What Is Faith?

I’ve heard for years that faith in God is like sitting in a chair. I’ve even demonstrated that idea myself a few times. Pointing to a chair I’d say that putting faith in God is like sitting in this chair. I trust that I won’t fall over backwards and crack my skull. Then I’d sit in the chair and wait for everyone to affirm their immediate trust in God.

Faith Is NOT Like Sitting In a Chair.

Farmer in rocking chair reading "The Progressive Farmer"

For one, I don’t even think when I sit in a chair. Should we equate the belief that guides our lives with a process that requires no thought?

I also came across this quote a while back from a site called Living Theology:

“Some people use the illustration of having faith that a chair will support your weight allows you to confidently sit in it. Well what happens to your “faith” when the chair breaks? …Sitting in a chair and riding in an airplane are not acts of faith, but rather acting upon our experiences in the world.”

In the comments of a recent FaithGeeks video one viewer had some thoughts challenging the validity of faith in general. Here’s a short summary of some of his points.

  • Faith is belief without evidence, the denial of reality, the acceptance of assertions without evidence.
  • Reasonable faith is an oxymoron.
  • If it requires you to believe without evidence, then it’s faith. If you have evidence (as you claim), then it’s science or history.
  • Faith leads to very bad outcomes, actions which lead to suffering.

Here are some thoughts in response and about what faith is in general.

Faith is simply trust or confidence in something. In this regard, the chair analogy makes some sense, at least inasmuch as our faith is based on personal experience. The real leap comes over the gap between that which we can see and that which we cannot. We all have to answer questions of origins and destiny as well as meaning and morality.

  • Where did we come from?
  • Where will we end up?
  • What is the point of existence?
  • What is right and/or wrong and how can we be sure?

In order to answer such questions we examine worldviews like naturalism or Buddhism or the claims of Christ.

I base my faith on evidence which includes logical consistency of claims and arguments as well as historical evidence (testimonial included) and whatever science my meager brain can muster. It all has to cohere together and align with personal experience.

As for the claim that faith leads to bad outcomes, I have a few thoughts. First, faith also leads to good outcomes.* But if someone wants to condemn faith or religion for bad things certain adherents have done, I would argue that history is filled with plenty of murder and suffering at the hands of those who claim no faith (which is still a belief in naturalism). Also, anyone killing in the name of Christ is going against what he taught and isn’t a true reflection of what faith in him should look like.

If someone rejects a belief system (or even every organized belief system) it’s important to ask what that person is turning towards in place of whatever worldviews he denies. Do they have a philosophy that coherently answers those big four questions?

Unlike the theological dilemma of sitting in a chair, we don’t get final answers to the BIG questions until we die, but my belief in the invisible is based on what I can see and know now. Any other theories, teachings, or promises must align with verifiable reality and not be self-contradicting.

For me, the teachings of the Bible and Jesus provide intellectual and existential fulfillment.

What relationship do you see between faith and evidence?

*I’m working on a future post about many of these examples.

By Clay Morgan

Clay Morgan is the author of Undead. Say hi on Twitter.