If you have faith in an invisible and metaphysical God, then you simply are, and cannot avoid being, delusional… In fact, you have ignored the advances of modern science, lazily inserted God in place of the unknown that science has yet to discover, and you are spreading this poisonous and regressive delusion by telling others to believe in your imaginary God… At least, that is what several atheists have said to me, almost verbatim. I understand that not every atheist may think exactly this way, but that is a summary of my experience with some of their mainstream objections thus far. It’s funny how when someone tries to convince us “people of faith” that we believe in an imaginary “friend”, we actually almost give room for doubt, if not concede to doubt. You may ask yourself, “Is that really what I believe? Has my mind created a delusion to cope with my reality? Is my religion un-enlightened and outdated?”. Well… No.
A Caricature Christianity
I understand that you may be an atheist, agnostic, skeptic, or a religious person yourself. But as promised, I will honestly speak of the Christian faith in particular. However, the matter of faith should be of interest to all non-religious and religious people who seriously object or submit to faith in a God. As a person of faith, particularly a Christian, the objections that were listed above are not what we actually believe.
When someone paints a picture of a person’s point of view to be different from what it actually is in order to more easily attack their claims, they are committing the “strawman” fallacy. This fallacy, mixed with emotionally charged people, creates quite a caricature out of religious people and their beliefs, especially Christians. Very often I have encountered strawman arguments against Christianity. Not that some of the premises of those arguments are entirely unfounded, but they indeed attack an easy and misconstrued target. I believe that this is so common because:
1) People are naturally offended by what Christianity represents and therefore demonize its beliefs and adherents.
2) The shallow or hypocritical versions of Christianity that are being mass-produced by many who claim to be Christian are not giving a fair representation of genuine Christian belief, and therefore many critics feel it should not be taken seriously.
3) People are far more reactive than they are interactive today due to a decline in conversational and critical-thinking capabilities.
Certainly, in part, some Christians (or at least those who claim to be) are helping to caricaturize our faith. And unfortunately, as a result, the true doctrines of the Church are being caricaturized as well. A few bad apples can cause people, especially in this rather presumptuous social climate, to think that the whole tree is rotten. But the tree that is our Christian faith remains rich in the Word of God and we need to hold fast to our foundation. While we are often pressured in our overly sensitive and politically correct Western society to not go on the offensive when this misrepresentation and ideological attack happens (which appears to itself be quite the double-standard), I believe that it is our duty to stand firm on what we believe to be the truth and to keep those who would seek to dilute the actual beliefs that we hold honest. In order to keep these objectors honest, we need to really know what we believe, lovingly speak up, and respectfully challenge false claims and misrepresentations of our faith.
For example, there is an egregious difference in the concept of having an imaginary friend and believing in a God. An imaginary friend is very clearly an imaginative creation of the mind, hence “imaginary”. This is a free act of our volition! To speak for myself, I tried having an imaginary friend when I was a boy once, and it didn’t work out very well. My reasoning abilities even then would not allow me to create one. It seemed to be too much work and rather silly. Moreover, I don’t know of millions of people across history who have believed in the same exact “imaginary friend” or who have been willing to die for the belief that this imaginary friend exists and is who he claims to be. Also, there are justifiable reasons to consider that God exists based on what we can observe, that is not so with a figment of our subjective imaginations. Without going further, any reasonable person should be able to see the difference here.
Regarding God, I surely did not create Him. I heard about Him, but I initially did not know or claim to know Him. To be honest, I was “good”, so I thought, without Him. But when I heard of His truth, I encountered a God that was wholly “other” from myself. I did not create an imaginary being to respond to and be the master of my life. That would be a psychological oddity. This encounter happened in a truly metaphysical and subjective way once I chose to open up to Him. The metaphysical began to correspond with the physical and natural world around me. I began to see the full picture. I tried going back to my old sinful habits, and could not. Answers to prayer HAPPENED! And the possibility of those prayer’s coming to fruition in such specific and inconceivable ways was far too much of a coincidence to logically be counted as such. God has His ways, such as answering prayer, to strengthen our faith and grow us in our assurance of His real interaction in our lives!
Before I chose to have faith, He was there, knocking at the door to my life. Although, I had not yet let Him in. At first, I did not desire to change my life to conform to God’s standards and live for Him whatsoever. Certainly not under my own volition! As I considered if it was really God on the other side of the door, I realized I had to make a choice; Humble myself in faith to open the door, not knowing if it was really God for certain, or wait until the knocking went away. I willfully responded by opening the door. God certainly could have broken it down and come right in, but He willed for me, and all people, to have the ability to freely open up to Him. I experienced, and continue to more fully experience and understand, God and His goodness only because I chose to have faith.
The Subtlety of Faith
Within our worldviews, we each have many things that we believe to be true. Although, we may not be certain that those things in which we believe are indeed true. For instance, there are many who presuppose Darwinian Evolution, a view of Naturalism, and the “Big Bang” Theory in their worldview. Now, to start at the foundational points of this view, how exactly would the entirety of the Universe and the very creation of matter come from nothing? How could life (complex) come from nothing (simple)? How could the simplicity of nothingness somehow, over time sitting in nothingness, decide (or rather not decide) to produce/become/create matter and then create a living single-celled organism? And how did that single-celled organism become a fish? Did it swim around for a billion or so years and decide to become a fish? Was it somehow intelligent? But then where did the intelligence come from out of non-intelligence? You see, these kinds of presuppositions are often explained by theories that attempt to fill in the gaps, much like a big incomplete puzzle, in this worldviews argumentation. Do the pieces of the puzzle really fit together? Is the image of a worldview made to look like what we want it to be or what it really is? How do we really know?
Some who come up with theories to fill these gaps in our knowledge, which may be based on an unproven theory itself or lack of evidence, may well use science as a cover to make their theories (or philosophies) of life’s meaning and origin seem more “reasonable”. Big words may give an appearance of coherence and credibility, but we must pay attention to the reality and implications of what is actually being said. Now, I don’t mean to say that all of these theories would be impossible, improbable, or even false. But this heavy trust in “expert” theories, that are likely from people we’ve never met or evidence we haven’t personally seen, upon which we would use as a foundation to construct an entire worldview, would require quite a formidable amount of faith, wouldn’t it? Can we then, without real certainty, trust in these theories to inform us about our present reality? Perhaps, but to what extent?
Furthermore, consider the New Testament. It is the most historically attested and accurate ancient document that we have. We have 5,686 copies of the Greek New Testament alone (For more on this click here!). Therefore, we can very reasonably trust that we are reading what the first Christians really compiled. This allows us to place reasonable trust in the events that the New Testament documents recorded. But how do we really know that many of the facts or documents that we have, with far, far, less attestation and historical credibility than this, are in fact accurately portrayed and true? Perhaps the archaeologists and historians were off about something? Or would we fully trust these experts in all cases because they are beyond the human fallibility that we all share given their title and claims to champion “science”…? And no, I am not advocating a complete distrust in the experts! However, we all should honestly evaluate what we put our trust in. It is evident that we all do have faith in many things which are foundational to our worldview. If we are delusional for having faith in God, then certainly the same argument, perhaps an even stronger argument, can be made for the hypocrisy of the faith that the accuser who does not believe in God is approaching us with.
Now, I understand that as a Christian I similarly place my faith in the Word of God. I understand that there are observable truths about the reality that we live in that we can study. I understand the valuable merits and methodologies of scientific study. In fact, I really enjoy science! But the question is, if we put on the “lens” of whichever worldview we adhere to (Naturalism, Christianity, Pantheism, etc.), then which system carries the best evidence for the most reasonable explanation of the reality that we live in? And to formulate a coherent worldview, we need to understand what the faith claims that we hold to are and how they correspond to reality.
“Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe” – Augustine
If God created the world, then the reality that we live in will provide powerful evidence for this truth. And of course, God gave us reasoning abilities to discover this evidence. This truth would be understood when we observe our reality. While science does a pretty good job explaining and observing what is, does it really do justice in explaining why it is? It seems that science only points to an answer. So if we look at the progress of science, what does it really point to? Does it point to a Creator, or a… well, I guess fill in the _____________?
The Necessity of Faith
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that faith is a “firm belief in something for which there is no proof: complete trust”. As anyone would concede, there is no complete and total proof for the existence of God that we can gather, although that does not mean that there is not very strong evidence for His existence! Although, God does not give us complete proof because then we would not need to have complete trust in who He is. And thus, we would not have faith in Him. We would be able to measure the parameters of God, and He would essentially cease to be “God”. He would be reduced to nothing more than a subject to His own subjects of whom He gave the ability to meet or surpass Him in knowledge and power. Why would a God, if He truly is God, do such a thing? But this is not the case. God is powerful and magnificent enough to create the vastness and beauty of space, Earth and its wondrous, natural, and life-giving systems, and even the fine-tuned complexity that we know of as the human body. These are things that we can only attempt to fully comprehend!
Faith in God requires complete trust in who He claims to be and what He promises to do. While He does provide us with an abundance of evidence that logically points to the fact that He does exist (fine-tuning of the Universe, existence of morality, biblical testimony, historical corroboration of biblical accounts such as Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, the unconventional growth of Christianity and its impact on people and the world, etc.) we cannot absolutely know because we do not see Him… at least not in this life. The purpose behind this is to produce genuine faith!
There is not a more selfless, humble, and genuine act of obedience than faith. By placing faith in God, we wholly trust the entirety of our being, including our fate after death, to another, even though we only know of His promises and goodness in our lives without absolute objective certainty that it will happen aside from His Word. When Jesus’ disciples told Thomas that they had seen Jesus risen from the dead, he said “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (John 20:25, ESV). Jesus then appeared to him and Thomas was put to shame for his unbelief. Jesus allowed Him to touch his scars and He said:
“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29, ESV)
Are you waiting to have absolute proof of God’s existence in order to believe? Are you not fully satisfied with the evidence that is before you for the existence of God Himself, Jesus’ life and ministry, and His resurrection? If you have searched and indeed you see the stack of evidence, you see that God’s existence is reasonable, and you feel deep within you that it is true, then what are you waiting for!? If the claims of Christianity are true, and God is who He is, then now is the time to act. The choice is to either have faith in Christ, or wait until you have __________ occur. It may well be that this “thing” you are waiting on will never come.
Consider the parable that Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man, who never aided the suffering man, Lazarus (who was diseased and always outside of his flourishing residence), finds out about the reality of God’s truth regarding the afterlife. He finds himself in a place of torment and judgment and wishes for Abraham (who is in Paradise with Lazarus) to send a miracle to his family members to save them from sharing in his fate. But Abraham responds saying “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31, ESV). Aside from the evidence from observing our reality (natural revelation), the living Word of God (Logos; Bible) and the resurrection of Jesus Christ are what God has intentionally given to us for saving faith (special revelation). As you read this, God is literally knocking on your door, will you open it?
The truth of the matter is, faith is necessary. We all put our trust in something that cannot be certain in order to formulate our worldview. Therefore, it is reasonable to have faith. In fact, given the evidence, the Christian faith itself is very reasonable and, I believe, corresponds best with our reality. If God made our reality, then it would follow that our reality corresponds best with who He is. I have mentioned several claims of Christianity, several arguments for God’s existence and particularly Christianity’s claims, but how can we know the Christian God is the true God? Are there not many gods? What about the Jewish and Muslim God or other monotheistic religions? Don’t we all worship the same God and find Him through our own path? These issues will be discussed in the next article in this Bridging the Gap Series.
Please follow, like, share and comment! I would love to hear your feedback. Here is the previous article Bridging the Gap (Pt. 3): Love Re-Defined