Faith and Intellect (an unlikely pair)?

“Is that what faith is all about – fooling yourself into becoming a better person? Convincing yourself there’s a God so that you’ll become motivated to ratchet up your morality a notch or two? Embracing a fairy tale so you’ll sleep better at night?  No thank you, I thought to myself. If that’s faith, I wasn’t interested.”  -Lee Strobel

A negative perception of the concept of faith is the greatest deterrent to becoming a committed Christian. I’m not saying people define faith differently; I’m saying they take the same term and assign different connotations to it.

For the longest time after becoming a Christian, I still saw faith as secondary to evidence.  In order to still feel like an “intellectual,” I justified my belief with the miraculous testimonies of others and the scientific reasoning of Christian scientists. Their words may have been true, but this type of evidence, by itself, shouldn’t be relied upon as a way to persuade others because, frankly, there is always a possible natural explanation for any miraculous occurrence if you are desperate and creative enough to come up with one.

There is nothing that has happed on this earth that is undeniable by all since the human capacity for denial is so great. Even if God came down and showed His face to everyone – what most atheists require – there would still be possible ways to deny this occurrence if you thought long and hard about it and if, deep down, you really didn’t want to believe in God to begin with.

According to Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Faith, “The Scripture describes God as a hidden God. You have to make an effort of faith to find him. There are clues you can follow. And if that weren’t so, if there were something more or less than clues, it’s difficult for me to understand how we could really be free to make a choice about him. If we had absolute proof instead of clues, then you could no more deny God than you could deny the sun. If we had no evidence at all, you could never get there. God gives us just enough evidence so that those who want him can have him. Those who want to follow the clues will.”

So if those who are always searching for natural explanations seem impossibly stubborn and you’re feeling hopeless about opening their eyes to the supernatural, then you should not give up. While people may not be able to concede that there is foolproof evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, they may be able to concede that there is at least some evidence of his resurrection.  The question is: What amount of evidence is enough to make you want to put your trust in something?

Take marriage for example. You may know your partner very well, but you can never have foolproof evidence that they love until you can read their mind. So humans do value trust and faith in everyday life to some degree.

Trust is a very good thing. Teamwork would never be possible without it, and we’d consistently be doing everything by ourselves without relying on others. So you must agree that the complete absence of trust is bad, but does that mean that complete, ultimate trust is good?

I think it does because, to me, trust is all-or-nothing. You must decide on the minimum amount of evidence you require to go all in because any less evidence than that and you may find yourself partially trusting someone, which means that the relationship will not reach its full potential. This is especially true in the case of Jesus who wants to offer you all the help you need to the extent which you are willing to trust him.

But aren’t you supposed to take everything with a grain of salt? Some things, not everything. Some things just require complete trust (or as much as you can muster). Sometimes I feel like that kind of trust will make me look naïve.  But who cares? I need to stop trying to be the coolest person ever and start being humble.

I understand that the amount of evidence necessary to inspire faith is different depending on the circumstance.  Naturally, we are going to require more evidence in order to trust miraculous claims.  However, what also must be weighed when deciding what to trust, is the exigency of the claim, as in, if it were true, how much would it matter?

If it would matter a lot, then perhaps we should change our negative perception of faith, for faith is actually very necessary in believing exigent claims that we have less than foolproof evidence for.

As you can see, faith and evidence complement each other well.  This is true in witnessing as well, even when witnessing to those who may not value faith as much as you do.  According to Denise Miller Holmes on her blog about Christianity, if you want to reach an atheist don’t “argue intellectually with the atheist as your only form of witnessing.” (http://redhotread.com/blog/?p=630).

In short, there are many factors to consider when deciding what to trust.  In many cases, evidence is only a small portion of that decision.  Faith – as long as it is not full-blown blind faith – is actually of more value than anything else in the world because, like it or not, what you believe about God determines your destiny.

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