Wednesday, October 05, 2005

What is faith? part 5

The apostles didn't expect converts to accept the gospel without reasons. They actually gave arguments for why the gospel is true in order to pursuade people. In Acts, 2:22-36, Peter argues that Jesus is the messiah by pointing to his resurrection, and he points to the empty tomb of Jesus in contrast to the occupied tomb of David as evidence that Jesus was raised from the dead. Acts is full of examples of the apostles (especially Paul) debating and trying to pursuade. Here are just a few examples:

Acts 9:22 "Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ."

Acts 9:29 "He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him."

Acts 18:4 "Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks."

Acts 18:28 "For he [Apollos] vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ."

Acts 19:8 "Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God."

In his own writings, Paul talks about his own purpose in defending the gospel and trying to pursuade people of its truth:

2 Corinthians 5:11 "Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men."

2 Corinthians 10:5 "We demolish arguments and every pretention that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

Philippians 1:7 "It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me."

Philippians 1:16 "The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel."

Not only does he think he should defend the gospel, but he also admonishes us to defend the gospel. He writes, "Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone" (Colossians 4:5-6). And again, Peter tells us to be prepared with reasons for the hope that we have and to be able to articulate these reasons to other people with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

For all of these reasons, I take faith to mean "trust in what you think is true," and I think the notion that faith is "belief without reasons" is at odds with what the Bible says.

That's it for the email.


At 10/06/2005 7:51 PM , Blogger Steve said...

if faith means "trust in what you believe to be true" it implies something you're not saying.

If you believe something to be true, why do you need to trust it? You presumably believe it because you think its true.

If you have to "trust" that its true, it would imply to me that there's conflicting evidence through which you're defending your belief based on a "trust" you have with your original belief.

So REALLY, the hidden question here is what is the "basis" of that trust, and how far does that trust extend?

Almost any example you can cite for "trusting" your faith implies some close-mindedness where you reject something based on that trust.

At 10/06/2005 8:05 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Steve, "trust" is something you do, not just a disposition you have. I used the chair analogy earlier. To believe that the chair is able to hold me up is one thing, but to actually sit in the chair, trusting it to hold me up is another thing.

At 10/06/2005 8:49 PM , Blogger Steve said...

I think you're confusing the issue though, by making it sound like having faith in god is like sitting in a chair.

First of all, you're not making allowances for whether or not someone's trust in something is reasonable or unreasonable, you're making trust an extension of some natural phenominon. I think you need to define unreasonable trust.

Secondly, I dont see how you've fundamentally addressed the issue of how being "tested" in your faith deals with trust. Being "tested" implies to me that something which challenges your faith comes up. Now religious people define a "good christian" as someone who, in the face of such a challenge, remains steadfast in their beliefs.

But in most other situations, telling someone they are a good person if they just stick to their beliefs even when confronted with things that challenge that evidence, is an example of a CLOSE MINDED person!

At 10/06/2005 9:08 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Steve, James himself makes this distinction between mere belief and faith. He says that even demons believe. But obviously, demons don't place their faith in Jesus for their salvation.

I think trust should be reasonable in that we should place our trust in what we have good reason to think is true. I would not sit in a chair if I did not have good reason to think it could hold me up.

Being tested in your faith has to do with loyalty. Job was tested in his faith. He said that even if God should slay him, he would remain faithful. Being tested in your faith, in the Biblical sense, does not mean "being given reasons to think your belief is wrong." It means being given motivation to turn your back on the Lord. A person overcomes the testing by remaining faithful. That's why persecutions in the Bible were considered "testing faith." They were being persecuted as a result of their faith. They could've avoided persecution by turning their backs on Jesus. But they remained faithful to Jesus because they thought they had good reason to think everything they had heard about Jesus was true--he really was the Christ who died for their sins and rose from the dead.

At 10/06/2005 9:58 PM , Blogger Steve said...

ok so there's NO circumstance you can think of where trust is not reasonable?

I mean, should you trust a child molestor - who has converted to christianity and swears he wont molest children anymore - in a preschool?

If you believe in the power of God, and you believe the person has made a genuine conversion why not have FAITH that this person is indeed reformed! Is that trust not reasonable?

Or secondly, let say a man walks up to you and says the day of judgement is upon you, I am your lord Jesus. Do you believe him? If you trust in the Bible and say, I think this is it, better pack my bags, is that trust reasonable? Or should you cross reference that "trust" with reasonable assumptions about whether or not the guy is drunk, insane, or trying to make fun of you.

At 10/06/2005 10:13 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Steve, I think reasonable trust is trust in something you have good reason to think is true. If we have good reason to think Jesus is the Christ, then we should place our faith in him. And if we have good reason to think somebody is not going to molest our child, then it's reasonable to trust him. If you have reason to think he might molest your child, then you should not trust him.

At 10/07/2005 1:22 AM , Blogger Steve said...

ok but what is UNREASONABLE trust?

what constitutes something you shouldn't trust?

At 10/07/2005 1:27 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

If somebody has a history of child molestation, then it would be unreasonable to trust them with your child. That would be one example.

At 10/07/2005 5:40 AM , Blogger Steve said...

but see you're unwilling to generalize any case because you dont want it to be used against your larger example of "faith" because any standard of "unreasonable"ness is almost by nature subjective.

At 10/07/2005 6:39 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Of course I am, Steve. If it's unreasonable to think Jesus is the Christ, then you shouldn't put your faith in him. But I agree that is a subjective element to reasonableness. That's why some people think the evidence is compelling and some don't. So you've got to decide for yourself. But the bottom line of this blog entry is that faith does not mean "belief without evidence." It means trust in what you have reason to think is true. I have reason to think it's true that Jesus is the Christ, and because of that, I trust him for my salvation.

At 10/07/2005 6:49 AM , Blogger daleliop said...

Steve, this is off-topic but ties in with the discussion on bias, you've said that

Or secondly, let say a man walks up to you and says the day of judgement is upon you, I am your lord Jesus. Do you believe him? If you trust in the Bible and say, I think this is it, better pack my bags, is that trust reasonable? Or should you cross reference that "trust" with reasonable assumptions about whether or not the guy is drunk, insane, or trying to make fun of you.

This is an evaluation of the man's character, that it's "reasonable" to not believe what he says because he may have a mocking character, e.g. that he's "drunk, insane, or trying to make fun of you." That's a direct application of the principle that we've been discussing. Same with the child molestor example you've brought up. Just a quick observation.

At 10/07/2005 7:12 AM , Blogger daleliop said...


To believe that the chair is able to hold me up is one thing, but to actually sit in the chair, trusting it to hold me up is another thing.

It seems to me from that example that trust can be defined as a strong degree of belief. If I don't want to sit on the chair, then that means I don't really believe strongly enough that it will hold me up.

James himself makes this distinction between mere belief and faith. He says that even demons believe. But obviously, demons don't place their faith in Jesus for their salvation.

If demons truly believed that Jesus was the messiah (for all), then they would place their faith in Jesus. But demons don't place their faith in Jesus, therefore they don't truly (or fully) believe that Jesus is the messiah. They only believe to a certain degree, but not enough for them to surrender themselves.

Therefore, from these two examples, if faith is defined as "trust in what you think is true", then that can be rephrased as "strong belief in what you believe to be true", or more simply, "strong belief". I think that simplifies things a lot.

Now the question is if that strong belief is justified or not, which is what you and Steve are talking about. Well, from what we talked about before regarding "justified true belief", a belief is justified if the reasons for it are good (that is, the argument is at least "probably" true). But that means the strength of a belief should be the same as the strength of its justification. However, that means faith is a property of the argument, not of the one holding it. Therefore, there should be no onus on the holder of the argument to have faith in it unless the argument itself provides enough justification for the holder to have faith (strong belief).

At 10/07/2005 8:55 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

I can't say that I agree, Dave. However much we trust somebody depends to a large degree on how strongly we believe they are trustworthy. Since one depends on the other, then cannot be identical. So belief and trust cannot both be the same thing.

Moreover, it's possible to trust somebody more than belief warrants. I can place my trust in a chair to hold me even if my belief that it will hold me isn't particularly strong. Likewise, I can refuse to trust the chair to hold me even if my belief is strong.

Some of what you are saying is contrary to Scripture. James plainly says that demons believe. Yet they don't trust in Jesus for their salvation.

At 10/07/2005 1:29 PM , Blogger daleliop said...


James says demons believe, but he doesn't say to what degree the demons believe. It could fall anywhere from 0.1% to 50% to 100.00%. Stating that "James plainly says demons believe" doesn't address the degree to which the demons actually believed, which I was trying to build a case from.

For trust, here is a question. Are you saying that the definition of trust is acting according to your beliefs, regardless of their strength (e.g. regardless of whether they are weak or strong)?

At 10/07/2005 1:33 PM , Blogger Steve said...

Dale - i see what you're saying thats a good observation.

on this other issue i guess some things you can or cannot believe (such as demons) in would deal with the law of excluded middle - you either believe it or not, there's nothing in between? I dunno. im no expert.

At 10/07/2005 6:31 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dale, the fact that James doesn't mention the degree of belief supports my view. The degree was not relevent to James' distinction. His whole argument is that mere believe, by itself, does not count as faith. If his argument had been, a weak belief does not count as faith, but a strong belief does, then his argument would've been entirely different.

At 10/08/2005 2:03 AM , Blogger daleliop said...

Ok, I see that Sam.

Back to definitions, though, could you define explicitly what you mean by trust?

At 10/08/2005 2:15 AM , Blogger daleliop said...

Hold on, let me backtrack a little.

This is the verse from the NIV, in context (James 2:18-20):

18 But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless

This whole passage talks about faith and deeds. James isn't saying that faith is belief + actions; he's saying that faith IS belief, but that's not enough; you need actions to accompany your faith (belief) as well. You can see this from verse 14-17 earlier.

For example, in verse 17 James says, "In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." So we see that James has defined faith as mere belief, but he is making the point that that is not enough for a Christian; a Christian must act according to their faith.

Therefore, faith IS mere belief; and James says it's not enough.

At 10/08/2005 2:23 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

I don't agree, Dale. By saying that faith without works is dead, he's essentially saying that faith without works isn't really faith at all. If faith were mere belief, then even the demons would have faith.

At 10/08/2005 2:25 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Trust means to rely on, place in one's care, put your beliefs to action, etc.

At 10/08/2005 3:13 AM , Blogger daleliop said...

But that's what he just said: the demons have faith, and so do we, so what separates us from the demons? The fact that we have to act on our faith, and that's his point.

By saying faith without works is dead, then he's saying faith is not enough for how a Christian should live; you need to do good deeds which are based on your faith.

I think we have different interpretations...

At 10/08/2005 10:32 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dale, I think you're right; we do have different interpretations.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home