Friday, January 17, 2014

Do You Know Enough to Trust?

Listening to this week’s Stand to Reason’s radio program, Greg Koukl discussed how to build faith with a caller. His answer was that Christian faith is based on the knowledge of God in such a way that results in our action of trust. It’s a definition similar to that which I have long held.

I’ve had passionate discussions with Christians who believe that faith is blind. It’s a common understanding of faith that has been given not by the Bible, but by popular secular philosophy. However, that doesn’t stop people from invoking a poorly understood verse in defense of blind faith:

…for we walk in faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Most people correctly understand “sight” to refer to knowledge. So they believe that this verse teaches that faith is held over and against any kind of knowledge. But if you read the surrounding passages, you understand that this is not what this passage is teaching.

The definition of faith that such a false understanding begs is a belief in something that one cannot know for certain to be true. A phrase commonly used to invoke this kind of definition is "You just have to take it on faith.” The implication is that someone assumes something is true without any evidence. This is not Christian faith.

Look at the verses surrounding 2 Cor. 5:7:

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
(2 Corinthians 5:1-10, ESV)

I have highlighted the word “know” as used in the passage above. “Faith” in this passage clearly involves knowing for certain something about our relationship with God. But that faith is held over and against “sight” is that there are clearly some things we don’t know. Greg Koukl used the example of giving someone a ride who didn’t know where they were going. If you don’t know the person, you don’t know if they are safe or not. But if you know the person, you have a basis on trusting them for the things you don’t know.

So it is that God gives us enough knowledge about himself and keeps enough knowledge from us so that we will need to put our trust in him. So faith is based on certain knowledge.

What unbelievers often point out is that we can’t know these things to be true although the Bible says we can. The fact of the matter is that we actually do have evidence and unbelievers typically dismiss it because that evidence demands that we trust in God. So the knowledge that God has given to inform our faith also demands our trust in him.

So if the knowledge of God is given freely to all people, what makes some people trust God and others not trust God?

I occasionally like to watch Property Brothers. These twin brothers work together to help people find and fix up the home they are looking for. One brother is a real estate agent; the other is a licensed contractor. The other night I watched an episode where the lady they were trying to help kept interfering in their efforts to help her by trying to micromanage them. She is, as we often call such people, a “control freak”. Her problem, as with all control freaks, is that she lacks the ability to trust. Only when they begged her to trust them and she actually stayed out of their hair could they actually get things done and provide the house that she was hoping for.

[This, by the way, is why I despise control freaks. They often vie for leadership positions but fail to engender trust among the teams they end up leading. Control freaks live in fear and pass that fear on to those who work for them.]

People who don’t trust God are essentially control freaks over their own lives. The lady on Property Brothers knew enough to trust that the brothers knew what they were doing. But she didn’t trust because she didn’t know what they knew. Knowing enough is not enough for control freaks.

Trust demands action, or rather the type of action that enables those we must trust to accomplish what they have been equipped to accomplish. God is well equipped to give us eternal lives, especially such as entails new bodies in the resurrection. Was raising Jesus Christ from the dead not enough evidence?

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus back from the grave to warn his brothers about the torment that awaited them after their death so that they would be moved to trust. Abraham replied that they should listen to Moses and the Prophets. If they didn’t trust Moses and the Prophets, they wouldn’t listen to someone who even rose from the dead.

The answer is hinted at in the passage in Corinthians above:

...we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

We love the Lord, and desire to be with him. Therefore, we are open to the evidence and testimony that has been delivered to us over the millennia. We are therefore willing to lay down our lives trusting in his work and promises.

But our faith in him also grows as we practice by trusting our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ. We have each been equipped to serve the body in the proclamation of the gospel and presentation of the knowledge that has been handed down that informs our faith. But we need to trust those who are equipped in ways that we are not. So we get to practice trusting each other and thereby grow in faith in Christ.

Are you a control freak, or are you capable of trusting others? How will you trust Christ if you don’t trust those who he has provided to work with you? Do you have enough knowledge to relinquish the need to know what is outside your ability? No blind faith is required, but we indeed have enough knowledge to trust and our eternal lives depend on it.

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