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Faith - Believing What Ain't So?

Updated on August 27, 2013

So the legend goes. A Sunday School teacher asked her class, "What is faith?" It's the freckled, red-haired impish kid on the 3rd row who shouts out, "It's believing what ain't so!" I've never heard what the teacher said next.

Makes for a nice smile. Many a preacher has used it as in introduction to his sermon on faith. It used to be that the laugh came out of a common awareness that the boy is just dead wrong. Not any more. These days what the boy answered is heralded by skeptics as dead on right. That might be expected. But what troubles me is that many sincere Christians truly believe what the boy answered. Of course they wouldn't put it so baldly.

The notion takes the form of assuming there are two kinds of truth: what can be proven scientifically and everything else which must be taken on faith. Since we believe Christianity is revealed truth, as opposed to scientifically discovered fact, of course faith is required to accept it.

Trust anyone - hope it works! Not faith

Wrong on both counts

Science does not produce conclusions that are as certain as some would have us believe. I would think that the plethora of contradictory "scientific" studies on everything from global warming to weight control would be a sufficient caution.

The Christian faith, on the other hand, is never an irrational act. I know, cynics loudly shout that it is. Faith is believing what one may reasonably hold to be true and reliable. And it is always focused on a person. You believe in someone.

Allow me another old preacher illustration. A high wire artist walked across a deep ravine on a tight rope to the cheers of crowds on both sides. He then walked back across pushing a wheel barrow. There was dead silence as the audience held its breath. But the act was not yet finished. Taking a bull horn he bellowed out so that folks could hear him on both sides. "Who believes that I can push this wheel barrow back across the tight rope with a man in it?" Several hands went up. But none volunteered to hop into the wheel barrow.

Evidence was presented before their very eyes. The man had proven he could do what he invited them to try. Had someone taken him up on the offer he would have been exercising faith analogous to what the Bible calls faith. That no one did shows why Christian faith has been so misunderstood. A lot of Christians affirm the proper truths, but their lives are no different from those who don't.

Evidence that makes the Christain faith reasonable

Yes reasonable, not certain. I hold that the Christian faith is reasonable, as opposed to certain, not because Christianity is uncertain, but because my ability to grasp God's truth accurately is uncertain. But reasonableness is sufficient to give me peace today and hope for the future.

The Bible is the standard source of Christian truth. When the Bible urges faith it is never a call to a mindless leap in the dark. God gave Moses the ability to perform certain miracles so that Israel would be convinced God had sent him. While biblical miracles blessed some, blessing was not their purpose. Rather it was the authentication of the performer as a spokesman for God. People witnessed the miracles and concluded, "This is someone we need to listen to." Once the authenticity of particular prophet or apostle was established it was not longer necessary to do miracles.

When Jesus came asserting that he was the Son of God, the promised Messiah, people would have been right to think that he was out of his mind... except for the string of miracles he performed. John reports that only a fraction of all Jesus' miracles are recorded in Scripture. "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:30-31)

My point here is not that you must believe the Bible. I'm asking you to understand what it says. The faith called for in the Scriptures is one that rests on evidence. It is not a leap in the dark.

Jesus and faith

One day Jesus warned his disciples, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees." His disciples failed to grasp that he was referring to the Pharisees' teaching rather than real leavened bread. The disciples discussed what they would since they had no bread. Hearing their quandary Jesus rebuked them. "O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered?" (Matthew 16:8,9)

See how Jesus expected his disciples to reason to themselves, "He provided for 5000 and then again for 4000. He'll find a way to feed us." He expected them to have a rational faith in Him. Since they didn't, they were rebuked, "O you of little faith." No leap in the dark. Just see and remember what God has done.

On another occasion Jesus commended the faith of a centurion saying "Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith." (Matthew 8:10) What had the centurion done to elicit such praise from the Savior? He had ask Jesus to heal his servant simply by saying he word. He reasoned that if he, an officer in the Roman army, could order his men to do his bidding, certainly Jesus the Lord could issue a command and his servant would be healed. Matthew reports that Jesus marveled.

The disciples failed to use their heads and were accused of having little faith. The centurion reasoned through the situation and was commended for his faith. True Christian faith is a reasoned conclusion on which we act.


Evidence sufficient?

Many will regard the evidence for faith to be insufficient. It is their right to draw such a conclusion. Even in biblical times when Jesus and his disciples where performing miracles on a fairly regular basis there were sceptics. Jesus was ultimately crucified by them, but it wasn't for lack of evidence. Rather he threatened their long-held assumptions and dearly held positions.

While Christian faith is reasonable there is something about it that transcends reason. In other words, evidence alone does not generate Christian faith. There is an internal transformation that takes place so that the cynic becomes a believer. That internal transformation is what the Scriptures call being born again. And just as none of us had a hand in our physical birth, no believer caused his own rebirth. It was a gift of God.

Few Christians seem to understand this. If they did they would be far more tolerant and accepting of those who do not share their faith and far more humble about their own.

Comments - I'm listening

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    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 

      5 years ago from Washington DC

      I tried to correct *faith "is believing 'is' so"* which should have been *faith "is believing 'it is' so"* but I suppose you were reading it and it didn't return to allow it.

      If you can't comprehend what I'm saying then I agree, we should leave it.

    • liftandsoar profile imageAUTHOR

      Frank P. Crane 

      5 years ago from Richmond, VA

      The0NatureBoy, I have to admit that I don't have the foggiest idea what you're writing about. So maybe we'd better leave it right there.

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 

      5 years ago from Washington DC


      I'm disagreeing with your topic, "Faith - Believing What Ain't So?" What you said doesn't indicate faith "is believing 'is' so." The scriptures I used suggest faith is "the science" of using the thing made to comprehend all things to their fullest, I don't see that in your writings. You said "faith is always focused on someone" but it isn't, it's focused on the whole of existence bringing the findings of science and religion's "myths," for lack of a better word, together in explaining it. According to how math is used, 1 is largest fraction of the only whole number, zero, because it equals a complete undivided half of zero with negative 1 being the other half. The other numbers are further divisions of each half like 2 equals each half divided making each half's actual value to be 2/4. Three would be 3/6, four equals 4/8 an on to infinity therefore, faith isn't focused on someone but the whole.

      You just said it again in that last post with "But of course there are dimensions of it that "surpass our understanding." Philippians 4:7" which both scriptures I used disagree with, especially when we add the definition of word in John 1:1-3 as being "verbal means of expressing or explaining" and not say it is defined as "Jesus."

      So, maybe it is only your terminology I'm disagreeing with and not your intended meaning.

    • liftandsoar profile imageAUTHOR

      Frank P. Crane 

      5 years ago from Richmond, VA

      The0NatureBoy Not sure what you are choosing to disagree with. The Scriptures you quote to refute me do not teach that faith lacks evidence, only that the full range of evidence is beyond our ability to grasp. I acknowledge that at the end of my hub. There is more than enough evidence to make the Christian faith reasonable. But of course there are dimensions of it that "surpass our understanding." Philippians 4:7

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 

      5 years ago from Washington DC


      I choose to disagree. In Hebrews 11:1 is written "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" and Paul told us in his letter to the Romans (1:20) "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they {today's man} are without excuse"which explains where we find the substance and evidence for what we have nor seen. There are so many things in the self-reproducing environment called nature which explains many things in biblical scriptures some of which few Christians believe in. Here are three for us to test who among Christians are "born again."

      What we call being "born again" in nature is the metamorphosis. Some species after hatching from their eggs goes through that process and become a "new creation" such as the Tad Pole turning into a frog. Observing them we see the tad pole hatches and grows in water until it reaches a certain age then their tails began to shorten and legs grow until it can no longer breath in water and hops out a frog. When we are physically born we concern ourselves with pleasing other man and earning a living but once we are "reborn" our whole focus is on spiritual things and it appears we neglect our bodies, as my photo does me.

      There are 2 types of trees, seasonal and evergreen. Seasonal trees grow a body "of leaves" each spring and discarnate it every fall as a symbol of reincarnation; evergreen trees never looses their body until it dies, yet, they both grows more each year until they discarnate, so, seasonal trees represent reincarnating man growing through each incarnation until we metamorphose into evergreens where we begin as a baby and grows into fruitful new creation. Thus, those having faith see their potential of being transformed from a temporary living man into an everlasting living one.

      Thus, when we have faith -- which we can't obtain until our time as temporary man is complete -- we can look to nature to determine what being a "new creation" will be like.

    • liftandsoar profile imageAUTHOR

      Frank P. Crane 

      5 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Good to hear from you Charlene. Glad you found this hub helpful. Take care.

    • profile image

      Charlene Marsh 

      5 years ago

      The last four lines are profoundly insightful. Thanks.

    • liftandsoar profile imageAUTHOR

      Frank P. Crane 

      5 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thank you, BlossomSB. I appeciate your taking the time to read and to respond. So encouraging!

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 

      5 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      A good read. You have explained it well and may God bless you. Voted it up and across the board except funny.

    • liftandsoar profile imageAUTHOR

      Frank P. Crane 

      5 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Thanks for coming by, Faith Reaper. Glad to have sister in the Lord reading and commenting.

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 

      5 years ago from southern USA

      Excellent points to ponder on Faith. I have never had to have anyone prove anything to me as far as my faith goes. I have strong faith in my Lord God and my faith has been put to the test time and time again.

      Voted up+++ and sharing.

      God bless you. In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      I like to go around questioning and expanding and "proving" and disproving. And I like to skip to me Lou and dance around in childlike faith. But like most good children I love security.

      My love of science and nature and logic do not impale my happy loving faith. I love to believe in what ain't so ---- or so you would say.

    • Pastor Brad profile image

      Brad Gromis 

      5 years ago from Richmond, Virginia

      Balanced and fair. Enjoyable read, my friend.


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