Do you consider yourself a person of faith?
Over the years I’ve had many conversations with people who don’t believe. In those conversations, typically I find myself trying to reconstruct what faith looks like. It’s not that I can create faith in someone just by changing the definition … not at all. I’m just a believer in faith. What I mean is that I think faith is a natural activity of the human soul. We all believe in something.
Maybe you grew up in church. If you did, you almost certainly have some idea of what faith is supposed to look like … allegedly. Definitions can vary widely. For me though, church culture has at times made faith look like something beyond what it actually is. That’s part of the problem too. I think for many people, the idea of faith has become somewhat unbelievable and certainly impractical. Maybe it (faith) conflicts with your understanding of science or culture. Or maybe the faith that you’ve been presented with conflicts with your understanding of morality. That might sound paradoxical but it happens, I think, more frequently than we realize.
So I guess what I’m trying to accomplish is a recapturing of faith’s meaning and especially its relevance. Mainly because I think it will be helpful for me and for you. I don’t want to tear down what you think. I want to tear down faith misconceptions. Maybe you’re ready to give up on faith. If so, hang in there, because here are five reasons I have FAITH (my acronym for the day) and I think you should too.
1. Factors: You should have faith because we are still figuring things out
“I don’t believe in the Bible because it contradicts science.”
Maybe you’ve heard that before. Maybe you’ve said it yourself. The problem with that statement, in my experience, is that it is founded on a plethora of misconceptions.
Maybe science does contradict the Bible. Maybe it doesn’t though. Maybe our understanding of the Bible is flawed, not the Bible itself. There was a time when people were condemned for saying the sun is at the center of things. It was based on misconception though. The Bible does not teach that the earth is the center of the solar system. It often uses metaphor to speak to ancient cultures about God. The point is that our understanding of faith has grown. It has matured.
You may not realize it, but science works much the same way. Science literally means “knowledge.” It’s what we “know about things.” That’s all. And our knowledge of things is constantly changing, growing, maturing and even “evolving” (couldn’t help myself). So I’d just like to open the door to faith. Sometimes, it might seem like there’s a contradiction between what your church and the outside world are saying. But just remember that growth is happening in both places too. If you can remember that, you might begin to see the truth that God cares a great deal about what we know and faith will become more meaningful for you at the same time.
2. Already: You should have faith because it’s something you already practice
Faith produces outcomes.
Have you ever thought about that?
Reason and experience are certainly part of the process. But faith comes first. Faith says that something impossible can be done and then drives a person to make it a reality. Faith looks for answers when reason and experience contradict what we’re seeking. So you should have faith because faith is something you’re practicing already without realizing it. Maybe it’s faith in the economy, faith in a relationship or faith in the laws of physics (since philosophers would argue you can never be certain of the ground beneath your feet). In short, people can’t live without faith and progress can’t be made either.
So if you already practice faith in unexpected ways, maybe you’d be willing to look at faith in the context of a broader narrative. Maybe it’s not something you understand completely but give it a try. Maybe God will speak to you in an unexpected way.
I know that my belief in a greater narrative has never let me down. Some people may feel that it has but I don’t. On the other hand, faith has often forced me to look outside myself for solutions. In addition, it brings me great comfort in the process of discovery. For me and for many people in history, faith has produced much of what we take for granted today. It will for you too.
3. Images: You should believe because signs are all around you
What do you really think about God? If I put you on the spot right now what would you say? Maybe to you, all the talk of miracles in the land of faith have made the broader story seem ridiculous and disconnected. At the same time, maybe there are images (signs) all around you showing you that it’s true or worth believing in.
I can see why some don’t believe. Certainly all of the miracles in the Bible (including Jesus’ resurrection) introduce the supernatural into our otherwise mechanical understanding of things. Sure. Faith is believing in at least some of those things. A Judeo-Christian worldview, for example, is predicated on the idea of resurrection. Faith, however, is not believing in all of those things all the time. Aside from Jesus, the Bible is filled with failures. It presents a humanity who doubts and struggles to understand God’s plan.
Still want proof? Look at life. Just the existence of life stands as reason enough to believe in a greater meaning. Life on our planet is very complex but it’s also incredibly delicate. Any closer to the sun and we’d burn. Any further, we’d freeze. Even our moon creates crucial ocean currents that make life as we know it possible (apparently it’s not just there for aesthetics). These things are images that point us to faith.
I admit that there are seemingly unbelievable stories in our faith narrative. But there are equally unbelievable realities in our everyday world. Maybe in that context the miracles don’t seem so unbelievable. I think this is especially true when you consider the point of our story: that God loves us and we’re going to live forever with him. The one who created the universe also conquered death. He has been a sign to everyone through the centuries that we can believe. And he’s a sign to you that you can do the same today.
4. Teleios: You should have faith because God completes you
Teleios is a Greek word that means complete or whole. Have you ever put a puzzle together only to find out that you were missing a piece? It’s awful isn’t it? Incomplete carries a feeling.
One of the natural conclusions we can draw from our faith conversation so far is that we were meant for more. If we achieve our outcomes by faith and life also provides us with plenty of signs pointing us in that direction, it only follows that a life of faith gives us a sense of wholeness. It gives us a feeling that we’ve found that missing puzzle piece.
You may be a passionate person. You may already feel like you have a sense of purpose. For me, that sense of purpose came as I fulfilled my calling as a pastor and grew in my knowledge of God. My education was a big part of that process too. But you don’t need my faith to feel complete. That’s not what I’m getting at. You need your own faith … your own personal faith. Look around. Acknowledging the amazing order that exists in the universe, you can bet there is a purpose for you. What I’m saying is that faith has a way of enhancing the things we care about and bringing completion to our world.
You don’t have to have all the answers. In fact, you shouldn’t. But I think if you’re willing to see things in this light, faith will look a whole lot more relevant.
5. Harmony: You should have faith because faith paves the way for peace
Have you ever heard something that just doesn’t quite sound right in a musical setting? Harmony is key in music and it is key in life too. When one person in a group is off pitch, the whole thing can sound repulsive.
People like things when they work. We like functionality and beauty. That’s what harmony represents. And that’s what people seek all the time. It’s why we believe in our gods, behave in moral ways and belong to our social groups. We want harmony in the social order and we want peace in our lives. In my experience, faith provides the best opportunity for that to happen.
Some religious groups and people of faith have a bad reputation in this regard. We see them in the media all the time. Because they believe, behave and belong in a certain way, they think their way is what’s best for everyone. Then, others reject faith (possibly altogether) because they see it opposing their cause.
But what if God is interested in freedom? What if he actually loves worthy social causes, hates injustice and is inclined towards mercy? My faith tells me that he values equality and is so good in many other ways because God is working out harmony in the world. For me, faith informs my understanding of these things. It tells me that God cares about the same things I care about and that he’s actually better at making them a reality, when I can trust him, when I can have faith in his plan.
What do you think about what I’ve said? I’m sure that I haven’t covered everything or answered all of your questions but that’s a good thing. It means you can explore your own solutions by taking a few small steps of faith today. What do you think some of those steps might be? Let me know! Maybe you can help me find some of the answers I’m looking for too.
For an extra step, read the story of the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-42. When Jesus initially speaks to her, she doesn’t seem to get what he’s saying. Later, however, she catches on and is deeply impacted by the experience. What does that story say to you about faith? Can you relate with the woman or Jesus disciples in the story? God bless!