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                         "THE NATURE OF FAITH"


1. What is faith?  What does it mean to believe...?
   a. Some Christians think it means blind acceptance:  "You've just got
      to believe."
   b. Some skeptics agree:  "Faith is believing in something without
      good reasons to do so." - Steven Pinker, evolutionary psychologist
      who opposed mandatory religion classes at Harvard

2. Both are mistaken; such ignorance of the nature of faith leads to...
   a. Shallowness of faith among Christians
   b. Prejudice against faith among skeptics

[To avoid misunderstanding the nature of faith, especially the nature of
Christian faith, this study will examine both, beginning with...]


      1. As defined by Easton's Bible Dictionary:
      a. Faith is in general the persuasion of the mind that a  certain
         statement is true
      b. Its primary idea is trust
      2. It is a strong conviction or trust in something
         a. "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for..." - He 11:1
            (NET Bible)
         b. "...being convinced of what we do not see." - ibid.
      3. For example:  you have faith that your parents are indeed your
         a. Based upon your confidence in the reliability of their word
         b. Such conviction or trust prompts you to respond accordingly
      4. We have such faith (trust, conviction) in many things
         a. We believe in George Washington as a person of history
         b. We believe in commercial aviation as a safe way to travel
      -- Faith is trust or conviction in something or someone

      1. Many people believe that faith is something blind ("you just
         gotta believe")
         a. Yes, faith can be a conviction in "things unseen" - He 11:1
         b. Yes, we can "walk by faith, not by sight" - 2Co 5:7
      2. But there can be sound reasons (i.e., evidence) for believing
         in what you cannot "see"
         a. Just as you believe in George Washington, though you have
            never seen him
         b. Just as you believe in who your parents are, though you
            can't remember who was there at your birth
      3. Other people believe that faith is a special gift from God for
         a select few
         a. In one sense faith is indeed a "gift" from God - cf. Ep 2:8;
            Ro 12:3
         b. But while faith owes its ultimate source to God, it is
            available to all
         c. For God desires all men to be saved - 1Ti 2:3-6
         d. He desires that which produces saving faith to be proclaimed
            to all - cf. Ro 1:16; 16:25-26
      4. The fact is that faith comes from evidence, provided by God
         a. Evidence of His existence in the universe - Psa 19:1-3; Ro
         b. Evidence of signs and wonders so we might believe in His Son
            - Jn 5:36; 10:37-38; 14:10-11; 20:30-31
      -- Faith in the Bible is not 'blind faith', it is trust based on

[The evidentiary nature of faith becomes clearer as we consider...]


      1. God expects us to use our minds - Mt 22:36-38; Jn 8:32
         a. We do not have to commit 'intellectual suicide' in order to
            have faith
         b. I am grateful, for "My heart cannot rejoice in what my mind
         c. Indeed, a weak faith is the result of the heart trying to
            believe what the mind rejects
      2. Does this mean we can have 100% proof?  No, but...
         a. We often commit 100% with less than 100% proof
         b. As when flying on an airplane (no 100% guarantee, but we
            commit 100% anyway)
         c. Because the safety of commercial aviation makes it a
            rational, intelligent decision
      3. So the question becomes:  "Is there enough evidence to warrant
         making a 100% commitment to Christ?"  I believe there is...
         a. Certainly enough to commit myself 100% for Him, rather than
            be 100% against Him!
         b. There is no other alternative - Mt 12:30
         c. Jesus is like an airplane; either we get on board totally,
            or we get left behind!
      -- The Christian faith is based on making a rational, intelligent

      1. Christianity appeals to history, and the facts of history
      2. "The facts backing the Christian claim are not a special kind
         of 'religious' fact.  They are the cognitive, informational
         facts upon which all historical, legal, and ordinary decisions
         are based." - Charles Pinnock
      3. E.g., notice the historical reference to time, places, people
         and events - Lk 2:1-5; 3:1-2
      4. Thus it is not a faith based on philosophy, myths, or legends
      -- The Christian faith is based on facts of history

      1. Faith (trust) in an object:  Jesus of Nazareth
         a. Faith in who He was:  The Christ, the Son of God
         b. Faith in what He did:  He rose from the dead on the third
      2. It does make a difference what we believe
         a. The old cliché "It doesn't matter what you believe, as long
            as you believe in something" is inconsistent with Christian
         b. It is not faith in of itself that is important
         c. But in Whom (the object) our faith is based - Jn 8:24; Ro
      -- The Christian faith is trust or conviction in a Person (Jesus)

      1. A faith (conviction, trust) based on evidence
      2. Evidence such as eyewitness testimony - Ac 10:39-41; 13:31; 1Jn
         1:1-4; 2Pe 1:16-18
         a. The same sort of evidence used in a court of law
         b. Basing convictions on the credibility of witnesses
      3. Evidence such as fulfilled prophecy - Ac 17:2-3; 18:28;
         a. Based on the improbability of over 300 fulfilled prophecies
            being coincidence
         b. When just 8 prophecies and their fulfillment are considered,
            the likelihood of coincidence is 1 in 10 to the 17th power;
            with just 48 prophecies the probability is 1 in 10 to the
            157th power - virtually impossible!
      -- The Christian faith is based on such evidence!


1. We have seen that the nature of faith, in particular the Christian
   faith, is...
   a. Trust that is intelligent and rational
   b. Trust in a person of history, Jesus of Nazareth
   c. Trust in who He is, what He did
   d. Trust based on empirical and reasonable evidence

2. Faith (trust) does lead to believing in things not seen...
   a. Such as God who is invisible - Jn 1:18; 1Jn 4:12
   b. Such as promises we hope to receive (resurrection, eternal life)
      - Ro 8:24

But such faith is not blind credulity.  There is solid evidence for such
faith, which in turn leads us to trust in things not seen.  Only those
ignorant of the evidence ridicule faith, or find themselves wavering in
their own faith.  Examine the evidence, and believe...!
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