Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, May 06, 2011

Faith is Accepting the Grace of God

Most people when they think of faith think of a belief in something or someone. Something that is not fully happened yet so it can't be claimed to be a reality yet it is something that is expected to occur. We have faith that the building we are in will not simply collapse on us. Just as that faith in the building is either based upon our visual perceptions or our confidence in the builders and the inspectors and the host of people involved in creating a building, faith is never based upon just beliefs it should always be based upon evidence.

This frustrates many traditional type Christians. I was led to the following quote of Ravi Zacharias from a comment on Spectrum, (an open letter to Educate Truth). The commenter said of tand article by someone who used the Ravi Zacharias quote; “He mocks the "blind faith" of Christians, relying on the writings of Ravi Zacharias, a critic of the Bible.” Here is some of what Zacharias wrote:

If a pastor says, “All we need is the Bible,” what does he say to a man who says, “All I need is the Quran”? It is a solipsistic method of arguing.
The pastor is saying, “All I need is my own point of reference and nothing more than that.” Even the gospel was verified by external references. The Bible is a book of history, a book of geography, not just a book of spiritual assertions.
The fact is the resurrection from the dead was the ultimate proof that in history — and in empirically verifiable means — the Word of God was made certain. Otherwise, the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration would have been good enough. But the apostle Peter says in 2 Peter 1:19: “We have the Word of the prophets made more certain … as to a light shining in a dark place.” He testified to the authority and person of Christ, and the resurrected person of Christ.
To believe, “All we need is the Bible and nothing more,” is what the monks believed in medieval times, and they resorted to monasteries. We all know the end of that story. This argument may be good enough for those who are convinced the Bible is authority. The Bible, however, is not authoritative in culture or in a world of counter-perspectives. To say that it is authoritative in these situations is to deny both how the Bible defends itself and how our young people need to defend the Bible’s sufficiency.
There is little point in giving quotes from the blind faith side of things because they have nothing to stand upon aside from their tradition. Tradition may be good, bad or indifferent but if it is not inquired about it has tremendous potential for harm. A few examples of harmful traditions would include these:
...”[F]female circumcision/genital mutilation, facial scarring, the force-feeding of women, early or forced marriage, nutritional taboos, traditional practices associated with childbirth, dowry-related crimes, honor crimes, and the consequences of son preference...”
Faith is not based upon tradition, it is not a product of blind choice and it is not merely the assumptions that what you hope for will happen or what you can't see is there. When the Bible says: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1it is an expression of the results of faith not the reason for the faith. As the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary says:
Instead, he treats faith with reference to the future. It is that trust in God that enables believers to press on steadfastly whatever the future holds for them. They know that they can rely on God. So the writer's method is to select some of the great people in the history of God's people and to show briefly how faith motivated all of them and led them forward, no matter how difficult the circumstances.”
Faith was based upon their understanding of God, their experience with God, tradition may have been involved but it is only one part of the overall experience and knowledge, information and reality that creates the understanding of God as someone who can be trusted, someone who is a friend and not an enemy.

Few of us would be so foolish as to say we believe in anything by blind faith. Religion seems to be the one clear exception...well perhaps certain conspiracy theories as well. But generally it is not seen as a reasonable position to base anything on blind faith. What happens in traditional Christianity however is that traditional understanding and practices of Biblical interpretation become the excuse to accept blind faith. If someone uses different techniques to interpret the Bible so that it does not conflict with scientific reality, the traditionalist scoffs at the more reasoned explanation.

But the traditionalist does not want to admit that his faith is in a particular form of Bible interpretation technique, so instead they will say that they are simply following the Bible, or the plain reading of the Bible. Thus if you disagree or have a different interpretation you are going against the Bible in their view. If reason, history, science or any other form of reality disagrees with their interpretation they assert their fidelity to the Bible by which they mean their traditional interpretation of the Biblical texts.

Faith is not found in methods of Bible interpretation, it is not found in tradition, it is based upon the reality of the historical person of Jesus Christ as the incarnation of God. A revelation of the love and acceptance of even His enemies and His power over death and His promises of reconciliation. Faith is built on evidence and it is only faith in God, not interpretations, because we can and historically have been wrong in interpretations. But faith is about who God is, Faith is the acceptance of the gracious character of our God. Other things may fail us but if our God is love, the love revealed by Christ then we have good reasons for belief in better things to come.


Anonymous said...

I was with you until the last paragraph, then you lost me. Jesus resurrection is evidence? But his resurrection is only described in the Bible (NT). So you are still putting your faith in the Bible first, not in Jesus resurrection as evidence for faith. Similar arguments can be made for most of the other points in your last paragraph.

Ron Corson said...

Yes Jesus resurrection is evidence, those who were His disciples went out and told the story of Jesus under and against persecution. So the historical evidence is that these people did indeed witness what they claimed and then did not back down from their claims. It would be extremely rare for people to knowingly die for a lie that they knew was a lie.

The Bible after all is put together by people who collected the writings of other people we can't act as if it is some kind of heaven delivered material somehow given us apart from history.

Frank said...

You write: “Faith is not based upon tradition; it is not a product of blind choice...”

I believe this is ideal—but not the practice. As believers we possess both a personal and group faith. As SDA’s we base our corporate faith on the assurance of our church pioneers including EGW. If we were Mormons, JW’s or Catholics we would do the same.

This is human practice; we want to believe our founders, and our teachers that lead us into truth (that is what they are suppose to do).

In essence faith is a choice of believing our traditions, which in turn support our personal faith, that our leaders teach us is Scripture based. This is the historical practice of millions of believers, even though it is not ideal.

At the same time I reach out in private faith to God’s mercy I am supported by the knowledge that my church family encourages me to be faithful in their given traditions, or I am likely to incur guilt.

There is always a personal experience and a blind element to faith.