Re the opinion column “Living in faith and gratitude” by Bill Fox, April 29, 2020.
While I sincerely appreciate Mr. Fox’s intent to encourage gratitude and hope through faith, I find his sentiments provide somewhat of a shaky basis for those very things.
Faith doesn’t occur in a vacuum. There is always an object to one’s faith. The question is, “Is that object a trustworthy recipient of someone’s trust?” The popular trend to consider all religions as basically the same skirts around that question and, what is more, does not hold up to scrutiny. Religions are profoundly different from each other when it comes to providing answers to the key questions that all religions (even atheism) address regarding the nature of God, humankind and the meaning of life.
The column does a particular disservice to Christianity by lumping it in with the definition of faith as “Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.”
The ancient Greek word “pistis” is used for the idea of “faith” in the New Testament. Some of the aspects that this word includes are the ideas of being persuaded, of logic and even sometimes of being evidence for an argument. Christianity is a historical faith, meaning that its core tenet of trust in Jesus Christ rests on the actual historical reality of certain facts, namely the death of Christ and his physical, bodily resurrection back to life. The writer of a good chunk of the New Testament, Paul the Apostle, bluntly states that if Christ did not rise from the dead then, in terms of their personal spiritual security, a Christian’s faith is useless. The scholar C.S. Lewis put it this way, “Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance.” The only reason that someone should become a Christian is because it is true.
In one sense, Mr. Fox isn’t completely wrong. Many have come to Christ because of a personal experience of God or through having a vision of Jesus. However, with many others, God also uses the objective evidence of the resurrection of Christ to draw them into an eternal relationship with Himself. This is the route taken by many who started out to prove that there was no convincing evidence for Christ’s resurrection, discovered that they were wrong and then did the intellectually honest thing, they invited Christ to be their Lord and Saviour. (For example, see “The Case for Christ” by former atheist and Legal Editor for the Chicago Tribune, Lee Strobel.)
Similarly, motivation for the “works” of faith that Mr. Fox rightfully extols doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The sacrifice that Christians undertake for others is strongly influenced by the recognition that people must be of tremendous value if God himself was willing to pay such a terrible cost so that people could choose not to be separated from him. The resurrection is evidence for God’s extravagant love, and historical facts are evidence for the resurrection.
If our faith is based just on wishful thinking, then we have a very shaky hope. In contrast, the evidence-based historical truth of Christ’s resurrection enables a personal relationship with him and that provides a sure and certain hope for both our present and our future, even in uncertain times like these.
Brian W Brasier