What is “faith”?

What does “faith” mean? Is faith blind? Are faith and reason (thinking) connected or two separate things?

Lately, I’ve been reading The Cross and the Crescent: Understanding the Muslim Heart and Mind by Phil Parshall. This post does not contain affiliate links, but I do recommend the book to those interested.

In the first chapter, there’s an interesting discussion about what faith means. I’d like to quote you a fairly long passage from pages 47-48, then share some ways to talk about this subject with the kids in your family and ministry.

What is faith?

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Two strong stable words are used in this verse to describe faith. assurance is reliance with a built-in guarantee for positive performance. Conviction is a strongly held view with substantiating evidence. Are we talking about Christianity in terms of “blind faith” or “reasonable faith?” One doesn’t need anything for blind faith except a willingness to take a leap into the dark. Little or no supporting documentation is necessary. Feeling, more than logic, provides the criteria for evaluation. On the other hand, a reasonable faith often becomes more reason than faith. The focus is on scientific investigation and appraisal. Again, [Francis] Schaeffer postulates,

Christian faith is never faith in faith. Christian faith is never without content. Christian fiath is never a jump int he dark. Christian faith is always believing what God has said.” (Schaeffer 1971, 87).

We need to think of faith as somewhere between a leap and an analysis. Faith is, at times, rational, and in other instances, nonrational. It is rational to think in terms of first cause, but try to convince a Muslim of the rationality of a triune God! As in many areas of life, the Christian holds a truth in tension. At times we long for God to be as constant and explainable as a mathematical formula. But it is not to be. “Faith and mystery are codependent. Eliminate either one and you have destroyed the other. Faith cannot be faith once it is fully explained and the mystery is gone” (Miller 1973, 73).

Do you agree with Parshall? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Talking to kids about faith

So what does all this mean in kid-language? It means two things.

First, the Bible is not a bunch of made up fairy tales.

We don’t believe in Jesus and the Bible just because we like what it says. We believe the Bible because it is God’s Word and has been proven true. It is written by people who actually saw these things happen.

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16 (NIV)

For more help in this conversation, see:

Second, God is much greater than we are, so we can’t expect to understand everything about Him.

I think especially of Isaiah 55:8-9:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (NIV)

Some things about God even adults don’t understand. For example, see this blog about the Trinity.

So now what?

Take a moment to pray. Ask God to continue teaching you about who He is, what He’s done, and what it means. He has promised that He will.

Remember verses like these:

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.” Psalm 32:8 (NIV)

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:26-27 (NIV)

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

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