What is Faith and is the Christian Faith Rational?
Nail Mark Ministries
Some recent discussions I’ve been involved with have led to a critical question about the nature of Christian faith. Is faith irrational? Is it super-rational? Or is faith perfectly rational? If faith is irrational then it is for those who want embrace the absurd and implicit, if not explicit, contradictions in concepts. If this is right then we are asked to believe in spite of good reasons not to. If faith is super-rational, meaning that it is above our ability to reason with, although not necessarily contradictory and irrational, then it is of a blind nature where one is asked to believe apart from sufficient reason. But if faith is rational, meaning that it is logically coherent and corresponds to reality, then we are asked to believe in something or someone for good reasons.
Admittedly, Christians of different stripes throughout the history of Christianity have contended for all of these different ideas of what faith is. But to simply point out that there have been significant disagreements about the nature of faith should hardly lead us to the conclusion that there is no right view and that all of the views are equally valid or invalid. Although some Christians have embraced the idea that we should believe against reason and that evidence and reason are actually the opposite of faith (indeed they are mortal enemies according to some) I would contend that this is not even close to how the Bible asks us to believe in Christ nor anything else.
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When the Scripture says “believe in the Lord Jesus”, what is it saying? The most natural understanding of this command is that we are to “trust” in the Lord Jesus. Or to put it another way, we are to have “confidence” in the Lord Jesus. When Jesus said “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” what did he mean? The Bible is explicitly clear what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean to believe in Jesus in the sense that we are merely to give mental ascent to the proposition that Jesus was a real person. James 2 tells us that even demons believe factually accurate statements about God, but this has no salvific effect for them nor does it mean that they have endearing feeling towards God. Rather the most obvious sense in which Jesus communicates that we should “believe” in him for eternal life is in the sense that we should trust him, rely on him, have confidence in his ability to save us.
So let’s take all of the mystery away from the concept of “faith” as though it is a thing in itself that has existence. Faith is by necessity tied to an object. When people use faith in our culture today as some sort of mystical word by saying “I just have faith that everything will work out” but that faith has not object to which it is attached, this is admittedly absurd! But this is not how the Bible uses faith. Faith is always attached to an object in the Bible, indeed more than an object, a person…God…
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