Leap of faith

While splitting imaginary theological hairs can justifiably cause those within earshot to scramble for the doors, legitimate biblical teachings are both necessary and practical. In many cases, whether we hold on to a biblical teaching or to some humanly devised counterpart, it impacts how we live and interact with others.

Consider the repercussions emanating from three views on whether evidence can play a role in faith.

Mention faith in God in some circles and the assumption is that in order to serve God a “leap of faith” is required. This phrase owes its roots to Søren Kierkegaard, who lived in the 1800’s.

Today this “leap of faith” has come to epitomize the teaching that sufficient evidence does not exist to support faith in God and Christ.  Accordingly, in order for someone to serve God that individual must make a blind leap based solely on a personal choice to believe.

To embrace this teaching shapes both behavior and relationships. A Christian whose faith is based upon a blind leap possesses no motive to expand the frontiers of what this world can teach us about God, nor does he or she have any objective evidence to share with others.

Teaching others about God becomes limited to repeating the biblical message and sharing one’s own personal choice to make the leap. The impact of this teaching goes beyond those who hold to it. Many educated people look upon the need to take such a leap as being irrational.  Accordingly, they despise religious faith.

Other life shaping doctrines include the popular understandings of total depravity and unconditional election.  If we are so thoroughly saturated with sin that we can not even choose to believe in God regardless of what evidence might exist before us, then what point exists in marshaling evidence or presenting it to others?

The corollary doctrine of unconditional election leads to the conclusion that people will only come to faith if God chooses to give them faith. With evidence being irrelevant, defending the gospel to outsiders becomes a futile endeavor.

The Bible presents a starkly different view from these two pessimistic perspectives about the role of evidence in coming to faith. Rather than merely calling people to take a leap by “just trusting me” or simply waiting for God to cause people to believe, Jesus provided those with open hearts good reasons why they should accept his claims.

“…the deeds that the Father has assigned me to complete —  the deeds I am now doing – testify about me that the Father has sent me.” (John 5:36John 5:36
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36 But the testimony which I have is greater than that of John, for the works which the Father gave me to accomplish, the very works that I do, testify about me, that the Father has sent me.

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“…if you do not believe me, believe because of the miraculous deeds themselves” (John 14:11John 14:11
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11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me; or else believe me for the very works’ sake.

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In similar fashion, the early Christians both provided evidence to confirm their message as well as reasoned from such evidence as eyewitness testimony as attested in Hebrews 2:3Hebrews 2:3
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3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation— which at the first having been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard;

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, Acts 4:20Acts 4:20
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20 for we can’t help telling the things which we saw and heard.”

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and Acts 22:6-15Acts 22:6-15
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6 It happened that, as I made my journey, and came close to Damascus, about noon, suddenly there shone from the sky a great light around me. 7 I fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ 8 I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute.’ 9 “Those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they didn’t understand the voice of him who spoke to me. 10 I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me, ‘Arise, and go into Damascus. There you will be told about all things which are appointed for you to do.’ 11 When I couldn’t see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus. 12 One Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well reported of by all the Jews who lived in Damascus, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ In that very hour I looked up at him. 14 He said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know his will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice from his mouth. 15 For you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard.

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Doctrines do shape how Christians live their lives and interact with others. If using evidence to defend or promote the gospel is either a futile or an impossible task, then why bother? If on the other hand, both Jesus and the early Christians provided good reasons for their audiences to believe and some chose to respond, then our responsibility is obvious.
Doctrine is important. Doctrine can shape how we live.
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Barry Newton

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