Is anyone here familiar with the phrase, confidence building? I ask this because as I’ve surveyed what faith in God appears to be, it appears that the Bible itself advocates a mindset of faith as a kind of confidence building exercise.
Instead of focusing on yourself, faith asks you to focus on God. Relating again to yourself, the exercise may look like this. You say things to yourself such as, “I’m a good person, I’m smart, I’m funny, people like me. I can accomplish my goals. I can learn through the pain and the struggle.”
Now, shifting the focus to God, many of the same things are said and highlighted. “God is good, He is all-wise, He’s my source of joy, He likes me, no wait, He loves me. God will help me accomplish my goals. I can learn through the pain and the struggle.”
These are all rewarding feelings, are they not? This is why faith is often so highly treasured. It makes us feel loved and valued. It makes us feel as if God is there in the good times and in the bad. Who could be a greater friend?
Now, this is one aspect to having faith that I don’t deny brings many people joy and comfort within their lives. For many years this was the role that faith played in my own life. Over a period of time, however, the mindset of faith that I had, a faith that I indeed felt was very strong, began to gradually lose its strength as I challenged myself with the hardest questions I could use to test its validity.
What is faith exactly? Hebrews 11:1 gives the clearest definition of it.
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Assurance and confidence are pretty well synonymous. This is a mindset that forms and gets built up by reading the Bible. Just think about the Gospel narratives in the Bible. At the end of each Gospel Jesus is portrayed as a victorious Savior who defeated death so that we could live and have a relationship with God. The death of Jesus is only just the beginning because the Gospels tell us emphatically that God raised Him from the dead and that he ascended into heaven shortly after.
These narratives are interested specifically in how you feel about Jesus. Who do you think he was? Is this a hopeful message? Could you see yourself as one of the disciples encountering Jesus after you thought he was dead? Would you be like a doubting Thomas? In John we get this intimate picture of Jesus appearing before Thomas and putting his hand into the nail prints and the wound that was still in his side from the crucifixion. Thomas responds by falling to his knees and worshipping God. It’s a very moving story, I won’t deny anyone that.
My questions involve asking whether being moved by this account is a good enough reason to believe? This is where it gets tricky because people undoubtedly are very moved by this story. Christians often say, it is the greatest story ever told.
I get concerned when people start talking about faith as if it is a form of evidence. Hebrews 11:1 would like us to think this. Other translations render faith as the evidence of what is unseen. This is where I now see it as necessary to get gritty, are faith and evidence synonymous? I don’t think so. Regardless of how moved I may be by the story, regardless of how moved billions of others may be by this story, I cannot agree that good discernment would have me equate faith with evidence.
Faith is a form of confidence that gets built up from reading the Bible’s stories, nothing more and nothing less. Faith feels great. It’s an exercise of boosting one’s confidence about things we neither see or know about. Think about it, if people really knew that God exists, there would be no need for faith. Faith is the encouragement to act as if the Bible is true without actually knowing it.
Consider this other verse from Hebrews 11:6, it says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”
It doesn’t get any more explicit than that, does it? Drawing near to God requires faith. Another important aspect of faith is this idea of acting as if God exists without actually knowing it. If one doesn’t act as if God exists, it won’t be a rewarding experience. If you act like it, however, if you can make yourself believe it without actually knowing it, you will feel greatly rewarded.
For whatever reason, this is the best way to go if we want to feel as if God exists. We need to act like it, and if we can’t act like it, we won’t benefit from it. I don’t want to sound mean when I say this, but I am hard pressed on whether there is a difference between having faith and pretending? In other words, faith appears to be acting upon what one doesn’t know. It’s pretending to know things that one does not know.
Faith is pretending to know that God is there when we don’t actually know it. It is pretending that our prayers are being answered without actually knowing it. It’s pretending that we have a soul without actually knowing it, and it is pretending to be saved without actually knowing it.
My conclusion is that faith should not be equated with evidence, this is a poor way to characterize knowledge. Faith is best understood as a confidence building exercise that happens from reading the stories in the Bible, and another important aspect of faith is to act as if God exists when we don’t actually know this. Faith is pretending to know things we don’t know.
I wish everyone the very best in their search for what is true. Take care!