Many people have a cynical view of faith and they say that it is belief where there is no evidence, or worse, belief despite evidence to the contrary. Some will call it a “leap in the dark,” or as I recall one person having put it: “faith is believing things that just ‘aint so.” Some will turn to Hebrews 11:1 as confirmation that faith is quite blind: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (NRSV)
The first thing we want to notice is that far from being blind, there is quite a lot of evidence for the truth of Christianity. Here is a list of some of the evidence, which I cannot do justice to, but you can research further:
- From the world of science, specifically cosmology, The Kalam Cosmological argument. Basically, what science teaches about the universe having a beginning fits well with what the Bible teaches about God.
- From the world of science, The Fine Tuning Argument. There are constants, such as the force of gravity, that if they were different the universe would not be life permitting. Either we are very, very, very, very, very, very, very lucky that these constants are just so, or life is a result of design, which of course points to a Designer.
- From the world of biology, the complexity of living organisms, actually the complexity even of a single cell, infers the existence of a Designer.
- From the world of philosophy, the Ontological Argument. You just have to look this one up, I can’t even begin to give a summary of it.
- From the world of philosophy and ethics, the Moral Argument. Most people will want to admit that there are actions that ought to be wrong for all people at all times in all places. For example, do you agree that child sacrifice is morally wrong, or should it be allowed as okay in certain cultures? The existence of objective moral standards points to a morality Maker. The alternative is grim indeed.
- From the world of history, the resurrection of Jesus. The simplest and best explanation of the data (the death of Jesus, the near-empty tomb, the changed people who went around saying they had seen Jesus alive) is that Jesus rose from the dead.
- From the world of history, the existence of the Bible. The simplest and best explanation of the existence of the multiple documents from multiple authors from many different times and places that make up a very unified and consistent Bible, is that God really was communicating with people. Further the existence of the documents that make up the New Testament is best explained by the fact that Jesus really did rise from the dead.
- From the world of archaeology. Archaeological finds provide confirmation for many specific people, places, and events in the Bible and also for the general account of the way things were.
- From the world of sociology, the fact that Christianity has been able to spread across the globe, usually quite peacefully. As one hymn writer put it: “Jesus, there’s just something about that name.” Add to this, the positive impact that Christianity has had upon the world.
- From personal experience, the intuition many of us feel, the palpable experience of God’s presence that many of us feel, the experience of miracles that many of us have been witness to.
Perhaps not one of these arguments on their own is a knock-down argument for the truth of Christianity, and personal experience by itself should not always be trusted since we all know of people whose experience has included powerful delusions. However, all these things together provide “a cumulative case” as many apologists have put it. It is a case worth pursuing.
So if becoming a Christian believer is not about taking a blind leap in the dark, but rather is a reasonable step based on the evidence available, what is the author of Hebrews talking about with “the conviction of things not seen”? We can better discover this if we look at the examples given throughout the rest of Hebrews chapter 11. To make it easier, and this article shorter, let us take a test case and consider the Israelites during the exodus from Egypt: “By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned” (Hebrews 11:29 NRSV). Did they have evidence of the existence and power of God? Yes, the path through the Sea was powerful evidence that God certainly exists. But before they “take the plunge” and begin walking, they also need to ask “Does God love us or is He leading us into a watery grave?” Faith is not just a matter of determining if God exists, it is also about whether we should trust Him or not. The Israelites had evidence that they should trust God, given the promises to the patriarchs, the plagues upon Egypt, and the cloud and fire keeping the pursuing Egyptians back. So they step out in faith and cross over, trusting God, who they cannot see, with their future, which they cannot see. Faith is the conviction of things not seen, but it is not blind.
Consider further the list of heroes who faced dire circumstances as related in verses 32-38. These are not examples of people believing in a religion despite the evidence, these are examples of people trusting God with their future despite their current circumstances. As one writer put it, faith is not just believing in God, but believing God. Faith is not blind but is the assurance of things hoped for.
We have already seen, in a very “scratch the surface” kind of way, that there is evidence for the truth of Christianity. But is there evidence that you and I can trust God? Yes:
- Creation is not just evidence that God exists, but evidence that God is love. God could have wiped us out with a flood and enjoyed creation without us. But He chose to keep us in the picture and pursue relationship with us.
- The Bible is evidence that God loves us. People communicate freely and fully when they are in love. God has been communicating with us and revealing Himself to us all along. He would not do this if He did not care.
- Jesus is evidence of God’s love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16 NRSV).
- The Holy Spirit is evidence of God’s love. God has made His presence with us and to us possible. This is evidence of love.
I would never ask a person to take a leap of faith in the dark and become a Christian. But I would ask them to examine the evidence for the truth of Christianity and take a reasonable step of faith. But this is not “taking up religion,” this is trusting God with your life and your future and so taking up your cross and following Jesus. You may not be able to see God, you may not be able to see the details of your future, you may not be able to see love, but that is okay for “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”