Simply Faith–not Simple Faith

The Thirteen: One Crisis
June 26, 2018
Set Your Phone To “On” At My Church
August 8, 2018
Show all

SIMPLY FAITH

–not SIMPLE FAITH

By Pastor Vinnie

 

The screech of his overused marker on the well-worn surface of the college classroom dry-erase board demanded my instant attention. He was red in the face, frustrated with me, from our long one on one debate. He was full of mindful intensity, as he looked me in the eye, slammed down his dry marker on the desk and shouted, “Vinnie, what is a matter with you? Why do you have the gall to think you can prove the existence, God? God can’t be proved! Furthermore, why would you want to? I thought you were the Christian here, not me! Isn’t your whole religion thing about faith, after all? Well, I have got news for you, if you have to prove something; you don’t have faith in it! Faith is all about believing in things not yet proved!

Wham! My Professor of “The History of Philosophy” just totally schooled me on the meaning of faith. The greatest lesson I ever learned about faith, was not in the religion department, but in the secular Philosophy department, and was not taught to me by a believer but by a boldly, self-professed atheist professor[1][2]. He was completely right. To this day I am in his debt for awakening my mind to the fallacy of seeking to prove the improvable; faith.

The dictionary patently describes faith as;

A belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.[3]

The validity of the matter is that, on a purely logical and judicious level, the nature of the relationship between faith and proof is when a hypothesis becomes proven, it is no longer a hypothesis but rather, it is a proven fact. A proven fact is no longer a matter of faith, but simply a matter of fact. The way to end faith in anything is just to prove it. Then, it stops being about faith, and instantly becomes about just facts. And that is exactly, what will happen; I believe by faith,[4] when Christ parts the sky and returns in all His glory, every knee will bow[5], because there will no longer be room for disbelief in the sight of absolute fulfillment. That will be the very moment faith becomes fact!

However, our faith[6] is not blind faith. Blind faith, is faith that exists without any external points of reference. A text book definition of blind faith might be along the lines of belief without true understanding or discrimination based on concepts that can’t exist outside of your own mindset. It is an ill-informed or ignorant faith, that is vacant of any level of critical thinking skills.

The Christian faith is not blind faith, as the Apostle Paul would have said, “Heaven forbid!” We have not put our faith in, as we are often accused of, a fictitious, “flying spaghetti monster”[7] of gods. Rather our faith is based in an evolving system of Abrahamic religious teachings of many millennia; spanning from the ancient polytheistic tribal origins of Abraham in Ur, the birthplace of all monotheism, to becoming the driving force in the forging Western society, as we now know it. As American philosopher Dallas Willard once pondered; if we ripped every reference of the Bible (or Abrahamic faith traditions) from the infrastructure of the history of Western Civilization would there even be anything but vague debris left to read?[8]

The Bible has over forty authors who wrote over a period of 1,600 years. Its authors were large of different education, occupations, and worldviews. They wrote under differing circumstances and on three different continents and one island[9]. There are whole schools of academic accredited fields of study that endow the biblical perspective in history, philosophy, linguistics, and archeology. While they don’t, unqualifiedly, prove our Faith, they indeed give well-textured evidence that more than neutralizes the accusation that it is “blind faith” to the sincere mind.

The book of Hebrews, sums up, precisely, the point my philosophy professor made to me;

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1

Faith is not blind. Faith is not a vapor. Faith is not a dream world. Faith is not a “Flying Spaghetti Monster.” Faith is a substance! And substance has matter with uniform properties; it has a degree of tangibility. That substance (ὑπόστασις) is linguistically from the Greek compound of ὑπό and ἵστημι. The preposition, ὑπό, means “under” and the word ἵστημι means “to stand, or “cause to stand.” The word ὑπόστασις reveals to us that faith is the “under-standing” of things hoped for. In other words, it is the foundational element that causes our hope to “stand” as opposed to falling down. A good mental picture in your mind of what the word means would be a “pillar.” Although the pillar sits underneath the building, without it, the building would not stand. Similarly, faith is the pillar upon which our hope stands.[10] Many translations often put it more simply as “confidence.” Faith is an established pillar of confidence in things hoped for, even though they have not yet happened. We believe not blindly, but rather by looking at the evidence that God has planted throughout our lives. As Søren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher and that grandfather of Existentialism put it, “Leap of faith – yes, but only after reflection.”[11]

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” And it is reasonable to make that “Leap of faith” when we have built your case after reasonable reflection of the evidence of things still unfolding! This is the point Jesus makes when he says, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”[12] It is ok for faith to always be under construction and long as you count the evidence. It is not about proof; rather it is about hope in things that there is evidence of when you sit to count your cost.

Yes, we have academics, history, archeology, linguistics, ancient manuscript documents, and so forth, but the greatest evidence of the substance of faith is the life you and I choose to live! How is the invisible made visible in my life? How are my humility and meekness a living testimony of the Love of God for all peoples? How will I respond to a non-believer, whether a skeptic, a secular, agnostic, or atheist, or just a different breed of theist, when they openly disagree with me or accuse me of being a fool? If I profess the love of the living Savior who died for the world, rather than see it perish, then I, too, must have a spirit of love that meets the spirit of antagonism in those who, unreasonably, negate my reflective Leap of Faith. To put it another way, God can’t be alive in dead things like history, manuscripts, and archeological relics if He is not alive and kicking in the love and compassion of Believers.

There is more substance of evidence in the life of an addict who finds sobriety in Christ, than in finding the foundation of an ancient wall in Jericho. There is more substance of evidence in the life of bigot or misogynist who, in Christ, learns to love all people as equals, than there are in five thousand New Testament manuscripts. There is more substance of evidence in the life a bully who becomes a defender of the weak, a protector of the innocent, and advocate of justice than there is in all the linguistic understanding of a biblical language scholar. And above all, there is more substance of evidence in the life for a Christian who firmly, yet still patiently, lovingly, and tolerantly shows deference to a mean-spirited or even malicious skeptic, than there is in the combined weight of all academia.

What mattered even more than being willing and able to learn lessons of Faith from my atheist professor, was my genuine reception of his correct assertion when he boldly called me out, when I was wrong. What I did, in the moments after the dry-erase marker got slammed into the desk may be the only “substance of faith” my professor ever sees, and is certainly the reason we remain friends to this day. How I live, how I struggle, my willingness to repent, admit wrong, grow, and treat those with respect and reasonable honor, while at the same time remaining firm and convicted of the confidence of my faith in the presence of those who have no respect or even  dignity for me at all, maybe the only “substance” of faith that they ever see.

May we be the “the evidence of things not seen,” to the millions in this world who have not yet seen what we now see.

 


Footnotes:

[1] The Professor in question remains a great friend to this day. So much so that my first book will include a dedication to him in the forward. We don’t agree about Religion but grew to respect each other as ethical and academic thinkers all the same. I owe most of my critical thinking skills to this man.

[2] He often vacillated between seeing himself as an Atheist or an Agnostic depending upon the nature of the conversation.

[3] www.dictionary.com/browse/faith second usage of the word.

[4] Yes, I added the phrase “by faith” to be both ironic and provocative.

[5] Philippians 2:10

[6] Namely, Christian faith.

[7] The flying spaghetti monster is often a favorite expression used to discredit Christians as unreasonable, ignorant, fairytale peddlers. It is a derogatory term that is served up with malice rather than intellectual discussion. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_Spaghetti_Monster

[8] I am paraphrasing his thought from his classic; The Divine Conspiracy.

[9] In His Word; Seminars Unlimited. Keen TX.

[10] Special thanks to Pastor Jonathan Martin, of Markham Woods Church in Longwood, FL and current Doctor of Ministry student, for helping me come up with a concise break down of the Greek word ὑπόστασις.

[11] https://goo.gl/bdVEWL

[12] Luke 14:28

 

Leave a Reply

LIKE WHAT YOU'RE READING?
SUBSCRIBE NOW!

You can unsubscribe anytime

Your information will not be shared, rented or sold.

THANK YOU FOR SUBSCRIBING!

%d bloggers like this: