Who is God? Where did He come from? Why am I here? How can a loving God let people suffer? How could He create Satan and a Hell? What exactly does all this mean and why does it matter?
Even if I gave you perfect rational answers to every single question you could think of, it would not completely satisfy your heart and mind. Why?
The fundamental thread running through all of these questions is FAITH. The questions come from a deep need inside of us to know and trust the truth, and to physically and emotionally experience its reality.
What is faith?
Most would define it as some kind of belief. Not deep enough – it IS an intellectual assent – a framework of what we believe to be true. However, Faith involves knowing with your mind, trusting with your heart, AND experiencing in the rest of your life. It implies trust and requires action.
I have an immune system disorder – I accept that an intravenous treatment exists, and I trust that it is capable of curing my sickness and that I may die if I am not treated. However, I cannot be cured unless I act upon that trust and take the medicine. “If I do not, I shall die, accepting and trusting, but having failed to benefit from the resource which could have saved me.” (McGrath)
Faith is so much more than a belief – it leads directly into action. You know, you trust, and then you have to act -- you understand this idea
The Essence of Faith is in relationship – Our faith defines the way we relate to God, the world, and each other. It is a framework through which we interpret everything. Like it or not, an undefined faith shapes the world you see just as much as a defined faith does.
I have now chosen to define my faith matrix with God as Creator. Through study, I literally can see evidence that points toward Him – i.e. the complexity of Creation, physics’ nanoparticles, chaos theory, and superstrings, the healing capabilities of our bodies, etc.
What happens when I encounter a “faith crisis,” a seeming contradiction to the beliefs I hold?
1. I search my matrix for answers (the Bible, people I trust, scientific resources)
2. I recognize that science is constantly on the verge of new discovery – what it often holds as absolute truth does change.
3. I respect the unexplainable. I have witnessed several miraculous events that science could never explain – many people have. My father had a hole in his heart at 13, and the surgeon came out after the surgery and revealed that the hole was gone.
Step of faith – I have chosen my matrix. There are truly some areas where answers don’t exist. Why? I don’t know. Perhaps because God is infinite and my mind is finite? However, I am confident that I have sought the answer to the best of my capabilities, and I trust that I have chosen my faith matrix very carefully for times such as this. It is the way I have chosen to interpret the world. If I can trust it for that which is easy to understand, I can trust it for that which is hard.
So – what is my faith matrix and how did I get it?
1. God is the Creator of this world and of me. Genesis 1:1-6, 27-29
2. God is intimately, actively involved in the world and in my life. Psalm 139
3. Because Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, sin entered the world and the human race. Our relationship with God was broken. Genesis 3
4. God has designed a plan for redemption, for cleaning up the mess that sin (and us) have made in His creation. Jeremiah 29:11-13
5. He sent His Son, Jesus, to live a perfect life here on Earth and to die, taking the punishment that we deserved for our sin. John 3:16-18
6. Jesus rose from the dead, conquering sin and death, and setting us free from the punishment we rightly deserve. Romans 3:21-26
7. If I believe and trust that this is true, I will be forgiven and set free from my sin. My relationship with God is restored. Romans 5:6-11
8. When I die, because my relationship with God is now pure and right, I am able to live with Him in Heaven. 1 John 5:10-13
Everything I say, do, and understand is shaped in some way by this matrix. I have carefully studied and tested each area of this matrix according to biblical truth, historical truth, and the truth from people I trust. I would encourage you to do the same. It is only through deep personal exploration of these things that you can move from blind belief to solid faith.
Seek out people you trust to ask questions. You have to have the freedom to seek out the truth for yourself, but sometimes talking with a person who has walked this road before and survived is so helpful.
Here’s the deal though – no matter how much you seek, how much you study, you will always face a “leap of faith.” The gap between the rational and the infinite is still there. You will have to deal with this and make a decision to believe or to reject. You cannot ride the fence on this, because a decision to postpone is tantamount to rejection.
I read some of this man’s work when I was facing this journey, and this quotation put all my feelings into words so perfectly:
Sheldon Vanauken – Yale professor, contemporary of C.S. Lewis
“There is a gap between the probable and the proven. If I were to stake my life on the risen Christ, I wanted proof. I wanted certainty. I wanted to see him eat a bit of fish. I wanted letters of fire across the sky. I got none of these. And I continued to hang about on the edge of the gap . . . it was a question of whether or not I was to accept him – or reject the whole idea. My God! There was a gap behind me as well! I hadn’t realized the dichotomy. Perhaps the leap to acceptance was a horrifying gamble – but what of the leap to rejection? There might be no certainty that Christ was God – but there was no certainty that he was not. This was not to be borne. I could not reject Jesus. There was only one thing to do once I had seen the gap behind me. I turned away from it, and I flung myself over the gap toward Jesus.”