By Dr. Don Bierle, FaithSearch President
Following His parable on prayer, Jesus asked, “…when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8b). Did He intend this to be yet another sign of the end times: the extinction of biblical faith?
In a recent article,* author Travis Dickinson relates a conversation between an atheist and a Christian college student:
Atheist: What do you mean by faith?
Christian: Like, belief that God is God, that He is the almighty Savior.
A: Are you saying faith is just belief?
C: Uh huh.
A: Does just believing in something make that something true?
C: No. Just believing in Santa Claus doesn’t make it true. [laughing].
A: So, if someone just believed in Santa, this doesn’t make Santa true?
C: No, there’s no evidence for Santa.
A: Is there evidence for a God?
C: Uh huh.
A: What’s the best one?
C: There’s a lot. Like I said, there’s a lot. [Thinking to herself] I have to think. You are putting me on the spot. I have them written down.
A: I’m not saying that the evidence is not true, but if all that evidence was found to be nonreliable, would that change your confidence that the [sic] God is real?
C: No. [laughs] It really wouldn’t.
A: So, it is not really about evidence either for you?
C: No, it’s just about faith.
A: What is your definition of “faith”?
C: I think faith is an internal feeling. I have this feeling in me that I know God is real. I can’t explain it.
The author calls the Christian’s response “cringeworthy.” I’d call it painful! Perhaps an even worse description of faith is the caricature I had in my own agnosticism years ago, “Faith is believing what you know isn’t true!” Many Christians today have little conviction about the need to defend faith with evidence and reason.
Christian philosopher and theologian, Francis A. Schaeffer, quoted J. S. Bezzant’s response to Christians who say their faith is immune from proof [reason]: “When I am told that it is precisely its immunity from proof which secures the Christian position from the charge of being mythological, I reply that immunity from proof can ‘secure’ nothing whatever except immunity from proof and call nonsense by its name” (Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, p. 120, quoting Bezzant’s writing in Objections to Christian Belief, 1963).
The premise of the new street epistemologists, an atheist activist group, is that the Christian faith is irrational. Equipped with an array of tools to negate religious faith, their goal is to cause Christians to abandon their faith and embrace reason. The Christian college student quoted above only reinforced their premise.
Wait a Minute!
Must we “trash” the college student’s faith because she could not come up with an apologetic reason to support it? Well, yes and no. “No,” in consideration of one very important biblical truth: the apostle Paul makes clear that “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16). Perhaps that was the confidence she was “feeling.” A life-transformation occurs when a person becomes a Spirit-filled Christian, a truth taught throughout the New Testament. Many Christians have experienced this. “Yes,” because she should have been prepared (1 Peter 3:15) to say that. The testimony of our changed life is foundational apologetic evidence which the atheist can’t deny.
Can FAITH be REASONABLE?
The key to distinguishing the faith of Christianity from the faith of every other religion is its faith OBJECT. Without an object, faith is only “faith in faith,” a subjective feeling. There can be no lasting confidence for the holder, and it is not persuasive to anyone else either. That kind of faith is doomed to extinction no matter how sincerely it is held.
For over forty years I have traveled the country (and the world) doing presentations on faith. I always ask, “What is the object of your faith?” The appeal to faith itself is evangelistically ineffective; faith without an object is destined for extinction. Jesus’ question above was clearly seeking for something more.
In the next issue of the Paraclete I will explain what the Bible means by “faith.” I will show how it is reasonable and unique compared to every other religion in the world.
I want Jesus to find faith on the earth when He comes again!
* “Street Epistemology: The New Atheist Evangelism.” Christian Research Journal, Vol. 40, No. 06, p. 36