I was taking part in a worship time at King’s Domain this evening when I had a new insight into the question, “why faith?”
What I have to share here isn’t the whole answer to that question, but for me it’s a new way of looking at it that adds to what I had previously thought about it.
The Skeptics’ and Believers’ Question
In one form it’s a skeptic’s question: why is it that no matter what else I get right or wrong, all it takes is to get this one thing right and I’m in, and if I get it wrong I’m out. Why faith? Why not something bigger than that, or more ethical?”
In another form it’s a question I’ve asked as a Christian. What is it about faith, that God should like it so much in us?
Something Different About Faith
We were singing about God’s love, and I thought, I could never in all eternity get there: I could never appreciate God’s love for all it’s worth.
We sang about God’s beauty, and I thought, I could never get there: I could never grasp the full beauty of God for all its reality.
We sang thankfulness to God, and I thought, I could never get there: it would take beyond forever to thank God for all he has done for me, much less to thank him for all that he is.
But when we sang about faith, I thought, In eternity, everyone who trusts God in Christ at all now will know how to trust him fully. And though it’s a challenge, it might be possible even on earth. I think maybe I could get there. But even if not, still it’s worth going for!
I realized then that when it comes to attitudes toward God, there’s soemthing different about faith.
There are many definitions of faith. The ones that atheists tend to use, where faith is something counter-intellectual, “believing what you know isn’t true,” or “believing what you have no evidence for,” are all basically atheists’ inventions. Or if not, then they are at least not Christians’ use of the term. Here’s one that I think fits what I had on my mind this evening: Faith is taking God at his word and acting accordingly.
Taking God at his word is simply a matter of trusting that what God says is true. This trust can and often does come through evidence and investigation, among other things God does to lead us to understanding. Acting accordingly is about living our lives in light of God’s truth, in spite of everything that might lead us to think otherwise about reality.
Faith is a gift from God, according to a widely accepted reading of Ephesians 2:8-9, as well as the doctrine of sin regeneration, which I will not go into here.
Taking God At His Word: Jesus’ Teaching
There’s a great passage in Matthew 6 that illustrates what belief in action. Jesus is speaking, and he says,
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:25-33, ESV)
Here faith is recognizing —and acting accordingly — that as we pursue God’s kingdom and righteousness, God will supply our physical needs. Not to recognize that — not to believe it — is to deny the reality of who God is. It is therefore actually to contradict the way he made his creation to be, as a reflection of himself. It is to be wrong about the very structure of reality
So there’s something seriously flawed in us when we don’t trust God. What positive thing happens, though, when we do trust him? Why has God chosen that to be the means by which we enter into relationship with him?
What We Cannot Do In Fitting Response To God
Tonight at King’s Domain, as I said, we were singing about God’s holiness, his love, his compassion, his wisdom, his beauty, and more: all things whose full reality are beyond human apprehension. No one can grasp God’s greatness for what it is. It is unreachable. I think that it will remain that way even if we keep growing in knowledge of God throughout eternity; for he is infinite, and the infinite cannot be contained in finite minds.
And so it is that the way we can appreciate God’s greatness is only an infinitesimal fraction of what his reality calls for. What then can we do that fits his grandeur, his grace, and his love?
I cannot comprehend God fully. I cannot know God fully. I cannot appreciate God fully for who he is.
What We Can Do In Fitting Response To God
But it is at least conceivable that I could trust God fully. I could take him completely at his word, as far as I know and understand it. And by his gift of grace (Eph. 2:8-9 again), it is at least conceivable that I could act accordingly.
That’s the only thing I can think of that approaches fittingness in our response to God. It’s the only thing we can return to him that approaches something like the comprehensiveness that’s appropriate to God’s comprehensiveness.
God’s greatness is worthy of a total response. Worship must always fall short of totally appreciating God. But faith can be total. I think this is one more answer to the question, “why faith?” And it motivates me to live with that kind of total faith that fits the reality of God.