Imagine for a moment that a journalist decides to write an article on the extreme sport that is – Bungie Jumping. He wants to understand what makes those adrenaline junkies tick.
Now – he doesn’t actually sign up to perform a Bungie Jump himself. He doesn’t even explicitly interview the adrenaline junkies that regularly engage in it. Instead – he interviews a cross section of the public about what Bungie Jumping is like. He leaves it to chance whether he hits a true Bungie Jumper or not. And he writes his article based on that. Can I suggest – the article probably wouldn’t be something that would contribute much to the world’s understanding of adrenaline fuelled Bungie Jumpers?
Switch tracks for a moment with me.
Ben Holman is a Psychology graduate and he’s doing a post grad in Biology. Ben has published some interesting research on how our Society understands the meaning of the word – Faith. What his study does – is to gather data from a cross section of his University peers to explore their understanding of the definition of this word.
You can find it here:
Why does he do this? Partly because – he observes that “there is a trend among Christian Apologists to define ‘faith’ as placing trust in a well evidenced proposition, which seemed at odds with popular usage.”
His study comes to the conclusion that the majority of people sampled view faith as “believing something is true even when there is insufficient evidence.” That’s one in the eye for the Christian Apologists, then! Hardly anyone in Ben’s study agrees that “faith is trust in a well evidenced proposition.”
Ben describes himself as the “president of the Wichita State Atheists and Agnostics” society. So I’m suspecting that when it comes to the Christian faith – he does not currently have any personal investment or maybe even experience of genuine Christian belief (of course I don’t know Ben’s past here…this is an assumption). It seems to me that Ben wants his study to be used as ammunition against those so called “Christian Apologists” who understand faith to be “trust in a well evidenced proposition”. Christians are stupid and out of step with society – and I’m going to produce data to show just how stupid they are.
What does all this mean?
1 – Ben’s Research Seems to Underline Society’s Blind Spot
I have previously made a case for why I say that our society has a blind spot when it comes to the definition of faith.
I think that the meaning of the word faith has become selectively subverted in our culture.
Despite the fact that we all regularly put our faith in trustworthy Teachers, Airline Pilots, Doctors, etc…somehow our society has a twisted view of faith when it touches on issues of belief in God. This twisted view portrays faith as an irrational belief in the absence of concrete evidence.
Coming back to Ben’s study – I suspect that the vast majority of people sampled are not Christians…and therefore are persuaded by this subverted definition.
This is where my Bungie Jumping illustration kicks in. Ben probably didn’t spend time talking to the people who really know what a real Bungie Jump feels like. Pity.
2 – The Majority Don’t Get To Dictate what Biblical Faith Means
Ben’s study is very useful in that it shows that whatever Christian Apologists feel – there are lots of people today who subscribe to a subverted and broken understanding of faith. Actually – I think Ben’s study underlines just how post-Christian our culture has become. I suspect there were very few Christians in his group. That’s not Bens fault.
However – there does appear to be an underlying assumption in Ben’s study that I must challenge. It mistakenly assumes that the majority’s understanding qualifies as truth. How do the majority define faith? Well – that’s what it means then! This is the classic position of the Humanist. Who is in charge of life the universe and everything? We are! So what WE say – must go.
Well – I would like to point out that – the majority do NOT get to dictate the definition of Biblical faith. The Christian faith is – quite frankly – under attack here. And I am standing up for it. Who and what gets to define Biblical faith? The Bible does. So what does the Bible say about the nature of faith?
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30
Notice that the essence of loving God – involves our faculties of reason and logic. Our minds. In other words – the Bible’s requirement on Christians – is that we be thinking people who exercise our minds. This is a Biblical and therefore positive challenge that I place before Christians in Churches everywhere.
“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” John 14:11
This is Jesus speaking – the man who’s life is recorded in the New Testament; the man who has shaped human history like no other. The one who claimed to be God – and who demonstrated it as such. Death could not hold him – his tomb is empty.
But notice what he says – look at the EVIDENCE. Jesus does not require his followers to believe anything in the absence of evidence. Miraculous his evidence may be – but that evidence was there for our analysis…and it still is today.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1
Do you see a theme developing here? Biblical Faith is not belief in spite of evidence. Rather – the Bible’s understanding of faith involves us getting a growing confidence in that which we cannot yet directly observe.
3 – Maybe Western Culture Need a New Word to Explain Biblical Faith
So – where does all this leave us?
Society is out of step with God and the Bible. So – what else is new! The job of Scripture is to transform OUR thinking – not the other way around. But we’ve got to be willing to receive this transformation.
In the meantime, maybe we need to coin a new term for Biblical Faith altogether? How about – BAITH instead of Faith? Biblical Faith – or BAITH – is not belief in spite of the clear evidence. Rather – it is trust in a well evidenced proposition. That’s the position the Bible takes. That’s the position Christians take. What our post Christian society understands as Faith is completely alien to the Bible and to Christianity.
FAITH – selective belief in the absence of evidence (according to society at large)
BAITH – the Biblical and Christian position of trust in a well evidenced proposition.
I am a man of BAITH in Jesus Christ.
And guess what – the irony is that – when it comes to our daily lives – everyone else has BAITH too. We have Baith in our Doctors, Dentists, in our Airline Pilots and our kids School Teachers.
Hey – here’s a radical thought. Why not also have some Baith in Jesus Christ? It’ll change your life.