Summary: This sermon looks at the relationship between faith and the intellect
We saw last week that faith is being sure and certain about things we do not yet see or have. It is our Response to God’s revelation – God has spoken – do we believe it
There is the story of a missionary working with children in the Middle East. Jeep ran out of petrol, no petrol can but only had a potty – so filled it up with petrol. As pouring in some Sheikhs pulled up, fascinated. Said, “Excuse me. My friend & I, although we do not share your religion we greatly admire your faith!” Many people see our faith as some blind leap of faith akin to running your car on the contents of a potty. That is a fallacy. This is an area of tension - the relationship between faith and understanding. Verse 3 illustrates a little more about faith and brings in this area of understanding. I want us to see if we can understand faith better so that we can grow in it. See that faith aids our understanding and understanding strengthens our faith.
1. Faith is about thinking
I think that this whole area of understanding is key to faith. Many of us may consider that we only have little faith. On several occasions Jesus accuses his followers of little faith when they are fearful and anxious e.g. worrying about God’s provision - Matt. 6:26-30, calming the storm & 8:23-26. But what is little faith? What is great faith? I said last week that we often associate great faith with seeing miracles, but Jesus said that only takes a little faith (greater faith is sometimes needed when God does not do a miracle). So what is faith all about? My favourite Christian figure of the 20th Century was Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones. He said that faith is mainly about thinking (p.129). People have the idea that faith is completely separate from logic and thought and understanding, it is a blind leap in the dark. But when you look at Jesus words in Matthew 6 he says they have little faith. But are they to do about it? Think. Look at the birds, the flowers and think. Are they taken care of? Yes. Are you more precious to God than these? Yes. Then why worry. Jesus is trying to get us to think – faith is not just a response to God’s revelation, faith is a response to our thoughts about that revelation. Go to the calming of the storm, the implied message is “did you really think you would drown with me in the boat” – think about it! So faith is about being sure and certain about things we do not yet see or have – but when you think about it it’s not as mad as it sounds!
Faith is not about kissing your brains goodbye and abandoning reason and thought. Thought is vital to faith. Faith is affected by thinking that’s why Jesus encourages us to think. Someone said to me last month how their faith would be knocked if what happened to Liz had happened to them. My answer is we knew before all this happened that terrible things happened in the world & believed in God. Why should that be any different now they happen to us instead of other people; it doesn’t make sense. So if we want to strengthen our faith – think. It is why last week we need to get into the bible to grow in faith (Romans 10:17). The Word influences our thinking, it affects is and as we understand it, study it and chew it over it changes our thinking and that builds our faith.
2. Faith is supported by evidence
“Faith by definition defies evidence; it is untested and unshakeable and is therefore in direct contradiction with science.” To people like Richard Dawkins it is like believing in the tooth fairy. That it is completely irrational and flies in the face of all reason and logic. But again faith and understanding work together – because there is much evidence to undergird our faith. Faith is not irrational, ridiculous. My faith is a rational one, it is logical:
- Resurrection of Jesus - We believe that Jesus rose again and the empty tomb and there is much evidence that shows that this is the only solution to fit the facts.
- Existence of God - We believe that God exists even though we cannot see him, but there is much evidence to point to it. God has revealed himself in nature. Around us we see order and evidence of a maker. “The chances that life just occurred on earth are about as unlikely as a typhoon blowing through a junkyard and constructing a Boeing 747.”
- Deity of Jesus - Last week I spoke about how Hebrews establishes Jesus as THE answer, the Son of God. Now we believe that – but there is much to support it e.g. the fulfilment of prophecy, the logic that this man who claims to be the Son of God is either who he says he is or a madman or something worse.