Monday, September 3, 2007

Is Faith Irrational?

In his defense on Christianity, Pascal introduced a theory commonly known as “the Wager.” His proposal concluded that the safer gamble is to believe in God rather than choose not to believe in God. Simply put, he argues that if one believed in God and that person comes to discover that God does not exist then that person has nothing to lose. However, if that person chose not to believe in God only to discover that He does exist, then that person will face judgment. Has Pascal’s theory only attributed to a simplistic “leap of faith” that many offer to unbelievers? Is there a more reliable approach to defending the existence of God and the validity of the gospel? What about Thomas Aquinas’ five proofs for the existence of God?

► “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17

► “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” 2 Corinthians 13:5

► “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

In his book, Studies in Doctrine, Alister McGrath explains the nature of faith (279-282):

i. Faith as Assent.

In order to demonstrate faith in one’s life, there must be an acknowledgment that certain data is true and reliable. If there are any false pretenses within the information, then the demonstration of faith is illogical or completely absurd. For example, as students, we believed the records of our nation’s legacy through the school’s history books. We demonstrated faith by agreeing with the author that his words were accurate and true. For the Christian, we recognize the ultimate authority behind the Scriptures, that is, the Grand Author has recorded every word without error and falsity. When we come to the Word of God, the first step in faith is to acknowledge and consent that the very words recorded are true.

ii. Faith as Trust.

The assent of truth is the first aspect in faith, but without trust, faith is unable to blossom. The Bible warns us against taking only the first step of faith: assent. Even the demons acknowledge the truth about God. James 2:19 states, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” What is the difference between the Christians’ faith in God and the faith of the demons? The Christians’ faith is based upon the person of Christ.

“Christians don’t just believe—we believe in someone. Faith is like an anchor,
linking us with the object of faith. Just as an anchor secures a ship to the
ocean floor, so our faith links us securely with God. Faith is not just
believing that God exists; it is about anchoring ourselves to that God, and
resting secure in doing so. Whatever storms life many bring, the anchor of faith
will hold us firm to God.” (Alistair McGrath, Studies in Doctrine, 280).

iii. Faith as Commitment.

McGrath introduces a third element to the concept of faith. He explains, “Faith, then, leads to obedience. It is a willingness to trust and obey God the God who has called us to faith in him. We are called to be doers, rather than just hearers of the Word of God” (Alistair McGrath, Studies in Doctrine, 281). I believe that this aspect of faith must be carefully defined in order that others will not be misled. In no way does one’s works or acts attribute or earn one’s salvation. Both faith and obedience are two sides of the same coin. When a person exhibits faith, that faith thrives within acts of obedience.

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