Does Faith Make Sense?

child-problem-solving

What is faith? Do you know? You should, especially if you are a Christian trying to share his faith with another. This is a foundational question you cannot afford to get wrong. In Sunday School, a young boy answer it like this:

Faith is believing in something that isn’t true.

That’s a child’s perspective, yet it’s the same, naïve perspective a lot of adults have. It’s almost impossible to reason with a person who holds that totally subjective opinion of faith because to them, becoming a Christian means a person stops thinking for themselves; that they must now believe other ideas, and blindly accept those ideas without question or doubt. It always surprises people like that when they learn becoming a Christian does not mean turning their brain off.

For those of us who take the Great Commission seriously, we need to take something else seriously, too. It’s not enough for us to know what we believe, we must also know why we believe what we believe. And people today are far more educated, sophisticated, and cynical than they were a generation or two ago. The Christian faith can more than meet anybody’s needs, but before it can do that, it must be accepted in faith, and before that can happen, the Christian faith must be presented to the individual in a way that makes sense to them.

The anti-intellectual approach

Christians often make two huge mistakes as they approach the issue of faith. The first approach is common in pentecostal and fundamentalist churches: the anti-intellectual approach. At this point, it needs to be pointed out that these kinds of churches are not evil or nefarious or populated by dumb people. In fact, they are often more Biblically sound that their mainline denominational counterparts. These kinds of churches were formed as a “push-back” against the undo emphasis on education among the clergy. This was, and still is, a valid concern, and we’ll deal with it later on.

I recall that when I went off to Bible College, some members of my church (from the blue-haired contingent) were concerned that “the Holy Spirit would be educated right out of me.” These old-timers viewed an educated clergy as a spiritually dead one. Sometimes that’s the case, but certainly not always. These precious saints take verses like this one and completely misunderstand them.

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. (Colossians 2:8 NIV)

For them, faith is all about not thinking too hard about what you’re asked to believe; it’s about the heart not the mind. Often this brand of Christianity is non-rational, and very often, irrational. What these folks miss is that an unbeliever deserves a rational, clear presentation of the Gospel in a way they understand. It’s not that logic or rationalism functions as a substitute for faith, it’s that those things are the grounds for faith. When the objective Word of God is made clear people will pay attention to it.  It is, after all, the vehicle of the Holy Spirit, who works through it.

Educated into heaven

The second approach to the Christian faith is the exact opposite to the first one. You often find this approach in the old (usually dying) denominations and it goes like this: teach a child in Sunday School the things they are supposed to believe, quiz them, and if they pass, they become part of the church, which they equate as becoming a Christian.

The fact is, there is an intellectual component to becoming a Christian, but there is also a moral component. Consider:

Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. (John 7:17 NIV)

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV)

Verses like these – and there are others – make it clear that only a mind that has been enlightened by the Holy Spirit can believe. This being the case, you can’t teach an unbeliever the Christian faith with the end-goal of making them a Christian because it is not possible for their minds to grasp Christian teachings. However, one of the things the Holy Spirit uses is your presentation of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit will work through your words, provided they make sense to the one hearing them. Paul’s advice to young Timothy bears this out:

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. (1 Timothy 4:2 NIV)

And Peter gave this piece advice:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3:15 NIV)

The idea both Paul and Peter set forth is that it is essential for any believer sharing their faith to do so in a careful manner, using carefully considered and chosen words. In other words, using the “slapdash method” of evangelism just won’t work.  The Word of God is no mere collection of stories of fiction or philosophy. It’s literally God’s Word to man, containing thoughts and ideas from His mind, and it should be handled with care and respect. So when you’re sharing your faith and using Scripture, you should take care to choose your words carefully.

The Word is truth

While the unredeemed mind cannot grasp the eternal truths contained in the Word of God, the redeemed mind, aided by the Holy Spirit, can. When we are witnessing to the lost, were not alone. The Holy Spirit is witnessing to them, too. In fact, long before we began sharing our faith with them, the Holy Spirit had His sights set on them. The process of enlightenment may have already begun. So even though they may not be saved, their minds and hearts have been prepared to receive the truths of Scripture.

The Gospel – the Word of God – is the truth; it not only contains it, but it is the revealed truth of God to man. There is no other truth. God’s truth is the most powerful force of nature that exists. Addressing the power of Scripture, God speaking through His prophet Isaiah said:

It [the Word of God] will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11 NIV)

Think about that verse. When God’s Word is presented to the lost in faith, using a presentation that honors it and the person being witnessed to, it must yield the result God wants it to. There’s no way it can’t.

This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. (1 Timothy 2:3 – 7 NIV)

Paul believed it was his divine calling to deliver the Gospel truth to the Gentiles. That was true for him, and it’s true for you, too. If you are a Christian, you have a duty to deliver the truth of the Gospel to the unsaved. And there is only one truth when it comes to God and salvation. God’s Word is powerful, but so is free will. Not everybody who hears the Word will accept it.

But he will terribly punish those who fight against the truth of God and walk in evil ways—God’s anger will be poured out upon them. (Romans 2:8 TLB)

An unsaved person may live a good life, he may be a good neighbor, husband, and citizen, and he may practice his brand of faith sincerely, but unless the faith he is practicing is the faith revealed in Scripture, then he’s sincerely wrong, is pursuing evil, and remains forever lost, his good life notwithstanding.

The truth really is out there

If you get frustrated in your attempts at personal evangelism, you’re in good company. Think about God! He’s gone to incredible lengths to show all men that He really does exist.

Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse when they stand before God at Judgment Day. (Romans 1:20 TLB)

So why do the unsaved remain unsaved? According to the truth of God’s Word, it’s because they choose to – they choose to rebel against the truth of God revealed to them.

You search the Scriptures, for you believe they give you eternal life. And the Scriptures point to me! Yet you won’t come to me so that I can give you this life eternal! (John 5:39, 40 TLB)

So it’s not that the unsaved can’t believe, it’s that they refuse to. Jesus understood that simple truth; so should you. Yes, it takes faith to sign onto Christianity. But when an unsaved person takes that step of faith, a most remarkable will happen:

If any of you really determines to do God’s will, then you will certainly know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own. (John 7:17 TLB)

Did you catch that? The “doing” will lead to “knowing.” The “moral” decision to follow Jesus will solve any “intellectual” problems a person may have. Any intellectual issues a person may have with Christianity will eventually vanish.

So why don’t really smart people believe?  A lot of people wonder about that. Why don’t highly educated people believe? Actually, many do, but we always hear about brainiacs like Stephen Hawking who do not. As to why so-called geniuses don’t believe, the answer is simple: they don’t want to.  For whatever reason seems good to them, they just don’t want to make the kind of commitment to Christ He demands.

Becoming a Christian – placing your life in God’s hands – is an act of will power, not brain power! Nobody thinks themselves into Heaven! All men choose to believe – they choose to follow Jesus. Let’s go back to Paul:

For the truth about God is known to them instinctively; God has put this knowledge in their hearts. Since earliest times men have seen the earth and sky and all God made, and have known of his existence and great eternal power. So they will have no excuse when they stand before God at Judgment Day.

Yes, they knew about him all right, but they wouldn’t admit it or worship him or even thank him for all his daily care. And after a while they began to think up silly ideas of what God was like and what he wanted them to do. The result was that their foolish minds became dark and confused. Claiming themselves to be wise without God, they became utter fools instead. (Romans 1:19 – 22 TLB)

So, back to eggheads like Stephen Hawking. Are people like him smart? Not according to Scripture:

That man is a fool who says to himself, “There is no God!” Anyone who talks like that is warped and evil and cannot really be a good person at all. (Psalm 14:1 TLB)

So have confidence as you share God’s truth! That lost person you’re talking to is the fool; you aren’t.

Secret things

Christianity does make sense because it’s the truth. There is nothing wrong with honest doubts and questioning. The essence of the Christian faith is that it tells the story of the one who is Truth. Therefore it will always – always – stand up to close examination. Careful study will never harm the Word of God.

In the end, however, we all have to accept another truth. From the unbeliever on the fence, to the believer who has the occasional doubt, to the theologian who thinks he knows it all, we must all accept the fact that some questions a person may have about Christianity will never be answered because God hasn’t revealed everything to us. There are parts of His infinite mind that cannot be understood by creatures with finite minds.

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29 NIV)

But much of God’s plan – His will – has been revealed to us. We have more than enough information to make a solid case for Christ to the unbeliever. Christianity does make sense. It is a reasonable faith that it goes far, far beyond mere reason, though never against it.

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