Core Strength, Part 2
FAITH FACTOR: A RESPONSE TO REALITY
This is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.
Big Idea: Faith in God is a Response to Reality.
Question: If you were asked to explain what it means to have faith in God, what would you say?
Text: Matthew 16:13-17
For many of the New Atheists, such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, faith in God is blind trust, it is crazy and, at its worst, it is dangerous.
We might not share the same type of emotion that someone like Richard Dawkins carries, but there is a sense in which many of us do think that faith is a bit silly. So, what is the Christian understanding of faith?
The Christian understanding of faith could be understood in three themes:
- Believing (i.e. believing certain things to be true; I believe there is a God.)
- Trusting (i.e. God is trustworthy)
- Receiving (i.e. receiving God’s invitation into a personal relationship.)
A big point to understand here is that faith in God is NOT ‘the ability to believe in things even when you have no idea whether they are true or not’. (See Beyond Opinion, “Conversational Apologetics”, p.138.)
In Matthew 16:13-17, we see that Peter makes a bold declaration of who he believes Jesus is: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”(v.16b) One of the interesting things to glean from this story is why Peter makes such a statement. Given that Peter and his friends have been with Christ for quite sometime now, they have witnessed miracles, have shared meals with Christ, listened to his teachings, Peter utters this statement—a statement of faith—because of the evidence he has seen; not in spite of it. It is in this way that faith in God is evidence-based belief. Faith in God is not antithetical to evidence. It is rooted in knowing who God is.
A hugely important question we need to ask ourselves when we talk about faith is, do we know this God? Do we really know Him?
But there are challenges to our faith. What do we do when our beliefs seem to collide with what we experience or feel? What does Christianity have to say to all the wrong we observe and the wrong we experience?
a) Christianity says that evil is real and that it is wrong. These two points, the reality of evil and the wrongness of it are important to note, especially since many faiths and systems of belief do not share this view. Many streams of Eastern thought teach that suffering or pain is illusory. Pain is an illusion, many will say. Hard atheism tells us that evil may be real, but it is not necessarily wrong; it just is.
b) Christianity tells us that God looks at evil and sees that it is real and wrong, but that He has also done something about it. He got involved in the problem! Jesus Christ dying on a cross tells us that God is not one who is distant from pain. He knows the problem intimately.
c) Christ’s resurrection tells us that the world that is—a world full of pain and evil—is not the world that will be.
What does it mean to have faith in God?
Faith in God centres on the fact that God is there! He is trustworthy and we can have a personal relationship with Him. This relationship is one that brings us hope; a hope that sustains us day to day.
Os Guinness, God in the Dark: The Assurance of Faith Beyond a Shadow of Doubt (Crossway, 1996).
Ravi Zacharias, Beyond Opinion: Living the Faith We Defend, Reprint (Thomas Nelson, 2010).
Websites: www.rzim.ca; www.rzim.org; www.rzim.eu; www.bethinking.org.
Apologist, RZIM Canada
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