Why Do You Believe?
When asked to defend your faith in God, are you able to offer good, sound
reasons for believing as you do? None of this "I just feel it in my heart and I
cannot explain it." nonsense. That is no answer. I cannot think of a single
instance where any disciple in the New Testament responded in such a way. In
fact, they were told to equip themselves so they could do better than that.
"...but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a
defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you,
yet with gentleness and reverence..." (1 Pet. 3:15).
If we are willing (and we ought to be, shame on us if we are not) to put forth the effort to prepare ourselves, it will be of tremendous benefit. First, for our own conviction's stake. If I am fully and reasonably persuaded that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life it will help me to be faithful. It will also help me confidently convey this truth to others. If I am unable to defend my reason for believing to someone who asks, then, in their minds, I will confirm their unbelief. I may not ever be able to answer every question to everyone's satisfaction, but I should be able to give a reasonable account for my faith.
1. Faith has nothing to do with reason. One extreme view is that if something is by faith then it is not by reason because the two are somehow mutually exclusive. Where this view was once extreme, it is becoming more typical today. Some will point to Paul's statement in his first Corinthian letter: "For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." (1 Corinthians 1:21). Paul was not contrasting preaching the gospel with using the intellect here. By the word "wisdom" he is talking about Greek philosophy. God did not choose to save the world through the message of the Greek philosophers, but through the gospel. Preaching the gospel calls upon people to use their intellect and reason (Romans 10:17; Isaiah 1:18; Mark 12:30).
2. Intelligent people will always accept the truth. The second extreme is to suppose that if you do adequately give answer, then the intellectual will accept it and become a Christian. That is not so either. Some suppose that if "smart" people believe something, then it must be so, and if they do not, then it must be wrong. Human prejudice is simply too strong and human pride many times to stubborn to allow a "smart fellow" to say, "I have been wrong." Especially when it comes to Jesus, accepting the truth about Him calls upon a person to make great changes and commitments. Many are simply unwilling to accept this. "For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God... but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." (1 Corinthians 1:18; 23-25).
Some Questions and Answers
1. What about a person who has never heard of Jesus? Is he lost? While there are some things God has not revealed to us, there are some things He has. The Scriptures inform us that God is just (Deuteronomy 32:1-4) and that He loves all of us (John 3:16). We also see that no one is condemned because they have not heard of Jesus. Sinners are condemned because of their sin. If one has never sinned, then he or she does not need a Savior. Sin is what causes a person to be lost (Romans 2:12-16; 3:9; 23).
Jesus is the only antidote for sin, which is a violation of God's law (1 John 3:4). Every human being has enough information about God to begin to search for Him (Psalm 19:1; Jeremiah 29:11-13; Romans 1:19,20). God will answer such searching by sending the message of His Son (Matthew 7:7).
2. Is Jesus the only way to God? There are sincere worshippers in other faiths. But neither sincerity nor the intensity of belief make a wrong idea right. The real issue is not how strongly a thing is believed, but is it correct? If Jesus is who he claimed to be, then He is the only way to God no matter how strongly some may feel otherwise. "Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me." (John 14:6).
3. Why do innocents suffer? If God is all good and all powerful, why is there suffering? If He can stop it, why doesn't He?
Job wondered the same thing. He asked the Lord about it and the Lord did not answer him. Instead, He assured Job of His love and care, reminded Job of His power, and told Job to trust Him (Job 38-42). God simply has not revealed all the information we may like to have, but again, He has told us some things about this. Each case of suffering is either directly or indirectly related to our living in a fallen world. Before the fall, there was no suffering or death, but a warning that there would be if man disobeyed God (Genesis 2:17). The consequences of the fall are briefly summed up in Genesis 3:14-19. Why doesn't God step in and stop it? He will! (2 Peter 3:8-13). But first, He wants to redeem more of us back from our own ruin.
4. Do you really believe in Biblical miracles? How could Jesus walk on water? How could the Red Sea be parted? How could the sun stand still? How could the earth be covered by flood?
The root of the problem is not how God did these things that we know to be contrary to natural order and law. We need not explain the physics involved in walking on water. That's not the point.
If God exists at all, then all these things are possible. If He is the Creator, then He can intervene in that which He has created. He who created water, bodies, gravity, and so forth can do with them what he wants to do. The root question, then, is not "If miracles happened, then how?" but rather "Does God exist?"
Very briefly, some of the answers which suggest the existence of God include: Design in nature (Romans 1:20); Cause and effect (Genesis 1:1); and the fact that His Son came to our world for a visit (John 20:30,31).
If you believe in God, that is good. Far better to know why you believe as well.
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 12.8; August 2005