This is the question that has frustrated me repeatedly over the years. A decade ago, this question emerged in a different form after I realized that to have faith in God really requires that we make a choice to believe something that has no inherent evidence for it. Check out Hebrews 11:1.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.
This verse equates faith with substance and evidence. It says that the thing we call faith fills the same space that evidence would if we had any. So much so that faith becomes, is transformed into the evidence, the substance upon which our hope is founded. It means that we choose to have hope in God based on a foundation with no evidence. That is not a rational choice – it’s irrational.
This is a core principle of Christianity – that faith is a choice (or a supernatural gifting, but I’ll not go there today). At the core, faith is not a line of reasoning that can be followed all the way to a proof of God and the Christian message. Rather, faith always requires a measure of uncertainty – a leap across a divide of doubt. What a foundation to build a worldview upon! It’s mind-boggling and frankly, it sounds a bit crazy.
I realized this and got stuck for a couple of years back then trying to figure out how to make such an irrational choice – to choose to believe in God when they is no evidence. I reached a point where I could go no further.
Fast forward two years. Sitting in a coffee shop one day, in an introspective moment, I recognized something in me that I could only describe as a drop of faith that I could not explain. I’d been desiring to have faith, but couldn’t figure out how to create it, how to conjure it up within me. So, I’d essentially given up. But on this day I unexpectedly found what I’d been looking for. I found this drop of faith in me. Like someone trapped in a dark room for a very long time, with sensitive and dilated eyes, I saw the smallest glimmer of light leaking in. I couldn’t figure out how it got there, but it was there – a drop of faith. I knew it wasn’t from me so I concluded that it must have come from God.
This experience transformed me and I lived for several years with delight in the idea that God did what I could not, he created in me what I could not by generating faith in me. However, my old doubt about the irrationality of faith rose up in me again about a year ago.
This time, the question emerged in the context of story. Stories resonate with me and are full of meaning as I think they do for all people. Over the years, I’ve become skeptical when people give credit to God for healings , reconciliations and good outcomes. People thank God for saving them when what I observed was that it was people saving themselves through perseverance and hard work. Marriages saved by hours of therapy and strong communities. Diseases overcome by good science and doctors. Crediting God for this was no longer making sense to me.
What does story have to do with this? Well, during this time I was developing an increasing respect and acknowledgement for the abilities and resilience of humanity. This depth is revealed in stories. Many of our beloved stories feature common themes of a trapped and broken people in need of rescue. In the middle of darkness, the people have a persistent hope. A hero emerges and battles forces that seek to enslave. Victory is won and the people are released.
We see these themes in favorite stories – The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz, To Kill a Mockingbird and just about every movie and TV show you can think of. These themes are so common and woven into what it means to be human that they show up everywhere. Yet, we all know that these stories are fiction, written by very insightful men and women who had an incredibly powerful ability to use words, circumstance and emotion to evoke the shared concerns of our species.
So the Bible comes along as a book offering a similar story with the same themes of brokenness, the need for rescue, a hero and a victory. So, out from under the rug, my old question re-emerges asking,
What makes this Bible story representative of reality and all these other stories are not, just being fiction?
So I got stuck again for about a year asking the same question.
I could see where this was going. I knew that if I didn’t pause everything to deal with this question, then I’d be plagued to go through this same cycle for the rest of my life. So about six months ago, I pledged to myself that I’d do whatever it took to resolve this question. So I dug in for the long haul.
Since then, I’ve contemplated many