I recently had a stimulating discussion with my housemate Jérémie about faith. Yes, faith, that simple starting point to following Jesus that we love to talk about all the time. “Justification by faith alone”; “just have more faith”; “defending the faith.” These phrases get thrown around frequently, but what is this thing that we keep referring to and what is it based on?
Often, we speak of faith as a simple belief. To have faith in Jesus Christ means that we believe certain facts about him, particularly that he is the Son of God, and that he died and rose again. Likewise, to have faith in God is often meant as mere belief in God’s existence.
This simple belief is generally grounded in two sources. We feel we can have faith if there is sufficient historical evidence that Jesus really did resurrect or that the Bible is accurate. So we turn to apologetics. Or, we turn to our own experience of God. We look back at times that God has provided, or perhaps a miracle that we have experienced. We point to those things and say, yes, I can have faith in God.
Yet when we treat faith as belief alone, we reduce it to intellectual consent. Yes, faith includes belief, but faith is much more. It is the committing of the self to Jesus, dedicating oneself to following him. Belief is simply the beginning; true faith dedicates and draws us after Christ.
If faith is more than just belief, then solely basing our faith on historical evidence or our own experience doesn’t work. Often when we look at historical evidence or our own experience, we are seeking reasons to soothe our intellects when we say we believe. These things can encourage and boost our faith, but if faith is more than just intellectual recognition, then our faith cannot be dependent on them.
So, what is the grounds of faith? This is where I have to delightfully admit that I do not entirely know. I do so delightfully because it means I have once again hit the wall of mystery where my mind cannot penetrate and so my spirit must simply worship. I can say with confidence that the Spirit is involved and at work, but I do not know exactly what that looks like. It is a mystery.
For a modern, rationalistic mindset, mystery is uncomfortable. We do not like the idea of going beyond reason, let alone that faith might be more than an intellectual assent dependent on evidence. Yet mystery is a fundamental part of our Christian life. We are not promised answers as Christians. Jesus says “follow me.” He does not invite us to a seminar promising resolution. He invites us to participate in the very life of God through and with him – something that is mysterious enough in itself.
May we be enraptured by the mystery that lies at the very beginning of our pursuit of Christ – the mystery of faith.