What is Biblical Faith?

The term “faith” is often maligned. Mark Twain is famous for saying, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.” In a similar vein, the atheist evangelist, Richard Dawkins, argues that faith is merely “belief without evidence” or even a process of intentional non-thinking.[1] I find this to be disingenuous. I argue that biblical faith is more akin to an earned trust like that between a husband and wife. I have faith based on an earned trust in my spouses’ character. According to a theological dictionary it refers both to intellectual belief and to relational trust or commitment.[2] Accordingly, my faith is based on evidence.

Christians should be cautious about how they represent their faith. The Gospel of John is an evidential argument based on the signs done by Jesus that is designed to produce a faith response (Jn 20:38). The Bible is a proven entity. It has stood the test of time for thousands of years and continues to change lives. It merits trust from its proven historical veracity, fulfilled prophecy and from the transcendent self-authenticating quality of Jesus’ teachings. Accordingly, biblical faith is more akin to earned trust than the blind leap that skeptics argue for. In fact, faith as derived from the Hebrew prophet Habakuk is a cornerstone of New Testament theology.

The famous quote from Habakuk reads, “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith” (Hab 2:4). It is quoted by Paul in Galatians 3:11, Romans 1:17 and arguably also by Paul in Hebrews 10:38. When read together devotionally, it seems to connect the three books. In fact, Martin Luther used this passage to start the reformation theology of “justification by faith.” It seems that the Catholic Church had become like the errant Galatians in thinking that they must earn their salvation. Luther’s idea coheres nicely with the theme from Galatians that we are not saved by works of the law rather the law becomes our task master. Men like to take credit for their accomplishments which is why the Gospel is so counterintuitive. But we cannot justify ourselves, God does it for us by his grace. For me, that distinguishes Christianity from manmade religions. Men would never make it up since they couldn’t somehow take credit. The central message of Galatians is “a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (2:16). In light of the modern propensity to obfuscate faith, I think one could render that “through trust in Jesus Christ” just as correctly.

[1] Richard Dawkins, “Is Science a Religion?” American Humanist Association. http://www.thehumanist.org/humanist/articles/dawkins.html (accessed June, 19, 2011).

[2]Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki and Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 50.

The Trademark of a Cult: Faith vs. Works

A cult is any group that defines itself in Christian terms, but denies one or more of the essentials of historic biblical Christianity. For example, the many Mormons that have recently posted here want to be considered true Christians, and even use Christian language borrowed from scripture, but always with a tell tale flaw. While they may use the Christian vocabulary, they do not use the normal Christian definitions. The fundamental doctrine of grace is good example.

We like to take pride in our accomplishments. Yet, the bible teaches that “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags,” (Is 64:6). It seems very counterintuitive that salvation is not something you can earn with your good behavior but that it is a free gift from God. Paul wrote to the Ephesian church,“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. ” (Eph 2:8–9)

This doctrine of unmerited grace appears in no other world religion. It is just not the sort of idea men would come up with, thus I believe it is an authenticating characteristic of Christianity. Accordingly, the converse is a sure mark of a cult. Men like Joseph Smith or Charles Taze Russell always pervert the Gospel into a personal achievement.

Cults like Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses make good works the means of salvation. Joseph Smith was brazen enough to add to God’s word in his crudely crafted work of fiction. He wrote, “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). This exactly what one would expect in a man-made religion. Yet, surely our behavior counts?

In converse, Christianity makes salvation the means of good works. James the brother of Jesus wrote, that “faith without works is dead” (Jms. 2:17). Cults often use this argument by James to justify their works based salvation. It may seem that James is contradicting Paul’s teaching yet really he is not. James is addressing false converts, who claim to be Christians but show no evidence of it in their lives. When read in context, James’ point is not that works are the basis for salvation but the result of it.

If you are a Christian, this is a sure way to guard against pride. The next time you feel some well deserved satisfaction in your works, consider this:

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ” (Eph 2:10)

According to scripture, it wasn’t even your idea! Doesn’t leave much to boast on… does it?

Why Christianity is Different From Mormonism

Cris, I haven’t seen you appeal to anything for proof of the authenticity of your system of belief that is any different, or any more persuasive, than the things that millions of Mormons appeal to for proof of the LDS system. Or Muslims or Buddhists, for that matter. I don’t understand why you think you’re somehow different.

It’s not that I think I am different. It’s that I think Christianity is different. All of those religions have contradictory truth claims, they can not all be right. So the challenge is to do some honest investigation. When you do biblical Christianity comes out on top as utterly distinct. It is not even close. (follow the blue hyperlinks for documentation)

I’m not appealing to my feelings or a “burning in my bosom”. I appeal to the accuracy of the New Testament transmission. I appeal to the historical veracity of the Bible as verified by archeology. I appeal to the 100’s of prophecies fulfilled in Jesus. The accurate prophecies concerning nations like Israel, Tyre, Greece and Rome. I appeal to the historical argument for Jesus resurrection which you can find presented and defended on this site. Joseph Smith was dragged from jail and beaten to death for being a con man, Buddha has a grave, Muhammad has a grave, Jesus has an empty tomb and lots of evidence supporting his resurrection. This is exactly where Mormonism utterly fails. Textual criticism shows the book of Mormon to be plagiarized. Archeology and DNA science has proven the book of Mormon to be false. There are also numerous documented false prophecies given by Smith.

I don’t think I am any different, just blessed, and I want you to find the truth as well.

Tilting at Windmills: Why We Believe in the Historicity of Jesus

To my way of thinking, you simply cannot be a Christian without believing in the historicity of Jesus Christ. In fact, the standard is well above historicity but more on that later. Strangely, some liberal mainline churches disagree. The fact that it needs to be addressed is not disputed, albeit a sad circumstance. I suppose their doubt spawns from the murky waters of a post modern culture that views truth as relative and vacuous. Yet to call one’s self a Christian without believing in a real man named Jesus of Nazareth, that walked the shores of Galilee, is like Don Quixote tilting at windmills. It is absurd.

The unanimously accepted historical facts really don’t make any sense without Jesus. The purpose of the BC / AD dating system was to make the birth of Jesus Christ the dividing point of world history.[1] Why would that be the case, apart from a real man making a huge impact?  The early Christian church started in Jerusalem amongst the Jews. If you go to Israel you will discover that the Sabbath is still taken very seriously today. The elevators stop on every floor because pushing the button is considered work. How can you explain the fact that so many pious Jews abandoned the Saturday Sabbath for Sunday worship apart from a belief that Jesus rose on Sunday? How could you possibly account for the rapid rise of the Christian church amongst ferocious Roman and Jewish persecution apart from the fact that a really important man named Jesus of Nazareth actually lived? And how do you explain all the willing martyrs? Why would anyone die or withstand torture for a myth? Considering his impact on history, at the bare minimum don’t you think there must have been a real man named Jesus of Nazareth?

The accounts in the Bible are powerful evidence he existed even if you don’t accept the claims of miracles. For instance, critical scholars widely agree that Paul’s letters were written very close to the time that Jesus lived. Let’s talk about 1 Corinthians which is dated at A.D. 55/56.[2] In that letter Paul uses a preexistent creed that claims over 500 eyewitnesses to the resurrected Jesus and dates back, some scholars date say to within two years of Jesus death.[3] Dr Habermas maintains that “Critics not only admit this data, but were the first ones to recognize the early date.”[4] In addition, there are many secular sources that discuss Jesus as a historical figure. For example, the Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus (ca. AD 55-120) wrote in his work the Annals,

Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, [5]

So you can see that he readily acknowledges the historicity of Jesus and his crucifixion by the Roman procurator Pontius Pilot just like the Gospels maintain. Even the Jewish historian Josephus acknowledges that Jesus lived and had a following.[6] I’m only scratching the surface perhaps take a look at the book The Case for Christ.

Despite the assertions of the neo atheists faith is not belief without evidence. Faith is firmly based on evidence. For instance, a husband has faith in his wife because he knows her track record and character from real space time history. With this faith in tow, when he sees her in a conversation with a strange man he does not feel jealous because of this well founded faith. However, if his wife had a track record of infidelity this faith would be misplaced indeed. If Jesus of Nazareth was not a true historical figure the Christian faith is likewise misplaced.

Christianity is better understood as a relationship than religion, a relationship with a real risen Lord. Christians not only affirm historicity, they maintain that Jesus is God incarnate. Our faith is evidenced by a real historical event, the resurrection. Jesus rose from the dead and authenticated his ministry for all time. No other religion has such a claim. The Apostle Paul affirmed this clearly back in the first century, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Co 15:14, ESV) Thus apart from affirming the historicity of Christ and his resurrection, you cannot be called, in any meaningful way, a Christian.

[1] Myers, Allen C. The Eerdmans Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987.p. 58

[2] Strobel, Lee. The Case For Christ. Grand Rapids MH: Zondervan, 1998. p.213.

[3] Ibid. p.30.

[4] Habermas, Gary R. The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. Joplin,MO: College Press Publishing Company, 1996.p.30.

[5] Ibid. p.188.

[6] Ibid. p.192.