What is faith? What does it mean for the Christian to have faith? Is the Christian’s faith in the Bible any different than the faith of the members of other religions in their own prophets and sacred writings?
Many people think of the Christian faith as a “blind faith.” That is, they think of faith as belief in something with no evidence or logical basis. Unfortunately, some Christians even think of their own faith in this way. They believe something because the Bible says it, but they would not be able to say why they believe the Bible. Because their belief is not founded on a rational basis, there is no rational argument that can persuade them to abandon it.
The problem with this sort of blind faith is that it may very well be a misplaced faith. People of all religions may have this same sort of faith, but they cannot all be right. Therefore, many people will discover at the end of this life that the object of their devout faith was false. Fortunately, there is a rational basis for the Christian faith. What is written in the Bible is corroborated by many external evidences. I will not get into these in detail at this point, however, because that is not my primary objective. My point is simply that there are logical reasons for believing the Bible. We believe it because it is verifiably true.
I have faith in my house. I believe that when I go upstairs, the floor will support me, and I will not fall through to the lower level. I believe this in part because I know how the house is built and that it should be able to support my weight. However, most of my confidence is based on the fact that I go upstairs all the time and have never fallen through before. My faith, therefore, is rooted in both logic and experience. However, if I went upstairs in a house and saw that the floorboards were rotten, it would be foolish of me to have faith that the floor would support me. In the same way, it is foolish to have faith in any holy writing if it contradicts historical or scientific fact.
This prompts an interesting question. Who has greater faith in a given belief: a person who could never be persuaded to turn from it, or a person who could be persuaded that it is false? Many people may say that a person who could never be persuaded to abandon a belief has the greater faith in it. I think, rather, that that person has the greater foolishness. Refusing to abandon a belief when all evidence points against it is foolishness, not faith. Faith is based on evidence. Faith with no evidence, or with contradictory evidence, is simply wishful thinking.
This seems like an appropriate place to bring up Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Does this verse say that faith is confidence in something for which we have no evidence? No, it does not. The preceding verses speak of God’s promises. Faith in God’s promises is justified because God keeps his promises. Hebrews 11 confirms this with numerous examples. The Christian’s faith, then, is confidence in something that we have not yet seen but in which we have plenty of reason to be confident.
Willingness to change one’s beliefs in the light of compelling evidence is a virtue, not a weakness. It is by way of compelling, logical arguments that my own theological beliefs have changed in several areas: from semi-Pelagianism to Arminianism to Calvinism, from premillennialism to amillennialism, from futurism to preterism, and from young-earth creationism to old-earth creationism. In each of these cases, I am convinced that my faith now rests on a more solid foundation. I challenge everyone, if they have not already, to evaluate different theological systems and and to hear each one explained by its proponents and not merely by its detractors.
So what does all of this specifically have to do with creationism? Many times, I have heard people respond to arguments against young-earth creationism by saying that their faith in the Bible supersedes any scientific evidence. The problem with this is that if the Bible truly contradicts the record of nature or of history, then it must be false. These people implicitly concede that science contradicts the Bible, thereby validating those who seek to discredit the Christian faith. Instead, the evidences must be evaluated honestly and logically. We must not cling blindly to a faith that opposes reason, but we must instead make sure that our faith is reasonable.