Tim clarifies a common misconception about the biblical definition of faith.
What is faith? Well over time, words have a tendency of changing their meanings. In fact, some words have come to mean the exact opposite of what they used to mean. Consider the word “awful.” A century ago, it literally meant to be full of awe. Testifying to an awful sunset would have been communicating reverence for the event. But I’m sure none of the husbands listening to me right now woke up this morning, turned to their wives, and said, “Honey, you look awful today.” No, that’s a bad idea. Well, why?
Today, the word almost exclusively is used to describe something that’s extremely unpleasant or distasteful. So ironically, the term “awful” has come to mean the opposite of what it used to mean. I think the same is true of the word “faith.” Today, some people use the word “faith” to mean “believing something without evidence.” So Mark Twain, he famously wrote, “Faith is believin’ in what you know ain’t true.” This is what most people call blind faith, but this isn’t how the biblical authors use the word.
To illustrate my point, just look at the reason why John wrote his gospel account. He says, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” The reason John wrote about Jesus’ signs and wonders, the miracles that He performed, was to provide trustworthy eye witness evidence so that readers—you and I—would put our faith in Christ.
Does that sound like John didn’t care about evidence? Does John believe in blind faith? Absolutely not. The mere existence of John’s gospel demonstrates that John thought faith and evidence work together. More specifically, the gospel according to John was written so that people would read it and put their faith in Christ.
Here’s an illustration I use to explain biblical faith: Imagine you’re standing at the edge of Niagara Falls, and while you’re watching this magnificent waterfall, you notice there’s a tightrope walker named Charles Blondin. He’s walking from one side to the other, pushing a wheelbarrow full of rocks. You’re mesmerized by his amazing ability. You keep watching him do it over and over again, and he sees you, walks over, and asks, “Do you have faith that I could do it again?” You reply, “Of course I have faith you could do it again. I’ve seen you do it all day,” and then he dumps the rocks out. He says, “Okay, climb in the wheelbarrow.”
Do you get it? It’s not mere intellectual assent. You believe based on evidence, and stepping into the wheelbarrow is active trust. So biblical faith is putting your trust in something based on evidence. We all understand how trust works. I trust my wife more today than when I married her nearly ten years ago. Why? Because she’s given me more reason, or evidence, over the last decade to put my trust in her. The same can be said of our faith in Christ. After assessing what Christ has done and is doing, we respond by putting our trust in Him. So what is faith? Biblical faith is active trust based on evidence.