What is faith? A great many Christians I know would quote for me, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I was once one of that number. However, beautifully written that verse is, it is a description of faith, not a definition. A definition is far more involved because of its moving parts.
For a definition, let’s go back a month to the Christmas story and take a look at faith as demonstrated by the shepherds in that account. Hidden in the story of the shepherds as told in the Gospel of Luke lies the very essence of faith—and it is told with eyes wide open.
We have an unknown number of shepherds who are watching their flocks as all good shepherds do. Suddenly, light shines all around them throwing a scare into them. An angel appears and tells them not to be afraid, the Messiah has come. A group of angels joins the first angel telling them that the Messiah brings an era of peace with God and God’s good will to men.
Their hypothesis is that God has done something to bring His good will to all people. But how do they measure the truth to determine if the hypothesis is true?
They are told that they can test the truth by going to Bethlehem where they will find a baby in swaddling clothes in a manger. This baby is the Messiah. The angels leave them to think it over. They decide to conduct the experiment. “Let us now go even to Bethlehem, and see this thing…”
Having a hypothesis and a way to test it, the act to carry out the experiment. They go to Bethlehem—and boom! There’s everything just like the angel said.
In conclusion, “…the shepherds returned (to their flocks), glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told to them.
So, then faith has multiple parts. There is hearing something is true (because God has said it). There is reasoning and discussion about what to think of this possible truth that ends in a decision to investigate. Finally, there is acting on what has been heard to discover if it is indeed as described.
Hearing, deciding, and action—it takes all three to make faith. The result is joy. It is simple science, duplicatable, and standing up to peer review. The Christian faith lives by personal experimentation. It is a far cry from blind, and even further from modern scientific study results bought with money.
My generation as many before it, have been deluded into thinking science and faith are polar opposites whereas both begin with a reasoned supposition, are determined to have objective data to study, and are tested. Reason is the root of both, not the property of only one.
The reason that I have faith is that it has been, and continues to be, tried without alteration in the truth of the experiment’s original hypothesis—taste and see, the Lord is good.