trust my car to be able to get me there. If I wish to obtain eternal life, I have to trust one who is actually able to provide eternal life.
If I didn’t trust my car, I would get another one. If I didn’t trust my God, I would get another one.
With a parallel like that, it also becomes obvious that faith need not be blind. It need not be immune to scrutiny or criticism. Faith can be based on knowledge. It can be based on experience, or research, and can be carefully examined to make certain that the object of your faith is able to provide what you need. My morning ride to work may not matter much, so it doesn’t really matter if my faith in the car is misplaced. My road to eternity matters a great deal, so I’d better make very certain that my faith in God is well placed. To steal the quote, “Eternity is a long time to be wrong.”
Billions of people around the world claim to have faith in God in some way or another. Many of them say this simply because they go into a fancy building once or twice a week. This is habit, not faith. Others have very real faith, held with conviction that can lead them to martyrdom or drive them to murder. You can’t deny the reality of that kind of faith, but again, you must examine its object. Only a god who is real deserves your faith.
So in whom do I trust? I trust Jesus Christ, the real Son of the real God. This Jesus is the one who lived a perfect life, and allowed himself to be crucified two thousand years ago to pay the price for my sins and purchase my entrance into the presence of God. This Jesus is the one who got up and walked out of his tomb after being dead for three days. This Jesus is the one who interacted with his followers for over a month after his death and resurrection, before himself going up into heaven.
If I’m wrong about Him, I’m in just as much trouble as anyone else. So how can I know?
Libraries, almost, have been written on the reliability of the Christian Bible and the accuracy of its records. We know the Bible has been reliably preserved over the centuries quite simply because we have copies of the Bible which are almost as old as the events they claim to record, and they are the same as the Bibles we have today. We have found mountains of archaeological evidence to corroborate what the Bible says. The physical sciences are also finding ways to verify what the Bible has to say about the universe.
I do not wish to minimize the importance of the written Word, but there is another reason I believe.
I know the Lord. I have met him, spoken to Him, and He to me. I’m not talking about booming voices from the sky or strange other-worldly experiences, but experiences both more subtle and more clear to me, though I doubt I could explain them to one who has not experienced the same.
I know the LORD, and He has earned my trust.