Faith: No Doubt About it
A condition that plagues many Christians today – both young and old – is what I call Thomasphobia: the fear of doubting.
This malady often begins in elementary Sunday school class when the Easter story is told and children hear about Doubting Thomas. Wide-eyed children are asked, “Can you believe Thomas doubted that Jesus rose from the dead? You don’t want to be a Doubting Thomas do you?”
This is significant because as these children grow and begin to think more about their beliefs, they may have genuine questions that need answering, but since it’s been ingrained in them that it’s wrong to doubt, they end up reasoning, “I don’t understand it or know why, but I guess I just have to have faith.”
So let me ask you: is it okay to doubt? What place do you think honest (and sometimes hard) questions have in our faith? What is the biblical view of faith? A leap in the dark? Believing in spite of the facts? Wishful thinking that ignores reality? Is Christianity true because we think it is true, or maybe because there are more of us that believe?
Ask the average person to define it and some will say faith is simply how they were raised or what helps them cope during tough times. Others might claim that sincerity is all that matters. A more skeptical person might say it’s choosing to believe something without considering the evidence.
In other words, faith is opposed to reason and contrary to fact. This view is what I call blind faith – holding certain beliefs regardless of any evidence stating otherwise.
A Biblical View of Faith
If you’re sitting down to read this, think for a moment about how thoroughly you investigated the stability of your chair before you sat down. While you probably didn’t run an analysis on its load-bearing capacity, this doesn’t mean you have blind faith in the chair. You’ve probably either sat in it before or a quick glance convinced you it could hold up. Your faith was reasonably placed in a trustworthy object (the chair), and you acted on it.
This is relevant to our topic because people today often think the act of believing makes something true. Believing the chair would hold you did not make it trustworthy; it was already trustworthy, whether you believed in it or not. Your personal beliefs didn’t change the objective facts.
With this in mind, my definition of biblical faith – as opposed to blind faith – is trusting in what you have reason to believe is true.
For example, Hebrews 11:11 explains that Abraham and Sarah believed God’s amazing promise that they would have a child because they knew He was faithful. In other words, they didn’t blindly believe, but rather placed their faith in the One they knew was trustworthy. Their faith wasn’t opposed to reason; it was built on reason.
I think sometimes Christians resist offering reasons for faith (aka apologetics) because they think evidence will substitute faith, and, if God values faith, we shouldn’t worry about evidence. But let’s see if God is concerned with giving us proof for our faith with more examples:
- The calling of Moses (Exodus 4:1-9): The Lord gives Moses miraculous signs to perform before the Israelites and Pharaoh “so that they may believe” (not hope or wish).
- Jesus’ healing of a paralytic (Mark 2:1-12): Jesus performs this miracle before the people and states, “that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”
- Peter’s sermon at Pentecost (Acts 2:29-36): Peter explains that he is a witness to the fact of the resurrection and then says, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus … both Lord and Christ.” The resurrection gave evidence to Jesus’ divinity.
- Paul’s sermon in Athens (Acts 17:31): Paul points out that God has set a day when Jesus will judge the world and has “given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” Again, the historical fact of the resurrection is the evidence that we are to place our faith in.
Would God be interested in providing evidence for people to believe, know, be assured, or have proof if He wanted them to just blindly hope in something? This is why Peter said, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet 2:16).
The Two Parts of Faith
Let’s use another illustration to demonstrate biblical faith – the Trust Fall. Imagine you’re standing on the end of a table and about to fall back into the arms of six strong men. As the faller, you represent the first part of correct faith – the person doing the trusting. Obviously for this to work, you must have enough confidence to actually fall backwards. But correct faith involves another element – a trustworthy object you are placing your faith in, waiting to catch you. Your subjective (or personal) faith must be placed in something that is objective (i.e., outside of you) and trustworthy.
To understand the importance of this second component, imagine we change the group catching you to six toddlers. Would you consider this an important detail? Obviously so! Your faith, no matter how genuine or strong, would matter little now because the object of your faith is no longer trustworthy. Let’s apply this now to biblical faith…
While we mustn’t minimize the importance of someone’s personal faith, this must always be accompanied with a trustworthy object. Individual Mormons and Muslims, for example, demonstrate a great deal of subjective faith (the first part of correct faith). But the more important question is whether their faith is in a trustworthy object (the second part). If Mormonism and Islam are not objectively true, all the wishing or sincerity in the world will not make them true.
Like an individual who would fall into a crowd of toddlers, sincerely trusting he’ll be caught, people can be genuine and wholehearted about their religion, yet sincerely wrong because their faith is not in an object worthy of their trust (see Rm 10:1-3).
Apologetics – giving evidence for Christianity – is therefore helpful because it demonstrates that your belief is in a trustworthy object (i.e., it is objectively true and worthy of your trust).
So claiming that it only matters if a person is genuine simply misses the point. The issue is truth, not sincerity.
People can be sincerely wrong in their beliefs, thinking they will go to heaven, paradise, nirvana, etc., but in reality be completely wrong. Genuine people can believe in things that are false. But truth – by its very nature – is always narrow and exclusive.
Now obviously people can believe whatever they want, but just because everyone has a right to an opinion doesn’t mean every opinion is right. Again, it’s not about the sincerity of their faith, but the object of their faith. It’s not how zealous or committed they are, or even about the amount of faith they have. It’s about whether they have faith in what is True.
So is it wrong to doubt? Not if you are seriously seeking the truth.
Genuine doubt (i.e., not just looking for excuses for unbelief, but sincere questioning) is not the opposite of faith, it is the forefather of faith.
If Christianity is true, then it will not only withstand tough questions, but it can also be demonstrated to be trustworthy. Asking honest, thoughtful questions will lead to the Truth upon which you can then intelligently place your faith. Overall, faith and reason are not polar opposites. Faith is trusting in what you have reason to believe is true.