Defining Faith in a Way that Makes Sense

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

faithMost of us grew up with that simple definition of faith.  It was preached from the pulpits and referenced in Bible classes.  Ask someone “what is faith?” and this verse would be instantly trotted out.  But what did it mean? What does it mean? It’s one of those verses we can easily quote but can’t easily explain.

Faith consists of substance and evidence.  Sounds logical.  But it based on things hoped for and not seen.  Sounds shaky.  The NIV is even more confusing.  It translates the latter half of the verse as being “certain of what we do not see.”  How can we certain of what we haven’t seen?

Well, it’s not as strange as you might think.  We do it all time.  For example, in Monday’s paper there was a story about a man being bitten by a dog.  I didn’t see it but I believe it happened.  Why?  Because I trust the testimony of those who did see it.  I trust the evidence presented even though I didn’t witness it firsthand.

This is faith.

And it’s not illogical or shaky.  It makes sense.

Here’s the way one of our elders taught me to define faith.  It is the belief of testimony. Think on that for a minute.  Faith is not blind trust.  It is truth informed by evidence.  That definition doesn’t contradict Hebrews 11:1 in any way.  In fact, I think it makes sense of it. How can we have confidence concerning things we haven’t seen?  Through facts presented by eyewitness testimony.

This is the evidence on which faith is built.  For example, in the Bible there’s the story of Jesus being raised from the dead.  I didn’t see it happen but I believe it did.  Why? Because I trust the testimony of those who did see it.  I trust the evidence they presented even though I didn’t witness it firsthand.

This is faith.

And it’s not illogical or shaky.  It makes sense.

There was a man named Peter who used to fish for a living, but after he saw the resurrected Jesus everything changed.  There was a man named Paul who sought to destroy the church, but after he saw the resurrected Jesus he became a church planter. There was a man named John who never caused much trouble before, but after he saw the resurrected Jesus he spoke with a boldness that got him exiled.

These eyewitnesses (and many others) told the story to everyone who would listen, they left careers, established churches and defied authorities.  They couldn’t keep quiet about what they had seen!  Many of them gave their life for it.  But more importantly their testimony was preserved in writing.  These writings were handed down to us and they constitute the basis for our faith in the same event.

As Peter explained, “we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” (1st Pet 1:16).

Or as Luke put it, “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses…” (Luke 1:1)

Based on their eyewitness testimony I have evidence of things not seen, assurance of things hoped for and certainty that the ancient stories are true.  In short, I have faith.

2 thoughts on “Defining Faith in a Way that Makes Sense

  1. Reblogged this on Army of Angels and commented:
    There are so many eyewitness testimonies I have seen across social media regarding domestic violence and healing from abuse. Through these stories has grown my faith that God is out there…preparing us for our Pursuit of Purpose! AoA

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