Abraham’s Thoughtful Faith

Often people characterise faith as the opposite of thinking. It’s a blind leap in the dark. Friedrich Nietzsche, the nineteenth century atheist philosopher said, “Faith is not wanting to know what is true”. A little more modern example is Richard Dawkins:

“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”

Tim Minchin, the Australian comedian agrees:

“Science adjusts its views based on what’s observed. Faith is the denial of observation so that belief can be preserved.”

This is a common opinion now, but it is not the view of the Bible, and Abraham is a great example of thoughtful faith. In Genesis 15 we read:

‘He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.’ (Genesis 15:5-6)

What was it that caused Abraham (his name was changed from Abram in Genesis 17) to trust God? Paul tells us in Romans 4:

“Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” (Romans 4:20-21)

Abraham was fully persuaded that God had the power to grant him as many descendants as the stars. He didn’t just take a leap in the dark, or leave all reason behind, he reasoned his way to his faith. Abraham did a similar thing when God called him to sacrifice Isaac:

“Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead” (Heb 11:19)

Abraham worked from what he knew about God and then reasoned his way to trusting him. That’s what faith is, it’s trust. It’s not a leap in the dark. Trust is given to the one who is trustworthy. Abraham reasoned that God had the power to do what he promised. His faith was based on evidence. Christians also believe based on evidence. The key claim of Christianity is an historical one: Jesus of Nazareth physically rose from the dead. The eye witness testimonies of the risen Jesus lie at the heart of the New Testament’s evidence for Christian faith. Christians believe because they investigate the evidence and find it convincing. It’s logical. It’s reasonable. It’s based on historical observations. It’s based on evidence. Christian faith is no cop-out. In fact one might suggest that deliberately ignoring the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection is to ‘evade the need to think and evaluate evidence’.