FAITH AND EVIDENCE
See if the following sentiments sound familiar. “Having faith means that you believe in something that you cannot prove.” “When you believe something, you don’t care about evidence, you just trust in what you feel in your heart.” “If you accept something as being true based on the evidence, that is not faith. Faith means that you accept something without real proof.”
These statements are popular notions in our day. Each of them expresses the basic idea that where there is evidence, there is no faith; and, where there is faith, there is no evidence. In other words, faith and evidence do not go together. What about it?
I checked on-line definitions given for the word “faith” by Webster’s New World College Dictionary andThe American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language [all definitions taken on 20 November2010 from http://www.yourdictionary.com]. In one instance, “faith” is defined as “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at ‘belief,’ ‘trust.’” A 2nd definition supplied for “faith” is “unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence.” Note that in both of these cases, “faith” is said to be belief that is not based on evidence or proof.
When I turned around and searched the meaning that these dictionaries give for “evidence,” I made a most interesting discovery. Here is one way that “evidence” was defined: evidence” – “something that tends to prove; ground for belief.” Are you confused? When it comes to “faith,” we are told that it is not based on evidence. But, then the very same source turns around and tells us that “evidence” is the ground or proof of belief or faith. In other words, they tell it “both ways!” So, which is it? In biblical terms, is faith based on proof, or is faith the conviction that exists in one’s mind without proof?
The Book of John is quite helpful in coming to a proper understanding of this topic. After Jesus had a conversation with a woman of Samaria, she went and shared with others the exciting news of the Master’s fabulous insights, saying, “Could this be the Christ?” (John 4:28,29). What happened next? Many of the Samaritans went to where Jesus was. Hear the confession that some of them made to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world” (John 4:42; emphasis mine, rdc). In this instance, what was present on the part of the Samaritans? Did they have faith, evidence, or knowledge? They had all three! That is correct. They saw Jesus with their own eyes and heard Him with their own ears. That was evidence. But, they believed in Him. That was faith. And, they said they knew that He was the Christ. That was knowledge.
Peter later told Jesus, “Also we have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:69). Notice that Peter said that he (and the other apostles) both believed and knew who Jesus was. In the Bible, having knowledge or 100% certainty does not mean that there can be no faith. In addition, we must ask: On what was Peter’s response based? What caused him to believe and know the truth about the Christ? Jesus said that God revealed it (Jesus’ Deity) to Peter (Matthew 16:17). That was evidence. Again, in the case of the apostles three things went hand in hand: evidence, knowledge, faith.
We understand that having the proper evidence and knowledge is no guarantee that people will submit to the Christ. Some saw the evidence of the Lord’s power when He raised Lazarus from the dead. They knew and admitted that He did many miracles, yet they refused to follow Him (John 11:46,47).
“But we have never seen Jesus like people did in the first century. We just have to accept Him without any proof.” Not true! There is more than one way to prove the validity of something. There were also Christians in the first century who did not see Jesus in person, yet they believed in Him and loved Him (1 Peter 1:7,8). Their response was based on the evidence. Eyewitnesses saw Jesus after He rose from the dead. Their testimony is reliable proof (1 Corinthians 15:5-8). Go back to the Book of John. What was John’s purpose in recording what he did about the earthly life of Jesus? “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). Did you see that? John supplies the proof of Jesus’ Deity.
Look at it this way. We have never seen heaven or hell, yet we believe in their existence, right? How did we conclude that there really are such places? We may not say it out loud in every instance, but here is the basic thought process through which we go. There is evidence to prove that God exists (Romans 1:18-20). Next, there is evidence to prove that the Bible really is God’s word (2 Timothy 3:16). Thus, because the Bible is the word of the trustworthy God Who does not lie (Titus 1:2), it becomes the reliable, convincing evidence for everything that we believe. The Bible is the authoritative message of the living God. So, while many people talk as if “faith” means believing when there is no evidence, in fact, where there is no proof, there cannot be real faith! (Hebrews 11:1).
Follow the evidence. Apply the Law of Rationality, which states that we must draw only those conclusions that are warranted by the evidence. In the matter of faith, it is quite simple: no proof means no faith, period. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, which is our evidence (Romans 10:17).
Biblical faith is conviction that is based on the proof provided, with that conviction or persuasion leading to trust and submission. We cannot prove in a laboratory that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead on the third day. The evidence is there, though, my friend, it is there! (1 Corinthians 15:3,4). Do not be deceived into accepting modern-day concepts and philosophies that contradict Bible truths.
— Roger D. Campbell