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Faith

by: Michael Frank

Author's note: I wrote this paper in response to a conversation I had with my cousin who is an atheist. I would love to see it posted and reviewed by some other agnostic people so I can see what fault they find in it. Thanks, and although I am a Christian believer, I like your website's open and honest approach, and I especially like the cynical humor about church.

As you read to this, you may decide that you don’t agree with the basic premises from which I write this, but if you’ll keep reading, I think you’ll see that they will be self advocating in the end, as that is kind of the point of this letter.

A discussion on this article has been opened in Debate and Discourse. Please feel free to add your own thoughts to the exchange of views via the contact page.

Faith is an important concept in God’s relationship with us.  Like many spiritual things, it is very difficult to completely understand and grasp what faith is, and how to have it or exercise it.  I’m not sure it is possible to fully understand some spiritual things as a human who is limited to this carnal world, especially free-will, grace, salvation, and faith, which are inseparably-related concepts.  In fact, attempting to explain things like this in finite conclusive terms is what causes most disagreements within Christianity between denominations when many times, in my opinion, both sides are equally right or equally wrong when trying to explain spiritual things with their doctrines.

 

This being said, when I want to understand people’s ideas of life or religion, I don’t want them to just quote some doctrine to me that they have heard somewhere.  I always ask them what it means to them, in their words.  So faith, to me, is the knowledge that God exists that I find within my own heart.  Like it’s just built into me, like if I look inside myself, honestly and openly, I just know it.  I know that I have a Soul and a conciseness that transcends the sum of my atoms just reacting together.   I also just know that there’s more purpose to this whole life than just matter reacting together.  And I cannot but look at the amazing complexity beauty and balance of living things and just know that it couldn’t have accidentally happened.  Not realistically.  All life has an amazing drive and will to survive.  There’s nothing in evolution that could explain that, especially not in the earliest of life forms, if there were such, and even evolution itself couldn’t work without that drive.  Of course that’s really a whole different subject.

 

There have supposedly been many super-natural miracles performed through out history, by Jesus himself, and by God, sometimes through people. Sometimes these miracles made people believe but yet, many times, they did not.  The same crowd that crucified Jesus, only days earlier, witnessed Him doing many miracles, like feeding the five-thousand, and healing many who were sick.  Even a physical sign doesn’t necessarily result in belief. 

 

I personally have never witnessed an undeniable supernatural miracle.  I have however seen the hand of God work in my life many many times through timing or circumstance, where I knew it was God’s hand.  Yet that still requires some measure of Faith.  I have also felt or heard the leading or voice of God giving me direction in life.  Yet, without Faith, that could easily have been ignored as imagined.  And I have many times felt the wonderful, peaceful, powerful presence of God.  If I had to explain that physically, I’d say it’s almost like electricity that tingles in my chest and arms causing strong emotions of peace, relaxation, and love.  This comes when I worship God or sometimes when I obey his direction.  It is a wonderful feeling that, to me, substantiates my faith, yet without faith, I’m not sure I would even feel it.

 

You want proof that God exists.  There was a time, when I first heard the concept that religion is just made up by people who want to believe in something to explain the unknowns in life, like “where did we come from”.  Or perhaps people don’t like to think that one day their conciseness will end in death so they try to believe in some form of continued eternal existence after death.  I decided to challenge my own belief in God, and I began praying to God for some kind of clear sign so I wouldn’t have to rely on faith.  Even a sudden fresh touch of His presence would have been enough of a sign for me.  Any kind of supernatural sign at all.  It would have been easy for Him.  But instead of a sign, I heard and felt the most stark silence from God I have ever known while in prayer.  A couple of difficult weeks went by and I did a lot of thinking.  It’s almost as though He wanted to teach me something.  I finally realized that if I looked within my own heart, or if I look at this amazing world, or if I look back at all He’s done in my past, or if I even look around at the hunger for God and attraction to spiritual things that is in everyone, I somehow knew that there was a God all along, and I really didn’t need a sign to believe.  I just somehow could.  And so, for the first time, I began to recognize the significance of faith.  I admit that even as I sit here and write, I don’t really understand how I can be so completely sure of something I have not seen, but yet that’s what faith is.  It is a spiritual, God-given gift. And, as I said in the beginning, some spiritual things cannot fit into the framework of concepts we build in our minds which makes up our view of the physical world. Yet that doesn’t mean such things don’t exist.  How many times has history proved that to be true?

 

Why do we need faith?  It’s more than just a way to believe in something without proof.  It is actually essential to God’s plan of salvation that we receive such salvation through faith.  For indeed the Devil and the other fallen angels don’t have faith, nor can they, because they KNOW that God is real.  They have seen Him in person.  They lived in Heaven with Him until they rebelled and were thrown out.  They cannot be covered by God’s grace (forgiveness without cause) because they cannot exercise faith in a God they know is real. We can only be saved (that is, forgiven for our selfish actions and restored to fellowship with God) by grace through faith in God and His Word.

 

Alright, so if we need faith, how do we get it?

 

Being a spiritual concept, I won’t pretend to fully grasp exactly what faith is, the purpose of it, or how to get it, but let me quote to you two important scriptures about faith that come to mind that help me get somewhat of a grasp on these concepts:

 

…by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God. (KJV Ephesians 2:8)

faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  (KJV Romans 10:17)

The first verse tells us that faith comes from God.  It doesn’t come from our own observances of the world.  The second verse tells us that although it comes from God it comes by hearing the Word of God.

 

So, hearing the Word of God is how God gives us the gift of Faith??

 

That sounds way too simple, and what if you don’t believe in the authenticity of the Bible?

 

The Bible.  Hmmm..  What is it?  It is called by many names, the Word, The Word of God, The Holy Scriptures, the Torah, the Law, the Covenant, the Old and New Testaments.  It is a collection of 66 books written by about 40 people over a span of about 1,600 years in 3 different languages.   It’s mostly historical accounts, that is to say first-person accounts of things happened.  It’s also accounts of prophesies that people received, or visions that people had.  As Christians, however, we believe that (like ourselves) it is much more than the sum of its parts.

 

Consider these two verses.

 

Most people know the first verse in the Old Testament scriptures (Genesis 1:1) “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” 

 

John (one of Jesus’ first twelve disciples) wrote it a little differently: (KJV John 1:1-4) “1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2The same was in the beginning with God.  3All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  4In him was life; and the life was the light of men”.

 

Throughout the Bible the words spoken by God are as powerful as God himself.  That is to say whatever God said, happened.  But even beyond that, as we see from this scripture in John, God and “The Word” are even one and the same.  This is another spiritual concept I don’t pretend to fully understand, after all I am still only human.

 

Anyways, this brings me to this idea that I have come to.  If you want faith, you will get it from God through the Word, His word, The Bible.

 

Many highly intelligent people have come to the knowledge of God (or come to have faith in Him) after diligently challenging the idea.  Many of whom did not believe before. Many have written books explaining the story of how they were convinced (or found faith).  Perhaps there were a variety of ways they arrived at the conclusion, but the last two decidedly agnostic people whose accounts I have heard that came to the knowledge of God did so by first studying and challenging the validity and integrity of the Bible.  Some even set out with the intent of disproving it.  And then as they found it to be seemingly reputable, they looked into it and somehow found faith therein.  I will also note that these people were intelligent and deliberate about the truth, not just somewhat blindly accepting it like most people do.  And so they found the Gospel (the “good news” story) to be an “all or nothing proposition” that when accepted changed everything, and subsequently made them outstanding Christians, unlike the more common hypocritical, or “luke warm” type of “Christian” we see every day in America.   In fact, I’m not sure how many of today’s so called Christians really even grasp what it’s all about… That is however a whole different subject.

 

Anyways I have not actually bought and read any such books dedicated to explaining this journey, but I have read and heard the Bible and I positively find faith within my self.  Whether it was there from the beginning, or it came through the Word, I don’t honestly remember, but I know that it’s undeniably there.  To the extent that I base my life on it, I would bet my life on it, and I would even die for it.  And I think you know that I’m not the kind of person that would risk wasting my life on something I was unsure about, that I hadn’t challenged, and found belief that it was true.

 

I appreciate you reading this.  I hope my story and my view of faith will be a good guide to you as you search for yourself.  I don’t expect this at all to convince you of the reality of a God, but I certainly do hope it gives you and idea of where to begin your search.

 

Sincerest love and best wishes - Mike

DISCUSSION
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-Here are a couple of extra scriptures that may shine a little light for you- : )

(KJV Hebrews 11:1-131 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. {substance: or, ground, or, confidence}  2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.  3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.  4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. {yet...: or, is yet spoken of} 5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.  6 But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and [that] He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.  7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. {moved...: or, being wary}  8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.  9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as [in] a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:  10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker [ is ] God.  11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.  12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, [so many] as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.  13 These all died in  faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of [them], and embraced [them], and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. {in  faith : Gr. according to  faith }

(KJV Deuteronomy 4:29-31)29 But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find [Him], if thou seek Him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.  30When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, [even] in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto His voice; {are...: Heb. have found thee} 31(For the LORD thy God [is] a merciful God;) He will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which He sware unto them.

 (KJV Jeremiah 29:13-14) 13And ye shall seek me, and find [me], when ye shall search for me with all your heart.  14And I will be found of you, saith the LORD.