Faith vs. Belief in God

What do you think about when you hear the word “google?” I think for most people, the image that comes to mind looks something like this: Google. In fact I recently googled “google” and found that the most popular definition is that it is a verb meaning to use an internet search engine. But prior to the year 2000, the word simply meant 1100 (1 followed by 100 0s). As people start using words in different ways, the official definition of those words tend to change over time to fit their popular usage. One word in which this has unfortunately occurred is with the word “faith.”

In one of my more recent articles I showed how Kate Smurthwaite directly insulted a group of religious people by saying that “faith, by definition is believing in something without evidence.” She then calls anyone who does that an idiot. In that article I explain that Kate was using the wrong definition of the word faith.

In a lecture I heard by J. P. Moreland on the Case for God, Dr. Moreland makes the stunning assertion that according to the Biblical definition of faith, faith has absolutely nothing to do with belief in God. I’ve queued up the video and posted it below:

He goes on to say that faith is absolutely essential when it comes to having a relationship with God, but a relationship with God can only occur after one has knowledge of the existence of God. I think Dr. Moreland hit the nail on the head here. The proper definition of faith as it relates to the Christian religion is active trust. A perfect illustration of this is the story of Charles Blondin, a famous French tightrope walker.

Blondin’s greatest fame came on September 14, 1860, when he became the first person to cross a tightrope stretched 11,000 feet (over a quarter of a mile) across the mighty Niagara Falls. People from both Canada and America came from miles away to see this great feat.

He walked across, 160 feet above the falls, several times… each time with a different daring feat – once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and blindfolded. One time he even carried a stove and cooked an omelet in the middle of the rope!

A large crowd gathered and the buzz of excitement ran along both sides of the river bank. The crowd oohed and aahed as Blondin carefully walked across – one dangerous step after another – pushing a wheelbarrow holding a sack of potatoes.

Then a one point, he asked for the participation of a volunteer. Upon reaching the other side, the crowd’s applause was louder than the roar of the falls!

Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?”

The crowd enthusiastically yelled, “Yes! You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. We believe!”

“Okay,” said Blondin, “Who wants to get into the wheelbarrow.”

As far as the Blondin story goes, no one did at the time![1]

I know that God exists through a combination of the evidence for His existence and His being a living reality in my life. And it is because of this certainty (Luke 1:4) that I can put my trust in him. I live my life and lead my household the way God instructs in the Bible knowing that in so doing, my needs will be met. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34,

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Please understand that the purpose of this article is not to provide an argument for the existence of God or the truth of Christianity but merely to properly illustrate the definition of Biblical faith. I realize that critics may point to the fact that there are people in the world who live in poverty and it may appear that God does not meet their needs. For this I would simply invoke the defensive arguments against the “argument from evil.” But that is not the topic of this article.

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  1. Good article. However, I would only correct your headline “Faith has nothing to do with believing in God.” Actually it does. You need to firmly believe in order to grow in faith.
    Keep up the good work!

    • You need to “firmly believe” what to grow in faith? Believe that God exists? I already addressed this in the article when I said, “faith is absolutely *essential* when it comes to having a *relationship* with God, but a relationship with God can only occur after one has *knowledge* of the existence of God.” We as Christians don’t have to be in doubt about the existence of God. That is something we can know, and once we know, we can grow in our faith.

      • Thanks for your reply.
        Yes, I meant “firmly believe in God”. So as you say, “We as Christians don’t have to be in doubt about the existence of God”, so we must believe in the first place. Without believing there is no grow in faith. That’s what I meant. So faith actually has something to do with believing in God :)
        Hebrews 11:1

  2. Is it faith that saves us? Faith IN Christ, or is it the FAITHFULNESS OF Christ that has become the sacrifice for our sin? I liked your article on the “Sinner’s Prayer”, and I think that there is more to salvation than just “believing” in Christ. Have a look at this article if you get a chance and let me know what you think about it:
    The reason I think this is important is because, just like your Sinner’s Prayer article, according to that line of thought all that we’re responsible to do is believe- almost like God is bound to forgive and save us because of an intellectual or emotional affirmation. God has called man turn from living a life of disobedience to His commandments to making a conscious decision to start a new life in obedience. Jesus even admonished his disciples to “count the costs” first. (Luke 14:27-33). If the correct translation of “pistis” is “faithfulness of” instead of “faith in” many references to faith would mean that Jesus’ faithfulness to do the Father’s will is what justified us (vs. Mosaic works of the Law) instead of our salvation depending on just believing something (James 2:19). That puts the onus back on us to live in obedience with God rewarding us by giving us eternal life. I am not a legalist, but I do feel that the weakening of the church in the US is a result of watered down, feel good theology along the same lines as your Sinner’s Prayer article.

  3. Somebody told you something when you were very young. You loved and trusted them. You believed them. You had faith in what they said without any evidence. It might have been anything, such as “1/2 way around the world, there are pigs that fly.” Depending on where you grew up, it might have been the message of Hindus, Muslims, Catholics, Jews, Protestants or a thousand other different religions practiced in this world. Kate Smurrthwaite was (intentionally) rude and inartful expressing her opinion. But religions ARE followed by people of faith, and to have such faith makes one an idiot. Or do pigs fly?

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