Why Is Faith a Good Thing?

In a recent interview, Bill Maher asked Ralph Reed,[1] “[If] faith [is] the purposeful suspension of critical thinking…why is faith a good thing?”[2]

How would you respond to Bill Maher’s question?

First, we should take Bill Maher’s question seriously, understanding that his understanding of faith is a popular one.

But next, we should redefine “faith”.  Because, contrary to popular belief, faith is not “the purposeful suspension of critical thinking,”…at least not Christian faith.

Christian faith actually depends on critical thinking. For example, Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines faith as “the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true…in accordance with the evidence on which it rests.”[3] From this definition we see that faith presupposes evidence.

What does this look like?

When I was 18, I needed an appendectomy—my appendix was about to burst. The idea of surgery made me nervous, until my doctor informed me that he had already successfully completed six appendectomies just that day. Upon hearing this information I felt better.

What changed? My faith. Specifically, my faith that arose from my critical thinking.

My critical thinking told me that if the doctor had already completed six successful surgeries earlier that day, then he knew what he was doing. This reasoning led me to have faith that my doctor would also perform my surgery well. My faith did not arise from the “suspension of critical thinking.” On the contrary, it came about because of my critical thinking.

Christian faith is the same way. As Hebrews 11:1 states, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Yes, faith is hope in things not seen. But this hope comes with assurance and conviction. Where does the assurance and conviction come from? It comes from our critical thinking. Specifically, our thinking about and understanding of what God has revealed to us through his general and special revelation.[4]

Now that we’ve properly defined “faith”, at least Christian faith, we’re now ready to answer the question, why is faith a good thing?

Timothy Keller has written, “It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you.”[5] Faith for faith’s sake is not a good thing. But faith becomes a good thing when the object of faith is a good thing.

Go back to my surgery. Having faith before my surgery was, for me, a good thing. It led me not to freak out. But my faith was good only because my faith was placed in a good object—the experienced doctor. In the same way, Christian faith is good because, as Christians, we have a very good object of our faith—Jesus Christ.

So what does this mean for us today?

Well, if we really believe faith to be a good thing (and want others to believe the same), we need to ask ourselves some hard questions.

What are we communicating to others about our faith? Does it appear that our faith is a faith that suspends critical thinking? Or is it clear that our Christian faith is a faith that relies on critical thinking? And do we appear to value faith just for faith’s sake? Or is it clear to others that what is good and most valuable about our faith is the object of our faith, Jesus Christ?

I pray, that as Christians, we will show the world what true faith is all about.

 


 

[1] Ralph Reed is a conservative American political activist, best known as the first executive director of the Christian Coalition

[2] “Bill Maher Spars With Ralph Reed Over Literal Interpretation Of The Bible,” June 6, 2014, http://crooksandliars.com/2014/06/bill-maher-spars-ralph-reed-over-literal

[3] M. G. Easton, Easton’s Bible Dictionary.                                          

[4] General revelation is that which can be known about God through nature. Special revelation is that which can be known about God through Scripture.

[5] Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism.

One thought on “Why Is Faith a Good Thing?

  1. Thanks again Alan for a good object lesson…word pictures almost ALWAYS work!!!
    Joan

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