Thursday, November 27, 2008

What is Faith?

What is Faith?
Examples of Faith in Our Popular Culture:

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: starring Harrison Ford & Sean Connery as Indy’s father) – At the end of the story, Indy must retrieve the Holy Grail to save his father’s life. He makes it through a long corridor of obstacles; only to find he is standing on the edge of a deep chasm he must cross. He steps out “in faith” and finds he is actually walking on a camouflaged footbridge. Therefore, we see that FAITH = BELIEVING IN THE FACE OF CONTRADICTORY EVIDENCE.

Revolutions: the third movie in The Matrix trilogy. In the final scene the Oracle is asked if she always knew that Neo was “The One”? She replies, “Oh no. But I believed. I believed.”Therefore, we see that FAITH = BELIEVING WITHOUT REALLY KNOWING.

Polar Express: The boy, who is skeptical about whether Santa Clause is real, finally is lead to say, "I believe, I believe." Just then, Santa appears to him. Therefore, we see that FAITH = BELIEVING MAKES IT REAL. (1) For that matter, can one's faith make God exist? Can one's faith make the Bible true, or make Jesus rise from the dead? Hopefully you answered NO to these questions. (1)

The Leap of Faith
As seen above, is it any wonder why our culture does not have a clear understanding of the nature of biblical faith? Furthermore, one of the most common assertions about faith in God or Jesus as the Messiah is nothing more than a "leap of faith." But is this really what the Bible teaches? Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), became one of the foremost contributors to existential philosophy because of a reaction to one of the largest influences on his life, that being George Hegel, who believed the only way to discover reality was through rationalism. Another contributing factor to Kierkegaard’s existentialism was the experience he had in his formal church that was located in Denmark. It was there that practicing faith with passion was discounted. Out of his reaction to the cold formalism, Kierkegaard discovered what was important was to have an existential encounter with God. (2)

The phrase itself “leap of faith” finds its origins in the writings of Kierkegaard. For him, since man finds his authentic existence in a relationship with the Creator, the decision to believe must involve a criterionless choice, a leap of faith into the dark. Even though Kierkegaard says there are no rational grounds to take the “leap of faith,” the individual must do so or he will forever remain in an inauthentic existence. (3) Kierkegaard was correct in calling people to a passionate experience with God. After all, faith is not simply about adhering to a set of objective, historical propositions. However, the subjective nature of existentialism leads to one of the most important questions in religious dialogue- what god is the individual encountering? Do not all religious experiences require an external test for truth? After all, while there are some similarities in faiths such as truth, a God, right and wrong, spiritual purpose in life, and communion with God, they all also have some glaring differences such as the nature of God, the afterlife, the nature of man, sin, salvation, and creation.

In their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics, Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli give a summary of faith. It is very helpful.

Kreeft and Tacelli say we must distinguish between the act of faith from the object of faith- believing from what is believed. The object of faith means all things believed. For the Christian, this means everything God has revealed in the Bible. This faith (the object, not the act), is expressed in propositions. Propositions are many, but the ultimate object of faith is one. The ultimate object of faith is not words, but God’s Words (singular), indeed-Himself. Without a relationship with the living God, propositions are pointless, for their point is to point beyond themselves to God. But without propositions, we cannot know or tell others what God we believe in and what we believe about God.

The act of faith is more than merely an act of belief. We believe many things-for example that the Chicago White Sox will win this years world series and that New Zealand is beautiful but we are not willing to die for those beliefs, nor can we live them every moment. But religious faith can be something to live every moment. It is much more than belief and much stronger, though belief is one of its parts or aspects. There are four aspects of faith:

Emotional faith: is feeling assurance or trust or confidence in a person. This includes hope (which is much stronger than a wish and peace (which is much stronger then mere calm).

Intellectual faith: is belief. It is this aspect of faith that is formulated in propositions and summarized in creeds.

Volitional faith: is an act of the will, a commitment to obey God’s will. This faith is faithfulness, or fidelity. It manifests itself in behavior, that is, in good works.

Faith: begins in that obscure mysterious center of our being that Scripture calls the ‘heart.” Heart in Scripture does not mean feeling, or sentiment, or emotion, but the absolute center of the soul, as the physical heart is at the center of the body. “Keep your heart with all viligence” advised Solomon, “for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23).

1. Courtesy of Summit Ministries. Available at
2. Erickson, M. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. 1998, 40-47.
3. Craig, W.L. Reasonable Faith. Wheaten, ILL: Crossway Books. 1984, 56.

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