Part 4: What it takes to have faith or belief

By Robin Schumacher

The skeptic Bertrand Russell was once asked what he'd say to God when asked why he didn't believe. "I'll tell Him you didn't give me enough evidence," said Russell.

Now this is an area where I will agree with one of my Easter blog post dissenters. Evidence is not enough to make someone a Christian. Atheists will talk themselves hoarse about needing evidence and it's because there's not enough evidence for God that they won't believe.

With all due respect, I don't believe it. And the Bible is littered with Illustrations that back up my position. There are a couple that really stand out for me.

For example, take the resurrection of Lazarus recorded in John 11. Jesus raises a guy back to life who's been dead for four days in the presence of many witnesses. You'd think that would convince the religious leaders Jesus is who He says He is. But instead it says later in the same chapter that it was this event that was the straw that broke the camel's back and caused them agreement among them to kill Jesus (cf. John 11:53). Moreover, John tells us in the next chapter that they not only planned to kill Jesus but they also were going to murder Lazarus because many of the Jews believed in Jesus because they saw Lazarus alive again. Good grief — they're going to murder the resurrected guy to try and stop the 'Jesus movement'! So much for evidence being the only thing you need for faith.

And then you have Jesus' resurrection. Angels, stone rolling away, earthquake, guards passing out from fear. You'd think an eyewitness report of all that would change the disbeliever's hearts about Jesus. But instead, Matthew tells us: "And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, "You are to say, 'His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.' "And if this should come to the governor's ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble." And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day" (Matt. 28:12-15). The religious leaders know their story is a lie, and yet — they won't face the evidence of the resurrection even though it's staring them right in the face. But, after all, Jesus said this would happen before it all happened: "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead" (Luke 16:31).

Here's a sad but very true fact: people act contrary to evidence all the time. All the time. For example, people know all the evidence about smoking, excessive alcohol use, poor eating habits, ignoring exercise, and such. And yet, many people die of lung cancer, liver failure, struggle with obesity, and suffer the effects from being out of shape. And still they persist in their lifestyles. Why? Lack of evidence? Lack of information? Lack of proof? Not at all.

Conservative columnist Irving Kristol put the problem like this: "When we lack the will to see things as they really are, there is nothing so mysterious as the obvious." The faith issue is a matter of the will, not so much a matter of the mind. This is why you will see Jesus over and over again not address an intellectual deficiency in His detractors, but instead He says to them: "Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?"(Mark 2:8, emphasis added).

This heart issue is what matters and not the need for more evidence. Occasionally you will see intellectually honest people admit this, such as Nietzsche who said: "If one were to prove this God of the Christians to us, we should be even less able to believe in him." Or philosopher Thomas Nagel who candidly admitted, "I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn't just that I don't believe in God and, naturally hope that I'm right in my belief. It's that I hope that there is no God! I don't want there to be a God; I don't want the universe to be like that."

We can all nod in agreement that truth is what matters in life, but really, a person's presuppositions and personal desires can truly rule the day when push comes to shove. This is why philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, when speaking about truth, said: "Truth is subjectivity". Kierkegaard didn't at all mean that truth was subjective, but rather when faced with the truth, one must "subject" themselves to it. Truth has an existential bearing on the life of the one who commits to it. Kierkegaard knew that Bible truths were easy to understand in theory, but difficult to follow in practice. The latter requires obedience.

Next: Part 5: The biblical concept of faith

Faith, The Series

Part 1: What is faith?
Part 2: Defining faith
Part 3: Faith that and faith in–an important distinction
Part 4: What it takes to have faith
Part 5: The biblical concept of faith

Image Credit: Giotto; "Resurrezione di Lazzaro"; Public Domain

comments powered by Disqus
Reposted 5-20-13