My last column addressed the modern view of faith and the fact that it is more times than not associated with wishful thinking. A biblical faith, however, and in sharp contrast to popular thinking, finds its foundation and impetus in actual knowledge of certain realities, and even an elementary study of the Bible will yield this same conclusion. For starters, Jesus, expected neither his followers nor his enemies to respond with the kind of blind faith so oft masqueraded as something biblical. He insisted that they consider his works, those miracles that publicly authenticated His Messiah-ship, the very kind of authentication to which Isaiah referred in Isaiah 53:1, when he asked, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?”
John’s Gospel interprets this passage for us, when six days before His death and shortly after His triumphal entry, he reiterates Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the authenticating work of Jesus among His people. While Isaiah prophetically foretells the unique manifestation of God’s power in his Son, “the arm of the Lord,” John highlights the very authenticating miracle working power of Jesus to which the prophet pointed us. As a result, they were, as a people and nation, without excuse because of the evidence.
Even in John 14:11, and in response to Phillip’s desire to “see the Father,” Jesus says this, “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.” Essentially, Jesus told Phillip to watch closely, observe, and then determine whether or not those works to which he referred sufficiently authenticated his person and his claims, and if they didn’t, feel free to move on. Believe in me, Jesus said, but do so because of the evidence not because of its absence.
That faith in the biblical sense has never been the blind kind of faith to which so many refer today is further highlighted in Jesus’ confrontations with his enemies. Taking place after His self-pronouncement as the “door” through which men must enter if they are to enter into the favorable presence of God at all, Jesus kindled the ire of the unbelieving Jews. Then He says something that pushed the religious leaders over the emotional edge. He claimed equality with the Father, and on the heels of that assertion the fomenting Jews took up stones to stone him (John 10:30-32). Jesus then asked them a simple question. “Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me” (John 10:32)?
Jesus’ question to them was brilliant! With it He dismissed the very idea so prevalent in our day, namely, that faith is a blind leap into the religious dark rather than a reasoned trust based on the factual and confirmable nature of certain truth claims. It is significant, then, that Jesus’ enemies didn’t deny the works to which He referred. They didn’t challenge His unprecedented authority over man, nature, or death. The problem with their lack of faith had nothing to do with a lack of solid confirmable information, but everything to do with their unwillingness to submit to Him. It is the personification of the rebellious human heart highlighted for us by Paul in Romans, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21).
Further, even Paul challenged King Agrippa to consider those things that identified and authenticated the person and work of Christ as preached by him and others. “For the king knoweth…of these things, for I am persuaded,” continued Paul, “that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26). The gospel according to Paul, then, did not call for blind acceptance, but for men and women to believe based on those things they knew to be true – those works that transpired in the public arena and availed themselves to open scrutiny. Hence, the significance of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as events carved into the historical landscape of regular human events (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
Essentially, then, the faith to which God actually calls men and women is not the kind devoid of actual and verifiable knowledge of him, but rather, the kind that takes bona fide knowledge of God and his work in man’s behalf, in and through His resurrected Son, Jesus, into account. Hence, the Bible never separates faith from actual knowledge.