Does Faith Make Sense? – Part 2

In part 1, I discussed a definition of faith that I think matches up well with the way faith is described in the Bible: A trust in an object based on what you know about that object. Now I will focus on the “based on what you know about that object” part of that definition.

This phrase makes the definition sound quite subjective. Instead of trust being based on hard, factual evidence, it is based on individual knowledge. So someone could know very little about something, or have little evidence supporting that it is trustworthy, and still choose to trust that thing.

This definition is, indeed, subjective, in the sense that it involves an individual’s judgement. And there is an important reason for that subjectivity. It seems that different people require different amounts of evidence before they make the decision to trust in something.

Going back to the chair example, most people who see an object that looks like a chair, and looks sturdy enough to hold up, will trust the chair enough to sit on it. Suppose, though, that someone needs more than a quick visual before making that big decision. He needs to weigh the chair, determine the density of the chair, and analyze the structure of the chair before finally sitting on it.

In both cases, the decision to trust the chair is based on some sort of evidence pointing to the trustworthiness of the chair. However, the individuals made a determination about how much they needed to know about the chair before making that decision. In the one case, a substantial amount of evidence was needed to reach the point of trusting in the chair. In the other cases, a quick glance was adequate.

I think this example is a good parallel to what we observe in reality. Some people are naturally more skeptical, and need an abundance of evidence to believe something or to determine that something is trustworthy. And some people do not need a ton of knowledge about something in order to trust it.

Jesus alluded to this idea in the Bible, specifically in the book of John. In this passage, Jesus responds to one of his disciples, Phillip, who is asking for more evidence so that he can know the way to God (or “The Father”):

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing” (John 14:11-12).

Phillip spent a lot of time with Jesus, enough to know him on a very personal level. For many people, this level of interaction would be more than enough to have faith that Jesus is God, or at least that he has the same authority as God. In fact, there are some examples in the Bible of people having this type of faith with less to base that faith on.

In this case, Jesus seemed to recognize that people will need varying degrees of evidence to get to the point of putting their trust in him and his claims. If Phillip cannot believe based on what he knows about Jesus through all their interactions, then he should also look to the evidence of Jesus’ miracles – evidence that coincides with his claims to authority.

So it seems that this idea of faith being based on what someone knows about an object is at least consistent with one example of faith given in the Bible. Other examples could be given as well. 

This idea involves the base of faith, which is seperate from the action of putting your faith in something. You could have a substantial amount of knowledge and evidence about something, but still not invest yourself into the truth about that thing. When that investment does occur (i.e. sitting on a chair that you believe is sturdy), then you put your faith in that object.

This overall definition of faith – trusting in an object based on what you know on that object, does not affirm that faith and proof are completely seperate. Instead, it implies that faith is based on some sort of evidence. What that evidence could entail is another discussion, but the use of the word “faith” does not necessarily result in a complete lack of consideration for evidence.

I would like to leave a quick disclaimer before ending this post. This definition of faith is not meant to replace the one given in the Bible in Hebrews 11:1. I am only saying that this definition is consistent with faith as described in the Bible, and that “faith” in Christianity is much more like definition #1 – allegiance to/trust in an object – than definition #3 – belief in something for which there is no proof – as explained in part 1.

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