Summary: Faith is the essential character trait God wants to work into your life, for it connects you to God in ways that change you from the inside into a different person.
CHARACTER UNDER CONSTRUCTION
In CS Lewis’s book, Mere Christianity, a classic work on Christian basics, he spells out the fact that when the Bible mentions faith it talks about it on two levels.
What faith means in the first sense is what most people who are not Christians or who are investigating Christianity think of when they hear the word faith. That is:
FAITH means BELIEF. Simple, right?
Faith means believing as true the teachings of Christianity. Most of these you may be familiar with if you’ve been coming to AC3 for any length of time:
- God exists and created the universe out of nothing.
- People have been created in the image of God, but are fallen and separated from God because of morally wrong choices or sin.
- Jesus Christ was fully human and fully divine, the Son of God.
- He lived a perfect life and was crucified as a peace offering for human sin and rose again from the dead to authenticate his claims.
- Forgiveness and hope for heaven is now offered in his name.
All Christians in the world have faith in these statements. MEANING, they believe these things to be true. Now here’s where you may be confused. In what way is this kind of FAITH a positive character trait? What is there that’s moral or immoral about believing a set of statements?
If you’re like me you might say… a sane person accepts or rejects this or that statement – not because he wants to or doesn’t want to – but because the evidence for it is either good or bad. If the evidence is good, he believes, if it is bad, he disbelieves.
- If I misjudge the evidence and happen to believe that men have NOT yet actually landed on the moon, that doesn’t make me a person of low moral character does it? It may mean I’m ignorant, or listen to too much Art Bell, but not a bad person.
- On the other hand, if I know the evidence for an idea is just not there, like that the moon is made of cheese, but then I try to force myself to believe it anyway, that would STILL not make me a person of low moral character – just low intelligence.
Last time I looked, it wasn’t a crime to be dumb. Now, if you look at faith in this way, you’re right that it doesn’t have much to do with moral character. However, this assumes that our human minds are always ruled by our logic and reason. But that’s not always the case, is it?
For example. My logical mind may be perfectly convinced based on good evidence that anesthesia works. I believe that properly trained doctors will not cut me open before they numb me up or put me under.
But just because my mind has this belief doesn’t mean that when they clamp that ether mask over my face that I don’t have a rush of panic come over me. I start to think I’m going to choke, I’m going to die, they’re going to cut me before I’m under. In other words, I lose my faith in anesthetics.
Now was it logic and reason that convinced me to give up my belief in anesthetics? No. It was
- my circumstances, and
- my emotions and
- my imagination and
- my irrational fears.
So hear this Allen Creek, reason and faith work TOGETHER. I come to conclusions based in reason and I hang on to them based in faith. Logic works with faith to create a sane, well balanced person.
It’s the person who divorces faith from reason who winds up looking like the obsessive compulsive character played by Jack Nicholson in the movie “As Good as It Gets.” He obsessively cleans and obsessively locks his doors, why? Because once his mind has reasoned something out, he has no faith to hang on to that truth.
There’s lots of different examples of how this works. For example, a young woman knows, based on long established evidence that a handsome young man she knows is a philanderer, irresponsible and untrustworthy. But then, she finds herself with him and he whispers words of love and she starts thinking:
“I bet my love is changing him!”
Then in a few months or years, she’s saying, “I just don’t know what happened to him.” The truth is nothing happened to him. What happened was she did not hang on to her faith in what she really knew to be true about him.
JOHN THE BAPTIST
There’s a man in the New Testament who had faith in Jesus Christ. John the Baptist. He believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the one God had promised to send to permanently deal with the sin problem of the whole world. Now, he held this belief not IN SPITE of his reason, but BECAUSE of his reason.