Must Christians Take A Leap Of Faith?

Leaping manI have often heard Christians claiming that we should take a leap of faith in the gospel.  One blog I read stated,

You could say Peter took a leap of Faith when he jumped out of the boat and began walking on water. Peter, an imperfect man, walked on water like Jesus did” (http://www.godswill-wellness.com/leap-of-faith.html).

Noted scientist and Christian Francis Collins said,

Nobody gets argued all the way into becoming a believer on the sheer basis of logic and reason. That requires a leap of faith.”

Another writes,

“The paradox lies in this,” he wrote. “We can experience presence—one could just as easily say grace—when art approximates the leap of faith, when it dares to place us directly inside an act of discovery. The risk of imagination, like the risk of faith, instills fear in those who believe we can only be saved by rational propositions. But the paradoxical truth is that unless we learn how to live in that risk-taking leap of faith, we will lose touch with the meaning of those propositions.”

His words (who was this guy?) mirrored what I believed and had been unable to explain: that my writing was an act of faith, that imagination itself was belief (http://bit.ly/1F0hOP5).

The web is loaded with sayings on a leap of faith, such as the following:

“Change requires taking a leap of faith.”

“Sometimes your only available means of transportation is a leap of faith”

“Sometimes the greatest distance between two points is a leap of faith.”

The notion of a leap of faith began with Soren Kierkegaard although he never used the phrase directly.  In one of his works, Kierkegaard notes,
When someone is to leap he must certainly do it alone and also be alone in properly understanding that it is an impossibility. … the leap is the decision. ….” (Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments).
Kierkegaard saw Christian faith as full of paradoxes through which one who places faith in the Christian God must take a leap to embrace.  However, is faith really what he and many other Christians attempt to affirm?

If we consult the Christian’s authority on faith, the Bible, I believe we come to a very different conclusion.  The Bible asserts that we do not take any sort of leap, but that our faith rests on content, evidence, reality, and an object as rock solid as the world in which we live.  Faith cannot be called biblical faith when divorced from any of these.

Biblical faith requires content.  Faith stands on substance and not simply nothing.  There is no leap into some darkness or void.  Rather, the Bible claims that faith requires substance,
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for…” (Hebrews 11:1)
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews identifies that substance is hope.  Such hope rests on the word of God He speaks in the past, present, and future.  It is for this reason that we read in the letter to the Hebrews,

By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible” (Hebrews 11:3).

Creation occurred in the distant past prior eyewitnesses.  Faith believes the word of God that brought about creation.  It accepts the reality of God speaking and that all that exist did not arise without Him as atheism claims.  Events that occurred because of God’s word took faith on the part of those who lived later.  God’s spoken word then gave those who trusted Him confidence that His word stands firm and gives hope.

As we work our way through Hebrews 11, we discover how the author weaves substance and evidence together.  God’s past actions give assurance of future hope.  Noah lived righteously based on what he knew of God’s activity in the past both in creation and His dealings with his ancestors.  God had long faithfulness.  He complied with God’s direction to construct an ark, for he knew that God would fulfill His promise of deliverance.  God appeared to Abraham and gave him a son.  These events led him to conclude that another “city” existed for him and his family (11:9-10).  Moses also waited for the Messiah according to the same faith.  The prophets knew God’s faithfulness to them and drew confidence in His deliverance.

Faith rested in the God of hope in a future reality.  It was not faith in some nebulous nothingness.  God acting space and time is evidence for faith.  From creation to providence, God strengthened the earliest believers as well as those today.  It is not blind or divorced from the real world or teachings without foundation such as what exists in Eastern religions as Buddhism and Confucianism.  Faith does not rest in philosophical words that have no relationship to reality, such as platitudes or sayings divorced from the real world.  In fact, that which does not exists is not part of reality.  It could not come to mind and be conceptualized.  Those who take faith as simply isolated from what exists rely on presumption and ignorance.  It has its trust in one’s imagination or subjectivity and not in that which exists external to the person.  God exists apart from the imagination and the fantasies one conjures up in the mind.  He is distinct from the individual and not one with a person.  That is pantheism or panentheism, that is God is everything or in everything.

Such a notion makes gods of men and makes no distinction between God and humanity.  For this reason, the God who exists apart from the created order and humanity itself can act apart individuals.  His acts in creation gives substance for what He promises.  Faith relies on this reality and not in the fantasy of finite gods as integrated in creation or one with it.  As the object of Christian faith, God fulfills in reality, in space and time, what He promises.  Presumption is opposite such fulfillment, because it is reliance on the imagination apart from the word of God.  For this reason, biblical faith is not a leap of faith, which is impersonal, but trust in the personal God who acts to fulfill what He declares in reality.

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True Biblical Faith

If you ask a dozen people to define faith, you would probably receive a dozen different answers.  Some say, “You gotta have faith.”  What does that mean?  Some base faith on a feeling such as, “I trust my gut.”  Some theologians say, “You can find God through creation.  Just look at the stars and the beauty of the earth.”  Others take a step or two farther and claim that God is in creation or that creation is God.  Still others announce, “You are the only one you can trust” or “You have to take a leap of faith.”

If we consider all of these, they have one thing in common.  They either are faith in what one sees or there is no object for faith.  The Bible has a very different take on the matter of faith.  In writing to the Corinthian church, Paul states,

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

The Corinthian church arose from the Greek-Roman culture, which was polytheistic.  The people carved images of things from the created order and set them up as gods.  There were gods that they could see, and they worshipped them.  Where their faith was, their hope followed.  However, when they became believers in Christ, they had to reorient their worldview.  This was especially true in the difficulties they encountered during their time.  That reorientation was a radical departure from what they saw to unseen realities.

In writing to them, Paul once again reminded them of the true nature of faith.  Its object was the unseen God and His unseen promises.  He informed them that Christ was the object of their faith, and that He dwelled in unseen reality.  For this reason, he encouraged them not to lose heart.  The things of creation were helpless to uphold them in their trials, inasmuch as they wanted to cling to these created objects.  The God of the entire universe held sway over all the created order including them.  He was their rock and anchor.  Consequently, in spite of the difficulties they encountered, they could be assured that they were safe in the hands of the Almighty God, the Father of the Lord Jesus.  They were His children.  In light of these truths, he referred to trials and difficulties as “light afflictions” in comparison to the glory they would encounter when they left their earthly tent – their created bodies.  God’s oversight was their hope.

How much more true is that for us today who face threats of annihilation in a world gone mad with greed, power, and lust.  Keeping our eyes on the unseen reality of God and His promise to be with us and on Jesus who saves us enables courage.  The letter to the Hebrews encourages us to keep our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.  He suffered far worse trials and temptation and was executed.  His resurrection guarantees the fulfillment of God’s promise that those who believe Him as the Savior will be with Him eternally.

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