Brett's monthly letter for February 2014
The constant barrage of objections and counter-arguments is a real trial for many Christian college students. Gabrielle at Chatham University reports from the front lines:
Now that I am in college, my faith is under constant scrutiny and always being tested by scientific concepts and the secular slant of most universities. I wish I had been equipped with a more solid justification for my faith: knowing how to answer the tough questions, how to respond to arguments, and how to stand firm in what feels like a storm against my spirituality.
I regularly hear similar reports from college students around the country. Their faith is constantly, and often harshly, scrutinized. They’re desperate for evidence in support of their faith. But could it be that the very word we use to describe our Christianity—“faith”—can actually undermine it?
In today’s culture, the word “faith” comes with too much baggage. For many, faith is a blind, arbitrary leap in the dark that has no relationship to reason, evidence, or knowledge. So let me make a suggestion. Let’s use the word “trust” instead. “Trust” accurately communicates the biblical idea of faith. In addition, it helps us reunite true faith with reason, evidence, and knowledge. Why? Because we know people only put their trust in what they have good reason to believe is true.
My wife Erin and I have been married for a number of years. We started dating in September 1995, got engaged in January 1997, and were married that June. Was my faith or trust in Erin stronger in 1997 or is it stronger now? Most likely, your first impulse is to answer now. However, doesn’t it depend? The strength of my trust in Erin rests upon what I’ve come to know about her based on the evidence.
Maybe Erin had fooled me while we dated. She only put her best foot forward every time we were together. She misled me into thinking she was honest, loyal, trustworthy, unselfish, and sacrificial. At that point, my confidence in Erin would’ve been strong, leading me to walk down the aisle and tie the knot in marriage. However, what if after a few years of marriage, a completely different picture of Erin emerged? Shortly after our wedding, I started catching Erin in little lies, eventually unearthing bigger lies. I discovered money missing from my wallet and then from our bank account. She slowly stopped doing nice things for me and became completely self-absorbed. What then of my trust? It would’ve been ruined.
Thank God that’s not what happened. Instead, the evidence pointing to Erin’s excellent character before marriage only grew stronger in marriage. The evidence of her words and actions has confirmed she is honest, loyal, and unselfish. My trust in Erin grows stronger every year as my knowledge of her increases. The object of my faith—Erin—has proven trustworthy, so putting my faith in her is reasonable.
In the same way, biblical faith rests upon our knowledge, and our knowledge rests upon the evidence. Does the Bible teach that faith alone saves you? No. Faith in Jesus alone saves you. It isn’t just important that we have faith, but what we put that faith in. We don’t put our faith in fairytales. We don’t put our faith in false ideas. We don’t put our faith in two-faced friends. If faith is trust, then everyone, even the atheist, has faith in something. The most important question we must ask is, what or who are we trusting in? When we provide our students with the evidence for Christianity, we show them that Jesus is absolutely worthy of their trust.
We must continue to fight this false view of faith in our homes, churches, and youth groups. We must teach the biblical view of faith as trusting in what we have good reasons to believe is true, and then show students we do have good reasons to think Christianity is true.