The Content of Faith

Many centuries ago the Christian philosopher Anselm of Canterbury wrote,

“For I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand. For I believe this also, that ‘unless I believe, I shall not understand’ [Isa. 7: 9]. (St. Anselm (1998-09-10). Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works (Oxford World’s Classics) (p. 87). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.)

Understanding arises from faith and not faith from understanding inasmuch as sight does not require faith. For if faith arises from understanding, there would be no faith, because understanding would swallow it through (in)sight. Yet we have faith for understanding much of what remains unseen. The unseen has substance and evidence, and we do not deny that unseen because we admit its substance and the evidence for it. Science continuously shows us such substance, and we have faith in our scientific instruments to confirm this substance. Yet, some question both the substance and evidence for faith until someone makes a promise to us. That promise contains both substance and evidence. That substance is its fulfillment, and the evidence is that the promise remains unseen until also fulfilled.

God does the same thing for us. He is bold enough to step out of His sphere into ours and make a promise and big enough to bring it to pass. Jesus assumed our status in our humanity, loved us, gave His life for us to deliver us from our nihilistic state. His promise was God’s promise,

“In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, i would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself so that where I am you will be, also” (John 14:2-3).

Are we courageous enough to believe that promise from the unseen God inasmuch as we believe the unseen words coming from our spouse or close friend?  Trust depends on it.  Those who depend on and have faith in their spouses or friends come from different religious and philosophical persuasions.  They are Christian, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, and a number of other persuasions.  Some say, faith is fake or not required, because they see it as a religious expression.  Yet contrary to their own persuasion, they exercise that faith daily with their spouses and friends, for they depend on their word, and trust them to fulfill it.  Faith in God is no different. Although He remains unseen, He is relational, and He expands our understanding of trust.  While unseen, He calls us to trust His promises.  Can this call be any different from trusting out spouse or a friend?  It holds as much substance and evidence, for it is tested daily in the crucible of relationships.

Faith and the Unseen

It is easy to turn faith into something that it is not.  We yearn for spiritual experiences to give us comfort such as God speaking to us through dreams, visions, and revelations.  They tend to make God more real to us than what we cannot see.  When we read the Bible, stories stand out to us of Jesus healing the sick.  If we are sick, we want to be healed.  We read of an angel coming to Jacob and wrestling with him.  More angels appear to shepherds at Jesus’ birth.  These stories stir us emotionally, and we cast ourselves on them for assurance that God works.

Then we encounter passages in the Bible that speak of the unseen.  The writer of the letter to the Hebrews informs us about numerous people who walked by faith in the unseen.  He begins,

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony” (Hebrews 11:1).

He goes on to identify how those mentioned walked by the unseen.  One stunning point he makes if the very next verse,

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” (1:3).

Atheists would not agree with this statement.  They would say that their understanding of the existence of the universe is the Big Bang.  However, the Bible states that for us to grasp creation as from God takes faith.  The visible creation did not arise from what is seen but rather from the unseen God.  Then there is the list of those who looked at the unseen promises of God’s word.  They trusted what God said and went forward in their lives living by it, some even losing their life over such faith.  Faith in the unseen focuses on eternal things of God while the seen focuses on the temporal order (2 Corinthians 4:16-17).  We grow in faith in God and gain assurance and comfort from Him with this kind of faith rather with the faith that relies on the seen things of the universe.  Paul faced the same struggles, and even greater ones than we, but he wrote the Corinthians that in his struggles his greatest comfort came from trusting in the unseen promises of God’s word.

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