Thursday, January 31, 2013
What is faith? Perhaps we can talk about some non-religious examples to understand it. We can have faith in a doctor. We can go to the doctor and believe that what he tells us is for our good. We might understand it on some high level but we don't understand it fully. What is more, we are willing to go through huge suffering because he tells us it is for our greater good. We might submit to surgery. We might have out leg amputated. If the doctor say it is for the best than we do it. That is faith.
Another example might be a person you are getting to know. They might tell you some things. Some of them might be pretty hard to believe. But you develop a relationship with this person and over time they seem honest and sincere. You start to trust very strongly that what they tell you is true. You might develop a strong love for this person and might be willing to make sacrifices for them. At some point you decide to make the risk to trust.
In both cases you don't have blind faith. There are what they call motives of credibility. That is a rational reason to trust the source. In one case you are trusting a whole culture of science and medicine and proper protocols for testing and treatment. In the other case your motive is more emotional and intuitive yet there is a process that we understand of developing trust in a person. In neither case is the choice to trust irrational. A choice to trust can be irrational but faith is not inherently irrational.
Religious faith is very similar. Many people come to faith through a relationship. They know somebody who is a Christian and decide to trust that person. There may be many people involved. Some they might have just interacted with through books. One of those book is typically the bible. Eventually the person decides to accept what is being presented as true. Yes, there is a big emotional and intuitive aspect to that choice. That does not make it irrational. It is a normal human way of making choices.
The other thing that Christians develop faith in is a Christian tradition. The simple acceptance of Jesus as your Lord and Savior gets complicated very quickly. I have decided to trust but exactly what am I trusting? This is why it is important that Christians have one faith. Than they can't go wrong. The trouble is they don't. So what do people do? They tend to accept the tradition that the people around them accept. They don't have the appetite to dig into the questions of why am I going to this church and not the one down the street? So that part of the decision is sub-rational. I would not say irrational as they are not deliberately accepting what does not make sense. They are just not asking as many question as they should.
In modern society faith is often attacked. People say you are a fool to believe. There are two responses. Some people leave their faith and become one of those trendy atheists. Others choose to cling to their faith more strongly. They are both understandable responses but they are both inadequate. We need to sweat the details. We need to get into the criticisms and figure out our faith. We need to be unafraid to ask the hard questions. Asking questions won't destroy a true faith. It will expose some things that we thought were matters of faith but were really based on tradition or superstition. That can be scary but we are better for it.
But what can be even scarier than the questions is the answers. When God calls you to give an assent of faith to something. Really letting you know He has given this world more of Himself than you had previously imagined. We go back to our motives of credibility. Can we trust the church? Even what is says about Mary? Even what it says about sex? We hunger for truth and suddenly we have more than we can digest.