Christianity Worth Thinking About
Faith and Facts
October 6, 1996
I don't like the word "faith." Not because faith isn't
valuable, but because it's often deeply misunderstood. "Faith"
in this twisted sense is what you use when all reason is against you. It's
religious wishful thinking, in which one squeezes out spiritual hope by
intense acts of sheer will. People of "faith" believe the
impossible. People of "faith" believe that which is contrary to
fact. People of "faith" believe that which is contrary to
evidence. People of "faith" ignore reality.
Some suggest we cannot find facts to support our faith, nor is it
preferable to try. This is silly. We're enjoined to have faith in part
because we have evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.
I think part of the confusion is because Christians are often told to
ignore circumstances, meaning that we're not to get overwhelmed or
discouraged by them because God is bigger than our troubles. "Have
faith in God," we're told. I think that's good counsel as far as it
goes, but sometimes it breeds misunderstanding, implying that faith is a
blind leap that has no relationship to fact.
Some suggest we cannot find facts to support our faith, nor is it
preferable to try. Faith is not the kind of thing that has anything to do
with facts, they say. If we have evidence to prove what we believe, then
that takes away from real faith.
Somehow these people think that genuine faith is eviscerated by
knowledge and evidence. We've made a virtue out of believing against
the evidence, as if that's what God has in mind for us. This is all wrong.
Think about it for a moment. J.P. Moreland has suggested that if this
is really the Christian view of faith, the best thing that could happen to
Christianity is for the bones of Jesus to be discovered. Finding His bones
would prove He didn't rise from the dead. When Christians continue to
believe that He did, then, they would be demonstrating the most laudable
faith, believing something that all the evidence proved was false.
This is silly. We're enjoined to have faith in part because
we have evidence that Jesus rose from the dead. If we're encouraged to
believe because of the resurrection, then that proves
this other view of faith is false. It may be the view Christians hold in
many cases, but it is not the view of the Bible. It is not the view of
Frankly, if religion is merely an exercise in wishful thinking for me,
I wouldn't wish up Christianity. It's far too inconvenient. Indeed, it
seems that's part of the reason people hold many of the ludicrous
religious views they do. They're appealing. They wish God was impersonal,
because an impersonal God can't make the kind of demands on them that a
holy God can. An impersonal divine force doesn't cramp their style on
Saturday night. Eastern religions are high on individual liberty and low
on individual responsibility. That's appealing.
Biblical faith isn't believing against the evidence. Instead, faith is
a kind of knowing that results in action.
No, biblical faith isn't believing against the evidence. Instead, faith
is a kind of knowing that results in action. Let me explain what I mean.
If we want to exercise biblical faith--Christian faith--then we ought
first to find out how the Bible defines faith. The clearest definition
comes from Hebrews 11:1. This verse says, "Faith is the assurance of
things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Now, there's
something very important in these words. We see the word "hope,"
we see the word "assurance," and we see the word
"conviction"--that is, confidence. Now, what gives us
If you buy a lottery ticket, do you hope you'll win
the lottery? Yes, of course you do. Do you have any assurance
you'll win the lottery? Absolutely not. You have no way of knowing that
your ticket is any better than the millions of other lottery tickets out
there competing for the same pot.
But what if you had x-ray vision, and you could see through the gray
scratch-off coating on the lottery tickets you buy at the supermarket?
You'd know if you had a $100, $200 or a $1,000 winner,
wouldn't you? In that case, would you merely hope you'd win? No, you'd
have assurance, wouldn't you? You'd have assurance of
those things you previously only hoped for. It would be hope with
conviction, not a mere hoped, but a hope buttressed by facts and evidence.
That's why the Christian faith cares about the evidence, friends. For
the biblical Christian, the facts matter. You can't have assurance for
something you don't know you're going to get. You can only hope for it.
This is why the resurrection of Jesus is so important. It gives
assurance to the hope. Because of a Christian view of faith, Paul is able
to say in 1 Corinthians 15 that when it comes to the resurrection, if we
have only hope, but no assurance--if Jesus didn't indeed rise from the
dead in time/space history--then we are of most men to be pitied. That's
what he says: We are of most men to be pitied.
This confidence Paul is talking about is not a confidence in a mere
"faith" resurrection, a mythical resurrection, a story-telling
resurrection. Instead, it's a belief in a real resurrection. If the real
resurrection didn't happen, then we're in trouble.
The Bible knows nothing of a bold leap-in-the-dark faith, a
hope-against-hope faith, a faith with no evidence. Rather, if the evidence
doesn't correspond to the hope, then the faith is in vain, as even Paul
So, faith is knowing, and that knowledge is based on evidence leading
to confidence or conviction. But biblical faith is more than that. There's
another element. Faith is not just knowing. Faith is also acting. Biblical
faith is a confidence so strong that it results in action. You're willing
to act based on that belief, that faith.
Many of you know that my engineer, Bobby the Bouncer, got married
today. Bobby has believed in marriage for a long time,
but Bobby never exercised faith in marriage until he
walked down the aisle and said "I do" to Jennifer. That's when
he put his life on the line for what he believed to be true. He exercised
Friends, Christianity is not denying reality. Biblical Christians
don't deny reality, they discover reality. And once they've discovered it,
they act on what they've learned.
It's the same way with biblical faith. It's not just intellectual
assent. It's not just acknowledging that certain facts about Jesus, the
Bible, the resurrection, or whatever, happen to be true. It's taking your
life and putting it on the line based on your confidence in those facts.
Consider a guy who pushes a wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls on a
tightrope every day. You've seen him do it so many times it doesn't even
occur to you he won't make it. You believe with all your heart he can do
One day he comes up to you and asks, "Do you believe I can push
this wheelbarrow across the tightrope without falling?" And you say,
"Of course I do. I've seen you do it hundreds of times."
"All right," he says, "get in the wheelbarrow."
Well, now we're talking about a whole different kind of thing, aren't
we? The first is an intellectual belief, an acknowledgment of certain
facts. The second is active faith, converting your knowledge to action.
When you climb into the wheelbarrow, your belief in facts is converted
into active trust.
Faith is knowledge in action. It is active trust in the truth. You go
to the airport. You say, "This plane goes to New York. I believe it.
I'll get on the plane. I'll invest myself in the things I believe to be
true." That is biblical faith.
So, when someone asks me the question, Are faith and science
compatible?, I'm going to immediately ask for a clarification. What do you
mean by faith? If you think faith is mere fantasy and science is complete
fact, well then, fantasy conflicts with fact, doesn't it? If faith is a
blind leap in the dark, if faith has no concern for the facts, you're in
If, however, your faith is an intelligent trust in what can't be seen
that's inferred from evidence that can be seen--if your faith is a
commitment to reality, to acting on what you have good reason to believe
is true--well then, there doesn't need to be any conflict at all.
Friends, Christianity is not denying reality. Some people think it is.
I'm sympathetic to them because some Christians act as if faith is a kind
of sanctified denial. But that isn't what biblical Christianity is about.
Biblical Christians don't deny reality, they discover
reality. And once they've discovered it, they act on what they've learned.
Indeed, if Christianity is true, in the deepest sense of the word, then
it must fit the facts of the real world. So, when we discover the facts of
the real world, they can only support Christianity-- if Christianity is
true--given that you've interpreted the facts of the world correctly and
you've interpreted the scriptural teaching correctly.
Christianity does comport with the facts. If science and religion both
have truth as their ultimate goal, then there's no inherent conflict
between the two.
|This is a transcript of a commentary
from the radio
show "Stand to Reason," with Gregory
Koukl. It is made available to you at no charge through the faithful
giving of those who support Stand to Reason.
" Faith and Facts
©1996 Gregory Koukl
Reproduction permitted for non-commercial use only
Stand To Reason, 1-800-2-REASON
Posted: Feb 12, 1997