WHAT IS FAITH?
© 2010, by John Tors. All Rights Reserved.
First, faith is defined as “complete trust or confidence” (Webster’s), “complete trust, unquestioning confidence” (Oxford), and as such it is something everyone practises, including your atheist friend, in ways both profound and mundane. For example, which of us would approach a complete stranger and ask him to cook us a meal, and then actually go to his place and eat it? Yet that is what we do every time we go to a restaurant. We eat food prepared for us by a complete stranger, having faith that he is not poisoning it, and that he is observing proper food hygiene during the preparation of it.
We show faith every time we allow a doctor to jab a needle into our arms and inject a foreign substance into us because he tells us it’s for our own good. We have faith in our spouses, that they will not cheat on us. Yet such faith is sometimes misplaced. People do die of food poisoning contracted at restaurants; there is such a thing as medical malpractice; and some spouses do cheat.
Your atheist friend has “complete trust” that there is no God to whom he will have to give account after he dies. This is every bit as “blind” as the faith he accuses religious people of having, and I think his faith here is definitely misplaced.
Now, what distinguishes “faith” from “blind faith”? If we look back at the examples, we should notice that some level of evidence comes into play. While we may regularly eat at restaurants, would we eat at one with a health warning from government inspectors displayed in the window, or one of which we heard that it has rats and cockroaches in the kitchen? I wouldn’t. Would you get a vaccination from a doctor who’s had his licence to practise revoked? Is it faith or blind faith to trust a spouse who has philandered in the past and continues to do so?
The upshot of all this is that we all have to have faith in many ways, and the wise man will base his faith on facts and evidence, even in the matter of religious faith. Your atheist friend seems to think that religious people believe blindly, and that may be the case for many such people, but it should not be the case for careful Christians. The God of the Bible acts in human history, in ways that can be assessed on factual grounds.
Muhammad claimed to be the seal of the prophets bringing the final revelation from God, and the means to victory over death. Over one billion people believe his message, yet what proof did Muhammad bring to authenticate himself? Three times in the Qur’an he is challenged to do a miracle to prove himself, and each time he is unable to do so. He died in AD 632 and remains in his grave, so why should I believe that his message can give me victory over death?
Similarly, millions believe the message of Buddha, who (if he existed at all), claimed that he was wiser than God (whom he said doesn’t exist) and knew all things (though almost immediately he was caught in a mistake about the ability of women to grasp his message). He, too, offered no proof for his teachings and died like everyone else and remains in his grave, so why should anyone believe him?
These I consider to be examples of blind faith, wherein people put faith in something even though there is no evidence to support it. Even worse would be the faith of the evolutionist, who puts his faith in science as the tool of truth and yet believes a theory that the very science in which he puts faith disproves. This is not just blind faith, it is perverse faith.
Jesus, on the other hand, alone among those claiming to bring the message of ultimate truth, did not ask for blind faith. On the contrary, he repeatedly challenged people to look at the proof that He brought e.g. Matthew 11:3-5; John 5:36; John 10:37-38; Luke 24:36-40. His greatest proof, of course, is His resurrection, to which He points (John 2:18-22). He is the only one He points to proof for Himself, because He is the only one who can do so. Since He defeated death for Himself, it seems eminently reasonable for me to believe that He can do it for me. (And I think all of His claims can be demonstrated on historical and scientific grounds to such an extent that the burden of proof must shift to those such as your atheist friend who would deny it.)
Faith, then, in the Christian understanding, is not believing Jesus blindly, but putting “complete trust and confidence” in Him because He has proven that He is what He claimed to be. And I would be willing to match the basis for my faith against that for Muhammad, Buddha, Darwin, or anything else.