Faith: A Definition

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It is sometimes quite fortunate that the Bible wasn’t written in English. The Greek of the New Testament was much more exact. Where we might use words like “love” or “faith”, ancient Greek had multiple words for each. There are big differences between the way you love your spouse, kids, BBQ steak, lollies, a TV show. You have to pay close attention to the context to glean the meaning.

Faith” as Christians define it is much more akin to our modern word “trust”. And as we all know, trust is usually earned before it is given. I often see people write about the difference between “faith” and “reason”, as if there is a logical dichotomy. More often than not it’s titled “Faith Vs Reason”, like it’s some sort of competition.

My faith (or trust, or belief) is based on evidence. It’s based on someone I find trust-worthy. My faith is reason-able. It’s just we all differ on what we call “evidence”. As stated in my first blog, faith is the first step in the reasoning process. You don’t have one without the other.

Our faith is based on who we trust, our life experience, true stories, answered prayer, a living dynamic relationship. When I have doubts, they are very specific. More to do with my future rather than whether God exists. I may as well be saying my mother doesn’t exist. We know each other and talk all the time.

I was almost going to write this week on the historicity of Jesus. He was an actual guy who lived in Judea a couple of thousand years ago. There are numerous non-biblical proofs of it. Although why people discount the first four books of the new testament as proof is beyond me. But the evidence is easy to find. No serious historian discounts that he existed. However every few years someone trots out the same tired old arguments as if they’ve discovered some shocking truth that he was made up. Wishful thinking perhaps?

We are left with a remarkably unchanged record of his life and teachings. And what he said and did, by all accounts, was amazing. Taken as a whole we are left with only three choices: he was crazy, a liar, or he’s God incarnate. What seems reasonable to you based on the evidence? You begin to see how your faith will inform your answer.

So… have you checked the evidence lately?

Evil

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The “problem of evil”, as it is known, is a discussion as old as thought itself. Well-travelled ground to be sure, but perhaps everyone isn’t up to speed. So here goes. Christians believe the following:

  1. God exists

  2. God is all-good

  3. God is all-powerful

  4. Evil exists

Okay. How on earth do we make sense of this? Is this proof Christians are the complete nutters many think we are? Proof we are all way under the average 100 IQ mark? Most people can only believe three of these at once.

Atheism is the denial of proposition one. Pantheism is the denial of proposition two. Modern naturalism and ancient polytheism is the denial of proposition three. Idealism denies proposition four. They claim evil is an illusion of unenlightened human consciousness. A bold claim to the average Joe. Biblical theism affirms all four by being specific in defining “evil”, “good”, and “all-powerful”.

So… evil. There are two broad types of evil. Sin and suffering. Neither originate with God. He created a universe and a people and called it “good”. The evil of sin entered this creation through us. Which, in turn, also cursed the universe, bringing about suffering. I know… another bold claim. Everything we know as bad in this world was once good. It’s just been corrupted. Even Satan was once an angel. If you were created to be evil, how can you be called a sinner? We were all created to be good.

What does all this mean? It means that blaming God for the state of the world is just passing the buck. Taking responsibility for our own actions is not popular. You don’t need to change if it isn’t your fault… right? I’m talking to myself here as well.

A friend of mine recently did a blog about “love”. He said that love is a choice. It cannot exist outside of a will to choose it. Unfortunately this also means a choice could be made in the other direction. We can all choose to hate, be indifferent, to do the wrong thing… in short, to sin. The mechanism by which evil exists is the same by which love exists – our choice. You can’t have one without the other. They are not two opposing “forces” warring for supremacy out there in the world. This battlefield is in our mind.

I’m aware all this begs the question – surely God knew what would happen when he created it all? This can sometimes be where our human reasoning can fail us. Logic only takes us so far (see my 1st blog for an illustration). Personally I believe the relationship between the Father and us through Jesus is the “why” of Creation. He is called the “Lamb that was slain before the foundation of the world”. For this reason love HAS to be preserved. Therefore our will to choose, our human nature needs to be preserved.

The only question left to ask is – is love worth it? Do we have the right to answer that question?

Forgiveness

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Why is forgiveness so hard? Well it just seems so unfair sometimes. “You don’t know what they did. They are happy they hurt me and would do it again. They betrayed me. They were cruel and don’t even care. I don’t feel like forgiving and maybe I never will. It’d be like letting them get away with it. Where’s the justice in that?”

It is not a natural thing for us to forgive people. Usually we prefer some sort of punishment or payback. Because it’s the natural way we feel, many think that’s just how God made us, so “why fight our nature if he made us that way”. The truth is, holding a grudge just hurts us more. The other person usually is just getting on with their life.

Sometimes forgiveness can be selfish. There is overwhelming medical support to forgiveness promoting health and improved quality of life. Here’s one link. Some quotes about forgiveness might allow us to see it in a different light:

Forgiveness is unlocking the door to set someone free and realising you were the prisoner.”

Unforgiveness allows the person who hurt you to live in your head rent free.”

Christians are clearly commanded to forgive people who have wronged them. No wiggle room. There’s no question or grey area. We don’t do it and we are being disobedient. Straight away we start examining how we feel about it. We recognise we don’t really want to. So how do you forgive someone without feeling like it? That’s pretty much what we’ve been asked to do. Think about that.

So… forgiveness must be something we do regardless of how we feel. A choice. An act of will. It’s real tough to do that. People who are good at forgiving are stronger than iron. The weak are at the mercy of their emotions. Once the choice has been made many things happen all at once. Some of the hurt we feel drains away. You actually feel as though a victory has been won. Try it and see.

Jesus followers specifically asked him how they should pray, so he taught them what we now call ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ or the ‘Our Father’. In today’s language it says:

Our Father in heaven, holy is your name. May your kingdom be on earth, just as it is in heaven. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen

I put the word “as” in bold. It’s a massive point. Straight after this Jesus expanded on this “as” by explicitly saying that if we don’t forgive others, then the Father won’t forgive us. It’s likely He asks us to do it because it’s good for us.

Maybe it’s time to consider who you’re really hurting. What you’re really holding on to.