In my previous post (Part 1), I tried to lay the groundwork for the importance of the proper definition of faith in the context of scripture and Christianity. That groundwork was necessary for the consideration of a few things that I outlined at the end, and hope to further expound upon here. I think we’ll find just how robust and relevant the concept of “faith” is in our daily lives, as well as how compatible it is with our experiences and reality.
- Faith as it is understood in popular society today, is NOT in line with the context of scripture or the time period in which it was written.
- There is no war between faith & reason.
- For the Christ follower, faith is NOT incompatible with apologetics (especially in light of #1)
The first point sets an all-encompassing precedent for the next two. If we properly understand the first point, then the next two follow naturally via common sense. Ignore it, however, and we end up with the situations we all experience today. As I mentioned in Part 1, it erodes the correct understanding of the authenticity of Christ and has caused countless people to turn away from Him.
If we were to view faith as three concentric circles, where the exercising of faith becomes more and more explicit as we move inward, we would see an example of how the core encompasses all aspects of the outer rings, but the outer rings are not as explicitly expressed as those inside. Below is a definition of each.
LEVEL 1: General Faith – Assent or persuasion of the mind with regard to the understanding of truth.
LEVEL 2: Religious Faith – Assent or acknowledgement of the mind with regard to the understanding of divine revelation and its associated events or doctrine.
LEVEL 3: Christian Faith – Assent to or belief in the truth received upon the divine testimony of Christ, resulting in a deep sense of sin, a distinct view of Christ, a consenting will, and a loving heart, together with a reliance on, a trusting in, or a resting in Christ.
As defined in LEVEL 1, every person operates within this realm. We all use our senses to ascertain certain facts, events, etc. that ultimately convince us one way or another regarding truth. They are clear examples of exercising our reason to make informed judgments. The truth is… we are rarely, if ever, 100% certain, but we certainly can be thoroughly persuaded. No one lives a life if certainty, but we do live our lives with the assumption that truth exists, seeking to act as closely as possible to it. The trust we place in our informed judgments is an act of faith. I need to reiterate this point… we ALL exercise our LEVEL 1 faith because 100% certainty does not exist in nearly every aspect of life.
LEVEL 2 is an assent to the FACTS of religious truth, but may not necessarily result in a heart of repentance, a behavioral concurrence, or a deep-seated peace. I imagine many Christians live their entire lives relying only upon factual accounts and historicity. If we never move beyond LEVEL 2, we are fooling ourselves… and fooling others who may be using our lives as the standard of Christian living. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16)
The trouble is that many professing faith in Christ never make it past LEVEL 2, and many more continually argue for the Christ’s authenticity within LEVEL 1. Trying to apply Biblical scriptures at this level results in catastrophic mischaracterizations of principles. It contorts the writing out of context, and attempts to apply those principles from a secular understanding. No wonder so many of us are just talking past each other in these conversations. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard Christians (Pastors, even) describe LEVEL 3 Christian Faith on the playing field of LEVEL 1. It’s why so many Non-Christians have free reign to bemoan “God of the gaps” argumentation, and also have an easy path to say Christians implement “blind faith” without reason.
The crucial point in all of this being that if we apply the outer ring definition of faith to scriptures, ethical situations, or moral challenges devoid of its theological significance, we are left with a completely inadequate and, in some cases, an oddly hypocritical outworking of Christianity. Welcome to our society today!
So how do we apply LEVEL 3? Only by understanding the scriptures from the core of this concept, with all of its nuances, can we correctly and authentically characterize the Christian message and its perspective of humanity. Below are a few Biblical Truths asserted by the context of scriptures (LEVEL 3).
Christian Faith is…
- ALWAYS a gift from God. It is never produced by people. (Romans 12:3)
- The substance of things hoped for… and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)
- Accompanied by repentance (Mark 1:15) and followed by conversion (Acts 11:21)
…whose objects are…
…and through it is…
- Remission of sins (Acts 10:43), Salvation (Mark 16:16), Eternal Life (John 3:16), Adoption (John 1:12), Access to God (Romans 5:2), and the Gift of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 3:14)
- Hope (Romans 5:2), Joy (Acts 16:34), Peace (Romans 15:13), Confidence (1 Peter 2:6), and Boldness (2 Corinthians 4:13)
Any one or two sentence summation of the above would be completely inadequate, so I encourage you to visit the links next to each of the above elements (and, more importantly, the surrounding scriptures) and dig into the Theological richness and relevance this concept has on our lives. It is no wonder that it takes every bit of LEVEL 1 and LEVEL 2, along with a Grace-filled, God-produced response to the truth that has been revealed to us in exercising what the Bible defines as “FAITH”. It is also no wonder that reducing what Christians refer to as faith down to a superficial response to “Why would you believe any of that?” is stripping the word of its significance. It fails to seek a proper understanding in exchange for ill-defined straw men.
So, why is there no war between faith and reason? Because even those only operating within LEVEL 1 use their REASON to place their FAITH in a specific outcome or object. And the deeper we dive into each of the levels, we find a more robust expression of a Theological truth that is communicated via Biblical scriptures and rational experience. It is why the author of 1 Peter urges us “…But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15).
Lastly, and quickly, how is faith compatible with apologetics? How else do we communicate the gifts of grace and faith so undeservingly heaped upon us Christians? By revealing the deeper and more robust expressions of its significance to others through our observations and senses! I know of no more honorable calling on my life than to make God’s name greater, and His Kingdom brighter by communicating this truth in ways that God uses to soften hearts and open minds.
The God-given faith we place in Christ is NOT produced by individuals. Therefore, by communicating our own reasons for belief (read, apologetics), we are the tools that God uses to enlighten others, enrich their lives, and reveal HIS truth.
As always, I will continue toward that end. Because I am blessed to know the one that creates and sustains life as we know it. I hope and pray you come to know Him.