God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.1 Cor 1:9
What it is:
The experience of faith is common to all of us. Unconsciously, we have faith every day in the brakes of our car working, in the stair we step on not collapsing under us, in the email we send arriving safely. We cannot know beyond any doubt that all those things will be true. Sometimes brakes fail, buildings collapse, and emails are lost. But in order to function normally, we must have faith in our experience of the reliability of these things (while also doing anything necessary to keep them in good repair!)
On a deeper level, we have faith in our friends and particular family members: we believe from experience that they can be trusted, and so we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to them.
We learn to have selective faith in what we are taught or read or hear: testing it against reason, experience and the trustworthiness of authority, and then accepting it even if we have no means to “prove” it ourselves.
Faith in God is like all these things. It is trusting a Person because our experience, our reason and trustworthy authorities give us confidence to do so. We cannot prove God’s existence or any quality about God beyond any doubt, but we choose to step out on that faith journey, trusting that the ground will be solid beneath us, our vulnerabilities will be carried gently, and God’s teachings will provide a lamp for our feet.
What it is not:
- Faith is not gritting your teeth and believing something despite all the evidence to the contrary, refusing to listen to the thoughts of others. That is not faith: that is stubbornness. Honest doubt is far closer to faith than this is.
- Faith in this sense doesn’t refer to “faith in yourself”. Christianity recognises the futility of pulling yourself up by your own boot straps! But see point (2) below.
- Faith is not in opposition to reason. Martin Luther King wrote, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Yes, it involves trust, but that trust is founded on a reasonable belief that most staircases lead somewhere.
- Christian faith is not adherence to a string of instructions or even doctrines, but trust in God. It is relational, and grows as your relationship with God grows.
- Faith is not blind. Again, it is relational. You would not allow someone you did not trust to lead you blindfolded near a cliff. That is not faith: that is stupidity!
What makes this a Christian value?
- Faith is a Christian value when it is faith in the Christian God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
- “Faith in yourself” is a humanist value, not a Christian value. However, because we have faith in God, we know we are loved, we know we have purpose, we know we are created unique, we know there is Someone who can give us strength to work through every hardship. As a result, we gain everything that ‘faith in ourselves’ could give us, but with a far firmer foundation.
- Faith in God’s faithfulness gives support to a string of other values.
- It means we can have courage no matter what the circumstances.
- It means we can view the purposeful creation as a source of unending mystery and depth and scope for creativity
- It should give us strength to live lives of integrity and honesty, since our security is in God.
- The reality of a God who loves each other person should give rise in us a respect for the other, and the humility that comes from putting another first.
- If we are to mirror God’s faithfulness, we must be good stewards of the world God has given us.