What Do Faith, Hope and Love Have In Common?
by Al Serrato
Talk to an atheist about faith, and you’re likely to get an eye-roll. To most, faith is roughly synonymous with superstition, a subject not befitting of modern, science-oriented people. In fact, most skeptics will argue that faith is an obstacle to intellectual progress, a departure from reason into irrationality. Since the apologist’s goal is to introduce the skeptic to the Christian faith, we are oftentimes doomed to failure before we begin.
In his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul speaks of “faith, hope and love” abiding, and says that the greatest of these is love. This got me thinking recently about what these concepts mean, and why it is that they “abide” or “last forever.” The more I reflected on them, the more I realized that each is a built-in feature of the human mind. We are designed for relationship and we all seek love and acceptance. To be emotionally healthy, we need to love and to be loved. Similarly, we seem to have within us a natural desire for a future that is, in at least some respect, better than the present. We “hope” for this future, while doing what we can to achieve it. Hope is so central to the human experience that when we encounter someone who lacks “hope,” we inevitably see a disturbance in the person’s thinking, and where hope is completely absent, we will see despair and sadly quite often, suicide. Faith too is a natural function. We have faith – trust – in the airplane in which we fly, even though we do not have the ability, nor the means, to examine it. We trust that the medicine the doctor has provided will help, not hurt, us. As limited beings, we cannot possibly know all there is to know. In order to live, we have to place our trust, our faith, in things for which we can never have complete knowledge; our faith finds support in what we do know – the airline’s safety record or the doctor’s qualifications – even though the ultimate thing is beyond the reach of our knowledge.
The modern secularist no doubt shares the Christian’s view that love and hope are two key elements of the human mind. But faith, by contrast, is a concept that they view as unnecessary. They believe that they can, and should, dispense with it, the way one might shake off a primitive superstition. So the first step an apologist must take is to convince the skeptic that not only is faith a natural feature of the mind, but that it is something we all use every day. The question is not faith versus science, but rather what is the object in which we place our faith…
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