I’m wondering if “faith” may be more trouble than it’s worth. Before you write me off as a heretic, hear me out. I don’t have a problem with the biblical concept of faith, it’s the word itself that I have a growing dislike for.
In our postmodern culture, many words have been redefined. This creates a language barrier between believers and non believers. Even within the church, there are people who have adopted our culture’s definition of various words, and as a result don’t clearly understand some Christian concepts.
One of these words is “faith.” The modern definition is believing something without proof. When we tell someone to have faith in God, they understand us to be saying, “Turn off your brain and blindly accept my concept of God as truth.” Let me be clear. I do not have that kind of faith in God. The Bible does not ask us to have that kind of faith. I believe that kind of faith is utterly foolish and potentially very destructive.
To be fair, “belief without proof” is one of the dictionary definitions of the word, but that is not the biblical concept of faith. Faith, as the term is used in the Bible, is believing, trusting and having confidence in someone or something. Faith in God is not “blind faith” without proof. Here are a few verses about faith:
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Cor 2:4-5)
Faith here is not believing without proof. It is the exact opposite, seeing the demonstration of the Spirit’s power gave Paul’s hearers reason to believe and trust in God.
“Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17)
Again, this is not a baseless, blind faith. It is based on “hearing the message.” When people hear of what God has done in the past and in other’s lives, they have a reason to believe. If God has a record of faithfulness in the past, it is reasonable to trust that that he will be faithful now. If God has been faithful in the lives of others, it is reasonable to believe he will be faithful to me. This verse deals with people initially establishing faith in God. Once they have a relationship with God and can see him working in and through their lives, they have even more reason to have ever increasing faith based on experiencing God’s faithfulness personally.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Peter 3:15)
This verse doesn’t use the word “faith,” but it is relevant to what I am trying to explain. When someone asks about the hope we have, this verse does not tell us to say “Well, I just blindly accepted this concept of God and am choosing to believe it will work out, even though there is really no reason to believe it.” No, we must be ready to give a reason or a defence for what we believe. It is impossible to give a reason for “blind faith,” because, by it’s very definition, it has no reason.
I know someone will bring up Hebrews 11:1, so let me address that. The verse says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” This verse is not saying faith is blindly believing unseen things. Quite the opposite. The Greek word used here for “substance” implies a foundation. Because we have this foundation of faith, we have hope. This foundation of faith gives us reason to believe God will continue to come through in the future, even though the future is unseen. This verse says nothing about where faith comes from. That’s because Hebrews 10 just finished reminding its readers about their past experience with God. In context, Hebrews 11:1 is saying that because God has been faithful carrying you through hard times in the past, you have reason to have hope for the future. Because you have seen God work, you can be confident that he is still working when you can’t see it.
To give a human example, suppose I am waiting for someone at an important meeting. If I am asked whether I was sure the person would show up, my answer would depend on who I was waiting for. If it was someone I didn’t know or, worse yet, someone who had a poor track record of keeping commitments, my answer might be “I hope so” or “We’ll see.” If, on the other hand, I was waiting for someone that I know from experience I could count on, my answer would be “Absolutely! This person has always come through for me in the past, so I have faith in them that they’ll do it now.” In this fictional example, the better I know a person and the more faithful they have shown themselves to be in the past, the more faith I can put in them in the present. Our faith in other people isn’t blind. We put out faith in people when we think there is sufficient reason to justify that faith. Faith in God is like that. The more we know about him and, more importantly know him personally, the more we can trust (have faith) in him.
To get back to my original question, does the word “faith” clearly communicate this biblical concept to our lost world? Perhaps we should stop using that word with the unsaved. Might it be better to tell people to “have confidence in God” or “trust in God,” instead? That might come closer to conveying the biblical concept than using the word “faith.” I’m not sure. What do you think?