Psalms 48; 145,g Genesis 12:1-7, Hebrews 11:1-12, John 6:35-42, 48-51
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
– Hebrews 11:1
“Faith” is a loaded term. We can’t quite agree on its meaning, at least not like we can agree on the definitions of “waffle” or “goldfish.” Even when we use it in the sense of “Christian faith” or “Muslim faith” we can disagree on the very foundations of those phrases. Instead we tend to pack it with our own assumptions and experiences, often so much so that conversation about it may become practically impossible.
As long as we have it, is there any pressing need to define “faith?” Perhaps not in a manner that we would use to persuade someone, but there is benefit to at least giving it some thought. Otherwise we run the risk of letting others define it for us, possibly to the point of undermining it. Seminary is all about the foundations of faith yet pushes quite a few people from blind faith to no faith. One reason is because they’ve allowed others to define their faith in terms of Biblical literalism, unexamined mythologies, or other beliefs that simply refute reality. When those beliefs are challenged, faith in them crumbles.
Critics of religious faith have used Hebrews 11:1 (“the conviction of things not seen”) to portray Christians as deniers of fact and believers in fairy tales. These are not the qualities and essence of faith. Faith is a surrender, not of reason, but of the need to build a sense of purpose on nothing but what we can prove. Even the scientific method requires faith that the laws of the universe are, on some level, reliable and predictable. Human beings can’t function without faith in something.
Does your faith hinge on something that could be disproved? Then it is not faith. Does it require you to deny reality? Then it is not faith. Does it provide you with the assurance that – no matter what evidence you must accept, nor hardship you must endure – your life and all lives have meaning as part of a greater reality beyond immediate comprehension? Then it is faith. But don’t take my word for it.
Comfort: Faith is both personal and universal, something to treasure and something to share.
Challenge: Don’t be afraid of things that challenge your faith, but use them as opportunities to grow it.
Prayer: God of infinite imagination, teach me to see the deep truths of your amazing world. Amen.
Discussion: What challenges your faith?
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