The basis of the Christian life is faith, and it is on this ground that (1) many non-Christians reject the Christian faith and (2) many nominal Christians misunderstand what true faith is.
The common misperception that many have, both believer and non-believer, is that faith is something we have that flies in the face of reason; that is something that really goes against what we know to be true.
We hear statements like "faith is nothing but wishful thinking," "faith is hoping that God exists" or "faith is nothing but a blind leap in the dark." But such a view of faith is not Biblical faith at all.
Right off the bat, let's get one thing straight. Whether we like to admit it or not, all of us live by faith. When I came to work this morning, I did so having faith that every other driver on the road would obey the established rules of the road. Life without some degree of faith is impossible.
Normally, when we think about faith we do so by assuming that by faith we mean some metaphysical postulation in the existence of some invisible being.
Christian apologist Michael Ramsden, in his book "Beyond Opinion," says of the Christian understanding of faith, "Faith is a gift, but it is not the gift of stupidity. It is not being able to believe in things that are not there. Nor is it a blind leap into the dark.
"For example, if I were to say to you, 'I have faith in the British prime minister,' you would not hear me saying, 'I wish to postulate at a philosophical level the existence of an ontological metaphysical entity, which I am labeling British prime minister. I further wish to postulate that given his existence, I am justified in believing in him.'
"No one would ever understand me saying such a thing. Instead, when I say, 'I have faith in the British prime minister,' what they would hear me saying is two things: one, that there is a real person who is the British prime minister -- he actually exists -- and two that I have grounds to trust him -- that I know him to be true to his word and so on.
"It is only in this sense that the Bible uses the word faith. It never carries with it the idea of speculation at a philosophical level ... When Christians talk about having faith, they mean that they have put their trust in someone who is both true and real."
The bottom line is this: you cannot put your faith in someone you do not know exists or whom you feel you cannot trust. This goes totally contrary to the misperception of so many when it comes to this area of faith.
Christian faith is not hoping that God exists, or believing even that he might exist. Those who "lose faith" in light perhaps of some of the difficult questions of life, do not, by losing that faith prove that God is not real; rather they simply prove that their faith was not real.
Such people had no real relationship with this very real God in the first place. But, because they held at one time to some tenants of faith, they think they believed and now think, presumptuously so, that their disappointment (for that is what it usually is) or somehow disillusionment with the faith does not ipso facto mean that God is proven not to be real.
It is only their faith that is proven to have been false or misplaced.
We Christians never have faith in faith itself; rather our faith is linked to an object, and that object is God as revealed in general in nature, God as revealed in particular in the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, and God who revealed himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.