Guest Post: When Faith Has a Bad Reputation by Tyler Ellis

GUEST BLOGGER: TYLER ELLIS serves on staff with Newark Church of Christ as Campus Minister at the University of Delaware. He is also author of the upcoming book, Questions Everything. He blogs at  www.BTylerEllis.com about exploring the challenges of knowing God and helping others do the same. These posts include weekly art & interviews, stories & ideas, and reviews & resources.  Follow him at: www.facebook.com/BTylerEllis and www.twitter.com/BTylerEllis

Thanks to Tyler for taking the time to share this. I want you to know why I asked Tyler to share his thoughts here. Knowing this will frame what he has written here and give you an appreciation for his ministry. What I appreciate about Tyler is that he is in touch with people who are seeking God. Often we have some success reaching people who have left or getting people who have some experience with Christianity. We struggle to reach those who are far, far away maybe because we have a hard time relating to them, connecting to them or even caring enough about them. I appreciate Tyler’s heart in reaching out to this group and I appreciate his insights that come out of that experience.

When Faith Has a Bad Reputation

“If you could ask 1,000 Christians one question, what would it be?”

This is one of my favorite questions to ask people who are not Christians.  Their answers can be very insightful.  Most recently, a college student responded by asking,

“Why is faith considered an admirable quality?”

At first hearing, you might think this is an easy question to answer.  After all, faith has the potential to be admired for its humility, conviction, and sacrifice – to name just a few.

But I knew from the context of our conversation, that by her definition of faith, there was nothing admirable about it.  From her perspective, any faith is blind faith.

Am I Expected To Have “Blind Faith”?

If someone asked you to give the definition of faith, what would you say?

Here are a handful of definitions I found by a quick Google search:

  • Eugene Luther Vidal: “To ignore the absence of evidence is the basis of true faith.”
  • The Chofetz Chaim: “With faith, there are no questions; without faith, there are no answers.”
  • YourDictionary.com: “Unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence.”
  • Atheism Resource: “Faith by definition is the suspension of critical thinking.  It’s gullibility dressed up like a virtue.  It’s what you use when you know that what you believe isn’t true.  We want people to believe things based on verifiable evidence, not blind faith.” (a Facebook page)
  • Mark Twain: “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”

Sound familiar?  Do you think this way or know someone who does?

You can begin to see why a person would not view faith as an “admirable quality” to possess, if this is what comes to mind when they think about faith.

Personally, if I had blind faith, I would probably lose it.  And if I didn’t have blind faith, I wouldn’t want it.

How “Blind Faith” Blinds People From Good Faith

The concept of blind faith creates at least three major problems:

  1. Blind faith silences the questions people need to ask if they have any hope of acquiring good faith.
  2.  Blind faith gives the impression that there are no reasons to believe in God or to take the Bible seriously.
  3. Blind faith fuels the misconception that faith of any kind is only possessed by religious people.

This is sad.  The choice should not be between blind faith and no faith, but bad faith and good faith.

What is Good Faith?

  • Hebrews 11:1 (KJV): “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
  • Brian McLaren: “Faith is a dynamic state of relative certainty about matters of ultimate concern sufficient to promote action.”
  • John Lennox: “Faith is not a leap in the dark; it’s the exact opposite.  It’s a commitment based on evidence… It is irrational to reduce all faith to blind faith and then subject it to ridicule.  That provides a very anti-intellectual and convenient way of avoiding intelligent discussion.”
  • Tom Price: “Christian faith is not belief in the absence of evidence. It is the proper response to the evidence…So in conclusion, faith is not a kind of religious hoping that you do in spite of the facts. In fact, faith is a kind of knowing that results in doing.”
  • Blaise Pascall: “If we submit everything to reason, our religion will have no mysterious and supernatural element. If we offend the principles of reason, our religion will be absurd and ridiculous.”

Faith is only as good as the object in which one puts their trust.  It’s like choosing between two airplanes when traveling across the world.  You can board the airplane on the left that has failed to pass inspection OR you can board the airplane on the right that has passed inspection.

Good faith is trusting in that which is trustworthy.

That’s what is so remarkable about the claims of Christianity.  When you read in the Book of Acts, the history of how the Christian faith took flight some two thousand years ago, you don’t find accounts of early Christians asking people to follow Jesus blindly.  Instead, account after account, you see early Christians inviting seekers to test the trustworthiness of their claims.

Beginning with the very first “sermon” recorded in Acts 2, when the apostles claimed that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, they appealed to three evidences to back up that claim:

1. The Messianic Prophecies Jesus fulfilled;

2. The Miracles Jesus performed; and

3. The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Not only were they eyewitnesses of these events, but they died as martyrs for their faith in Jesus.

[For additional study, read The Book of Acts; more specifically 2:14-47; 17:2-3,11; 28:13]

What Airplane Will You Board?

Faith is inescapable.  You exercise it every day: with every alarm clock you set, every meal you eat, every car you drive, every intersection you come to, every bridge you cross, every elevator you ride, and every bank account you open.  Every day we take risks in the things we put our trust in, without possessing 100% certainty.  It is same when it comes to the worldview we trust to explain our lives.

Brain McLaren says it well, “The best alternative to “bad faith” in God is not necessarily no faith [in God].”

SO HERE’S THE CHALLENGE: Don’t step back from the possibility of good faith simply because others are stepping forward with bad faith.  Do whatever it takes to obtain an “admirable” faith.

LEAVE A COMMENT

  • Where did your concept of faith come from?
  • How has it influenced you for good or for bad?

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Image by: drawingonanapkin http://browse.deviantart.com/photography/?order=9&q=blind+leap&offset=0#/d1hecqy

About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

2 Responses to Guest Post: When Faith Has a Bad Reputation by Tyler Ellis

  1. mattdabbs says:

    Tyler,

    I hadn’t really thought about faith having such a negative connotation. That is a really great point and something important to realize on the front end with people we study with. Then you do a good job of laying out how to work that out and how to frame faith properly so it can be appreciated and embraced rather than misunderstood and pushed back from the start. Thanks for sharing that.

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