(This article was originally published in December 2012.)
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6 NIV)
I recently found out that a friend of mine is no longer a Christian. After making it through high school, college, and early adulthood with his faith intact, he decided that it didn’t make sense anymore. I actually admire his dedication to searching out the truth—he was contemplating going overseas as a missionary, and he thought that if he would be putting people’s lives in danger by sharing the Gospel with them, he should make sure he really believed it. With every expectation that he would only strengthen his faith, he devoted the better part of a year to reading “both sides” and ended up on the other one. I was deeply saddened to hear of his “un-conversion,” and I couldn’t help but think how much more profitably all his time could have been spent if he had devoted it to seeking God.
Now, I am not at all opposed to using reason. God gave us brains and eyes; he never asked us to have blind faith. Given the tendency of the human psyche toward confirmation bias, it’s especially important for us to consciously consider arguments against our current beliefs. For example, since our faith rests on the direct revelation of the Bible, we should take seriously the questions people have about it. How do we know that what we have is what the authors really wrote? How did these books become canon while other writings didn’t? How does our evidence for the Bible compare to that for other holy books? When you’re talking about believing in the supernatural, it makes sense to apply science to the aspects that are verifiable.
However, the problem with confirmation bias is that it works both ways—you might give too much credence to your doubt. I just don’t think you can reason your way into faith. God chooses to keep himself somewhat mysterious. It seems cruel—why doesn’t he just give everyone proof that he exists so that we can stop arguing?
I don’t pretend to know the mind of God, but I think the reason doesn’t just want acknowledgement of his existence (James 2:19), or even obedience (Mark 12:33). He wants a relationship. You can’t have a relationship with a bunch of platitudes; you can’t meet someone once and know them fully. Relationships are developed by spending time together.
He’s not asking us to believe without evidence. Jesus appeared to many people in person after his resurrection—people who were willing to die for that belief. If you’ve never met a follower of Christ, Psalm 19 tells us that nature testifies on God’s behalf. Even our own experience can lead us toward him.
Nor does God keep secret how we will find him, only that we “…will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29 NIV). He arranged all of history “so that they [all nations] would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27 NIV).
I hope you do keep an open mind about your faith. Especially in the small things, some of us cling to our opinions as if they were, well, the Gospel truth, when in fact there is plenty of room for disagreement in the family of God. But I hope you never let a search for truth lead you away from the reality that a supernatural God can’t be contained by either your brain or your heart; he must be known by both.
Abigail’s email address is in the directory.