Faith

LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION COLUMN FOR

March 12, 2016 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129

With the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on the horizon it is possibly appropriate to say a word about “faith.”  It is a popular error to contrast faith and science or faith and reason.  This is a regrettable semantic error which misuses the word “faith” as a synonym for superstition or emotional commitment contrary to reason.  This plays well into the secular or atheistic denial of the truth of the Bible as a book of history and supernatural fact, but it is a semantic ploy which changes the definition of “faith” to suit their world view.

The Greek word translated “faith” in the New Testament is “pistos.”  It is a word that carries a range of meanings.  It can be translated “faith,” or “belief,” or “trust” depending on the context.  In English these three words can carry slightly different meanings.  The truest translation of the Greek would be “trust.”  Trust is always grounded in knowledge.  It is possible that some knowledge may be false.  This is why one should always test the knowledge to ascertain its accuracy before placing one’s trust in any person or proposition.

In the Gospel of Mark a phrase is used by the father of a boy who was epileptic.  Jesus has made a statement about the lack of trust in the gathered crowd.  The father wanted Jesus to cure his son.  Jesus said that anything is possible to those who trust.  The man then spoke some telling words.  “I trust you; help me to trust you more (Mk. 9:24 – paraphrased).”  In other words the man had enough evidence to trust Jesus, but he wanted his trust confirmed.

A useful definition of “faith” is one I have used since seminary days.  “Faith is the resting of the soul in the sufficiency of the evidence.”  Without evidence trust is seriously flawed.  It is not really trust but wishful thinking.

The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is more than sufficient, it is overwhelming. It would include the empty tomb, the failure of the enemies of the early church to refute the claims of the resurrection, the birth of the Church just a few city blocks from the empty tomb within fifty days of the event.  I am not here trying to develop an apologetic so much as to offer an illustration of the ground of trust.  A more detailed study of the resurrection is available on the web site of <Bayshorebaptistchurch.com>.  Look under the heading “Growth,” and then “Bible Study Resources.”

When Jesus is asked to site the greatest commandment he quotes Deuteronomy 6:5.  It is an interesting quotation in the Greek testament.  Love is to be with all one’s heart, soul and mind.  In Deuteronomy the love is to be with all one’s heart, soul and might.   The difference is in the force of the word “soul” in Hebrew.  In Hebrew the soul is the entire person.  In Greek the soul is the immaterial part of the self.  One might miss the idea that the soul in Deuteronomy includes the mind, so the Gospel writer wants to make that clear.

Both love and trust are grounded in evidence.  There must be sufficient reason to trust, and certainly to love.  “Blind faith” is an oxymoron. Trust certainly grows stronger with additional evidence.  It may start as a grain of mustard seed.  But it is never blind.

(Bill Scarle may be contacted at ravscarle@verizon.net). END-whs