Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Is a Blind Leap of Faith Biblical?

If you’ve watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade then your heart probably skipped a beat during Indiana’s third Holy Grail Trial: the leap of faith. Jones comes to a wide, empty chasm, and reads that he must make an impossible leap to the distant opposite doorway. He does a double-take, and just before he turns back, he hears his dying father cry, “You must believe! You must believe!” So, in an act of blind faith, he jumps forward, landing on an invisible bridge, created by optical illusion.

If you’re a lover of Arthurian myth, you’ll know that no such bridge existed on any quest for the Holy Grail. In fact, the concept of a leap of faith is totally foreign to medieval thinking. Likewise, nowhere in the Bible will we find anything like a leap of faith.

The truth is that the blind leap of faith is a modern invention. Yet, this is often how we think about faith. In this view, we have no rational reason to trust Jesus; nonetheless, God demands that we make an irrational leap of faith to trust him. (Hopefully, like Indiana Jones, we’ll land on some invisible bridge.) This view manifests itself in everyday Christian parlance,“You just have to believe!” and “You just have to experience it.” These cliches typically erupt after arduous arguments between “a doubter” and “a believer.” They make Christianity sound like Neverland to non-believers.

The Bible never talks about faith this way, and for good reason. I want to suggest two reasons why God never asked for blind leaps of faith:


1) Faith involves the whole man, even his rational mind. 
The Bible purports to chronicle true history (Lk 1:1-4, for example). As such, it’s open to rational discussion and verification. In fact, Biblical authors often made the case that we ought to trust God, because of the historical evidence. For instance, Paul encourages doubting Corinthians to corroborate his story of the resurrected Christ with other living eye-witnesses (1 Cor. 15). He doesn’t say, “Just believe it!” In fact, Paul contends that doubting Christ’s resurrection would be irrational. Our mind’s capacity for reason plays a critical role in coming to faith.

God does not demand that Christians check their minds at the door when they step through the threshold of faith. He made the mind; he loves the mind. Instead he requires us to trust him with our whole being. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, emphasis added). God doesn’t want mindless faith, he wants faith with our whole hearts and souls and minds. When we make faith irrational, we demand that Christians check their God-made mind at the door.


2) Faith is about the “who”, not the “how much.” 
If you browse through the uses of the word “faith” in the Bible you’ll discover two things. First, it’s primarily attributed to God; he is the faithful one. Second, human faith usually fails.

When we talk about faith as an irrational leap, it quickly becomes a work whereby we’re saved. Our salvation hangs on the quality and size of our personal belief. We brag about doing “crazy” things for God; we look down on those with doubts; we think God gives us a gold star if we abandon our mind. More darkly, we feel lost when we experience doubts we can’t “leap” over. We grow despondent when we don’t feel him and we crumble beneath the weight of tragedy, because we will ourselves into belief.

The reality is that (as human beings) we’re always breaking faith with God. So, if we believe our relationship with him is contingent on the quantity our belief, we will constantly vacillate between unwarranted pride and unbreakable despondency. This is always the consequence of basing salvation on any works. Faith in blind faith never works. We need faith in a person, who never fails.

Francis Schaeffer writes, “In Christianity the value of faith depends on the object toward which the faith is directed.” If our God is faithful to save, then our faith has value. If he he is faithful to transform and love us, then our faith is worthwhile! Biblical faith is never about how much faith we have. It’s about who we believe in.


In the end, faith is always about who we trust for meaning, worth, identity, righteousness, and salvation. If we’re trusting in faith, we’ll fall short. In many sermons, Dave Cover has comforted me by saying, “You just need to believe 51%.” I’m a sinner; my faith waxes and wanes. Thankfully, even the smallest trust in God (just 51%) is of infinite value, because he is 100% faithful.

It’s true that we will be transformed increasingly into Christ’s image the more we trust him. Yet, faith doesn’t earn God’s love. Faith is a gift of grace, that helps us to rest more deeply within God’s love. It’s a gift that utilizes the whole human being: mind, heart, and soul. It increases not by vainglorious leaps, but by slow steps, as we learn about our faithful God and fall more deeply in love with him.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Kyle Hendricks said...

If faith is belief without evidence, so that you have more faith if you have less evidence and less faith if you have more evidence, then it would seem that the apostles had very LITTLE faith, since they personally saw Jesus do his miracles and were given many convincing proofs that he was raised (Acts 1). But it seems that the apostles DID have faith in Christ. In fact, they likely had MORE faith than any of us. So, faith isn't belief without evidence. Here's a syllogism.

1) If faith is belief without evidence (the more evidence you have, less faith you have, the less evidence you have, the more faith you have), then the apostles had much less faith than we do (since they saw a lot of evidence)
2) The apostles had MORE faith than we do, or at least most of us.
3) Therefore, faith isn't belief without evidence.

Also, it would seem that the Bible sees faith as trust. Specifically, trust in God. You can't really trust someone without good reasons to. So it makes sense that God would give us good reasons or evidence that he is trustworthy instead of asking us to trust him for no reason at all.

Jan 9, 2013, 9:48:00 AM  
Blogger Patrick K. Miller said...

Great content Kyle. That's exactly right. Although I think we should beware of over-glorifying the apostles, it's safe to say that they did not have less faith than us simply because they knew Christ and witnessed his miracles.

Jan 9, 2013, 2:20:00 PM  
Blogger Kyle Hendricks said...

Yes, let's put it that way. They at least did not have LESS faith than us because of the evidence.

Jan 9, 2013, 2:57:00 PM  

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