Moving from Doubt to Faith: Part 2
We divided our “Faith for Doubters” into two broad topics: “Faith Builders” and Faith Barriers”. As we move on from “builders to barriers” here are more of the builders we talked about:
We can move from doubt to faith by:
1) Understanding the Christian definition of faith.
Many people, whether consciously or unconsciously, have defined faith as something like, “believing the unbelievable”. We think of ideas like “a leap of faith” as being something where we leap having no reason whatsoever to leap. This is not a very good picture of the Bible’s idea of faith. Christian teachers throughout history used a model of summing up what the bible says about faith. They boiled it down to 3 basic concepts summed up in 3 Latin words.
Notitia: Faith as knowledge. There is an “information” side of faith. Faith calls on us to believe something. It has content. The Christian claim is that Jesus died and rose again from the dead. That is a direct claim.
Assensus: Faith as agreement. Faith includes the process of deciding whether or not we agree with the “information” statements. For example, do you or do you not believe that Jesus rose from the dead? If not, why not? Have you seriously considered the evidence?
Fiducia: Faith as commitment. It is a major mistake but frequent misunderstanding to assume that Jesus is only after our mental “beliefs’. “Fiducia” gets to the heart of action. If I really believe that Jesus was raised from the dead, I would be impacted by the implications of it. Jesus calls us to follow him in full commitment.
2) Learning to trust the eyewitnesses. The New Testament places a high priority on the original witnesses to the resurrection, the Apostles. A critical piece of our believing is trusting what they said about the resurrection. A fairly recent development in historical research, even among skeptics, has been accepting that the fact that the original followers of Jesus really did believe they had seen the resurrected Jesus.
3) Looking into the first Apostles unwavering devotion.
The reason modern scholars have accepted the Apostles’ obvious unwavering belief is because they recognize that their beliefs didn’t offer them any personal favors. By proclaiming the resurrection they were ostracized, tortured and even killed. Yet, there are no records that any of them ever recanted. One would think, if the story had been fabricated at least one would have cracked under pain and pressure.
4) Looking into the unwavering faith of Paul and James.
Both of these men are solidly attested to by history and there is every evidence that both of them were skeptics. James was known as Jesus’ brother and did not believe his claims. But, later, he becomes the most prominent leader of the church in Jerusalem. The explanation he gave was that the resurrected Jesus appeared to him.
Paul was not only a skeptic but a sworn enemy of Christianity. He was a religious zealot bent on destroying the new faith because he thought it was a blaspheming the true faith of Judaism. He made a radical turn-around, going on to write most of the New Testament and founding most of the churches of the early Christian movement. His explanation is that the resurrected Jesus appeared to him. Do we trust these people? If not, why not?
5) Knowing why the Bible can be trusted.
Too often in our day we dismiss the Bible’s reliability based on rumors we have heard. Archeology is an enormous confirmation of the Bible’s reliability, and that is only increasing. The more archeologists dig, the more they uncover confirming evidence for the Bible’s historical claims, down to the details. And, even though it is popular to assume the manuscripts of the Bible don’t reflect the original writers words, there is a vast amount of evidence that the opposite is true. The New Testament has more manuscripts available to be studied by far than any other ancient document. And we know the copies we have of the New Testament are extraordinarily close in time to the events they report.
6) Recognizing Christianity has great answers to the biggest questions of life.
The Christian message gets challenged all of the time. But, when its answers to issues like meaning, guilt and death are removed, alternatives don’t sound very good or reasonable. We need to think answers through with all of their implications. If God is removed it may seem to solve a few problems but it introduces a whole new set of very difficult problems.