Saturday, June 20, 2009

Look Before You Leap!

Somewhere waaay back in the nineties, I watched a movie staring Steve Martin called Leap of Faith. The movie was about a con man who pretended to be a preacher who preyed on the fears and needs of people by tricking them into believing that he had some power from God to help them with what they needed so that he could get them to give him as much money as possible. Of course the movie was a farce but it did make me think about how easy it can be to get people to believe certain things if you can make them feel that you offer some truth or need for which they are searching. All you have to do is help them to place their faith in the answers you are offering. The truth is that everything involves and requires placing your faith into something or someone. You can’t live without having faith. We need faith!

Here’s the thing: In the end, everyone must make one or more faith decisions. Faith is a choice and it always requires a person to leap across a “faith chasm”. No amount of evidence can ever remove that “leap” it can only help shorten the gap. The final choice always requires faith. Everyone must choose to believe. In fact, everyone has already chosen to place faith in something. Even the atheist has chosen to place his or her faith in the fact that there is no God! In my view the atheist has made a poor choice of faith because it is not based on the best representation of the truth but it is a choice of faith none the less.

So what is the role of evidence and facts? We need to make every effort possible to ascertain the truth, as best we can, predicated upon as exhaustive an examination of the facts as possible. By doing so, we can make a faith decision based upon both the heart and the head.

It is for this reason that all Christians need to be able to know why they believe the way they believe. It simply is not enough to be able to say I believe this and that because genuine faith must be based on truth and it is being able to clearly articulate the why of our faith that points us and others back to its truth base. Ultimately our goal is to find the truth so that we can be set free and as we discovered last month, truth is found in Jesus Christ. So if we want to help people in their search for Him, then we must help people in their search for the truth.

You may ask: “Isn’t it better to believe through faith alone rather than believing because of evidence or proof?” Of course it is. This is the point Jesus was making to Thomas in John 20:29. However, the Christian faith has always been a verifiable faith. There is a vast amount of evidence that serves as proof of its truth. God has purposefully built this into creation, history, His Word, and His people and His intention has always been for us to use it for His purpose to redeem humanity. As apologist Frank Turek frequently proclaims, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.” Why? It is because when all the evidence is examined and all the facts have been evaluated, belief in a Theistic God rather than no god is the faith system best supported by the preponderance of evidence. This process is not only valid for evaluating the claims of atheism but for every other belief system as well. Once the evidence is explored, people will find that it takes far more faith to believe in any other system than it does to believe Christianity. All the others require a much larger leap to cross that faith chasm. However, most people simply do not know or understand this fact.

It is the responsibility of the church and each individual Christian to be prepared to help others to see and understand this point. This is what Peter was commanding in 1 Peter 3:15. We must be prepared to not only tell people what we believe but why we believe it. We must be prepared to give the reason for our hope. It is this “reason” that leads us to the genuine truth and shortens that “leap of faith” that all must eventually take. Learning how to do this is the focus of the discipline known as “apologetics”. Now that doesn’t mean that there are not other very valid “proofs” of the Christian faith other than reason (such as miracles, healing, Christian living, etc.); however, it is my view that an examination of the evidence under the direction and power of the Holy Spirit is certainly one of the most effective tools for breaking down barriers to the message about Christ for the Western World today.

It is God’s desire for each of us to have an eternal relationship with Him and to also show others the way to do the same. This requires us to have a faith that is not only based on emotions/experience but on reason as well. Ultimately, faith will always be an issue of the heart; but remember, the road to and from the heart passes through the head. In the end, learning how to give the reason for our faith will not only prepare us to break down the barriers that block communication of the Gospel but will also give us more confidence, strengthen our faith, and enhance our personal relationship with the Lord. Christ’s Kingdom will be increased as a result.

If you want to learn more about how you can help others to "look before they leap" read the book by Frank Turek and Norman Geisler, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2004).

Dr. Richard Tompkins

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