Faith has the curious characteristic of not requiring all the difficult questions in life to be answered. The reason is that faith itself is the answer to the question that lesser questions seek.
As we touched upon in a previous article, faith is like evidence at a crime scene, and not just a minor piece of evidence we can discard or overlook. I think it is important to pause and explore the question of what faith is. Faith plays such a crucial role in the life of the believer, in the life of any individual actually, in answering life’s difficult questions.
Faith is often mistaken as an act of the will. It is important to understand that it is not. This does not mean faith does not involve action or decision; but rather, it is not the same as the decision. Faith is not, in the absence of evidence, simply deciding to believe, anyway. Faith is not blind. If it were merely an act of the will, it might be noble, but I do not know if it would be sensible. Faith, rather, is sight into the unseen. It is, if you will, our sixth sense. The old hymn puts it this way:
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind but now I see
Faith is a sight we did not previously possess. In the movie, the Sixth Sense, the young boy states, “I see dead people.” Faith is like that, except it does not see dead people: It sees God. It is aware of Heaven. Because of this, faith prompts action, for who cannot be challenged to act based on what he sees? But the taking of action and the seeing are quite separate.
Nor, as we have already discussed, is faith an intellectual conclusion based on the analysis of facts, or even experiences. This matters, because when we turn to the question of suffering, it means that the stark reality of what we are going through in times of hardship are, ironically, of lesser importance. This does not mean they are not real or important at some level. But looking at the circumstances alone will not sustain us. To sustain us here on earth, God’s provision is not perfect circumstances; it is faith. Faith is the compelling evidence that keeps us confident He is there, and that He is good. Not only this, faith has the power to overcome and transform circumstance, but that is a discussion for another time.
Now even in this, the challenge we face is our tendency to consider faith a mere state of mind or mental exercise and not what it really is: a supernatural impartation of understanding and knowledge. I would like to state plainly that if faith is no more than an attempt on my behalf to convince myself of both God and Heaven, then I am to be most pitied. If this is what faith is, then as far as I am concerned, Christianity is lost, and the atheists take the show. If faith is no more than a wager, like Pascal’s, a mere crunching of numbers and weighing of risks and a decision to go the safe route, then it is a waste of time. Faith in this respect would be mere crazy thinking at worst, or powerless conjecture at best. No one gives his life for mere conjecture, and no one should invest his life for mere conjecture, either, as far as I am concerned.
But faith is so much more than this. It is not what the believer must do when difficulty strikes, or how one must think about the world because my pastor told me to, or because my church friends expect me to. Faith is what the believer already is. For the believer, exercising faith is as natural as breathing.
Why then, someone may ask, are there times when a believer has difficulty breathing? We shall look at this in our next installment . . .
4 thoughts on “Faith: Our Sixth Sense”
Interesting to see how faith issues effect us. That raises a question in my mind that I was hoping you could answer. Given your Christian specialism, how would you respond to alternate views on Jesus Christ in other parts of the world? E.g. such as in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9Yj8o9NYcQ
Best wishes & happy holidays
Thank you for your response. I suppose the simplest answer is that alternate views of Jesus are a great opportunity for dialogue. (I did not have a chance to watch the video, by the way 🙂
I’m glad I caught your post on my tag surf for ‘theology’ this morning.
Your thoughts are helpful to me as I am myself trying to articulate the meaning of faith and the difference between faith and belief, etc. It’s good that you’re making a comeback after that hiatus this year.
I also want to put in a good word for Pascal – although I agree with your low judgment of the worth of his famous wager for real faith, I think he only intended by it to get through to the very coldest and calculating of souls. Pascal has an idea of what faith is, as can be seen in his other writings. As you probably know.
Anyway thanks again for the post – and the blog – an occasion for reflection this morning.
You are welcome, and I agree with you concerning Pascal. The wager itself has its place, especially for those hasty to lightly dismiss questions of eternal destiny. Thanks for the comment.