In part one of this post, I’d mentioned two misconceptions when it comes to faith. One, is to consider faith as exclusively a religious concept that has nothing to do with the rest of life. Another is to presume that faith has no relationship to knowledge or the intellect.
Let’s look at the first misconception. We exercise faith each day of our life. We have faith that the chair we sit in is sturdy, and will not collapse underneath us. We have faith that the carnival employees have properly put together the amusement park rides. Parents must have faith that their babysitter will properly watch their children. Someone engaged to be married has faith that their beloved has honestly represented themselves. If you don’t have faith, you won’t be able to do much in life! Unless, perhaps, you have a great deal of time and money to…hire an engineer to check the structural safety of every piece of furniture or amusement park ride…or hire a private investigator to research your babysitter or fiance. And such a lack of faith might make your fiance change their mind about the pending marriage!
A book I have (Handbook of Christian Beliefs) states it this way:
Life for us humans means risk, and the wise person is the one who does not seek certainty, but seeks adequate reason to believe the best alternative available. Then he or she ventures forward in faith, trusting something or someone because of what she thinks she knows about that thing or person…..Everyday life constantly presses us beyond what we know (or think we know) and requires us to exercise faith. We frequently find ourselves compelled to trust beyond what we are sure of…
I think everyone in the world is placing their faith in something. For example, I see both a Christian and an atheist as having faith. A Christian believes there is a God. An atheist believes there is not a God. Yet neither can prove it, at least not in an empirical sense. However, each has reasons for their belief. Yet without proof, they are both exercising faith. If a person does not have faith in God, I think that they just transfer their faith to something else. A secular humanist is placing their faith in mankind. They have faith that humanity can eventually find all the answers. Others may place their faith in fate/destiny or in…science. Yes, science. Even science dead ends and can not answer some questions. Isn’t it exercising faith to believe that science will one day find the answers to unanswered questions?
It seems that some people want to limit our options to only two, at least when it comes to Christian faith: Either we need to throw our brains out the window and take a blind leap in the dark. Or we must refuse to believe until any and all objections or questions are answered. – But why do those two extremes have to be the only options??
We don’t limit ourselves like this in the rest of life! In many circumstances of life, we carefully consider the options and evidence, and then we make a decision – not based on absolute certainty, but based on adequate and sufficient reasons to do so.
Now let’s consider the second misconception. Faith and reason are not opposites, but are connected to each other. Faith is more than feelings or emotions. I don’t think it is accurate or fair to say that a person with faith is functioning only on an emotional level. Our intellect must be part of the picture too. Faith is not believing in “what you know isn’t true”! I really don’t think anyone would purposely place their faith in something they know is false. There is no virtue in trusting someone or something without a good reason to. Technically, there is no such thing as “blind faith” because everyone has a reason to believe what he or she believes.
However, it is certainly true that someone’s reasons could turn out to be faulty or inadequate! And on my blog, I certainly encourage people to ask questions about their beliefs, and go deeper in their understanding of it.
There are intellectually sound reasons to believe in Christianity. Reams of apologetic work have been done. But, yes, faith must come into the picture. There are questions without answers, and concerns without adequate explanations. However, this does not mean that believing in Christianity is irrational or unreasonable. Science can’t answer every question either – does that mean believing in science is irrational? “That’s different” you might say. Perhaps it is. But the point is that….Indubitability (absolute certainty) is not necessary in order to have a rational and reasonable belief about something. And I have enough certainty that I can reasonably and rationally place my faith in Christianity.
I am also a firm believer in the biblical and theological concept of “faith seeking understanding.” If we are unwilling to put forth some initial faith, we are limiting our ability to progress. Hebrews 11:6 states: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” As we exercise Christian faith, it leads to deeper understanding and knowledge. (See this post for more.) Again, I don’t think this is limited only to the religious realm! In various realms of knowledge, we may need to place our faith in a person or theory in order to advance into further knowledge.
As a Christian believer, I also believe that the Holy Spirit plays a critical role in all of this. (See this post for more.) In closing, I am reminded of the title that I chose for my blog: Enough Light. This is based on a Blaise Pascal quote:
In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.
Where will we place our faith? Will we place it in the light, or in the shadows?? There are shadows. This can’t be denied. I can understand why some people are overwhelmed by the shadows. But there is also light, and for me there is enough light. While Christianity can’t answer every question, the Christian faith makes the most sense of the world around me. It completes more of the puzzle than the other options out there. And the missing puzzle pieces come down to faith…