Jan 29, 2022
6A. The Final Word on Faith ...Yeah, right…
What “faith” really refers to,
The problems that non-Christians have with the idea, and
To what extent are these problems solvable?
1. The problem.
At this point, in my best judgement, the preponderance of evidence supports the
claim that Jesus was the prophesied Jewish Messiah — especially, now that my
interim conclusion re the prophecies themselves is supportive…
There remain, however, 2 flies in my particular ointment — other than the fact that I’m
alluding to only a “preponderance” of evidence so far (there is plenty of reasonable
A. We are required to accept prophecy and the supernatural in general — when so far,
I can only lean in their directions. And
B. We are supposed to accept that unless we believe in, have faith in, Jesus, we
cannot get into Heaven — and there are at least 4 ways in which such a stance seems
problematic to me.
2. Definition of “Faith.” Firm belief in something for which there is no proof.
3. Definition of “Faith in Jesus.” A strong — at least somewhat “direct” (without
evidence, mystical) — belief in Jesus and his teachings.
4. As used in the New Testament.
Mat 6:30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to
morrow is cast into the oven, [shall he] not much more [clothe] you, O ye of little
faith? (King James Version)
Mat 17:20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto
you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain,
Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible
unto you. (KJV)
Mark 5:36. “Don’t be afraid; only believe.”
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that
whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Jhn 20:29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast
believed: blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed.
Rom 3:26 To declare, [I say], at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and
the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. 27 Where [is] boasting then? It is
excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we
conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (KJV)
Romans 4:1-3 — 4:1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our ancestor according to
the flesh,1 has discovered regarding this matter?2 4:2 For if Abraham was declared
righteous3 by the works of the law, he has something to boast about–but not before
God. 4:3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was
credited4 to him as righteousness.”5 (Netbible)
2 Cor 4:18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are
not seen: for the things which are seen [are] temporal; but the things which are not
seen [are] eternal. (KJV)
Heb 4:12 For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two
edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the
joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not
“This verse defines faith. Substance here means ‘the confident expectation.’ Faith
rejoices without seeing or understanding what God is doing (2 Corinthians 4:18).”
Eph 2:8 — For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it
is the gift of God; (Netbible)
2 Pe 1:19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye
take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day
star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of
any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of
man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost. (KJV)
5. My Problems within the Christian perspective. Superficially at least, I
perceive four basic problems with the Christian belief that in order to go to Heaven
(and not go to Hell) a person must “have faith in Jesus.”
4A. Christians seem to be asking us to believe in Jesus uncritically. They
seem to be asking that we withhold our own judgement, and simply take the
word of the New Testament as ‘gospel.’ But, how can we do that?
4A5. My answer so far.
– We humans have two ways of thinking: one is analytic and critical; the other is
holistic and intuitive (Click here).
– Christians may not know about this clearly physiologically based dichotomy,
but they generally accept its ramifications none the less. Normative Christianity
accepts that we need to be critical and to judge the evidence pro and con. But it
also believes that there is another way of thinking that simply recognizes the
truth directly. (Science would say that this second way of thinking simply
recognizes — or imagines — the truth directly.)
– Then, according to Christians, reading the Bible, going to church, talking to
Christians, all put one in touch with the truth — and then, if one has “ears to
hear,” one will recognize the truth for what it is. (Click here.)
4B. Christians urge us to “have” faith, and seem to be implying that a person can
simply turn faith on by force of will. But true faith would seem to be
involuntary, and dependent upon intuition, if not evidence. How can the truth
4B5. My answer so far.
A. For one thing, what is often meant when we are urged to have faith, or to
“keep the faith,” is actually to demonstrate faith – by, say, stepping
into the Red Sea, or by simply doing what we think that G-d would have
us do (even though it requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice). Whatever,
sometimes when it comes to faith, we are being urged to do things that
are difficult, but not involuntary.
B. And then, often we are being urged to develop faith – which, it turns out,
is also something that we can deliberately do. (Click here.)
C. Also, the “second way of thinking” as discussed in the link above,
naturally appreciates religious concepts, and we can deliberately turn on,
and, to some extent, keep on, that way of thinking… Maybe, we’re simply
being urged to deliberately stay on the sunny side of the street. Maybe, we
can just avoid walking in the shadows if we try hard enough.
D. Also, it turns out that the Jesus idea we are urged to have faith in, is at
least somewhat hardwired into our genes, and when we are urged to have
faith in Jesus, we are actually being urged to look for that match – which
is also something that we can voluntarily do … (Click here.)
E. An idea I’ve encountered in my own thinking is that maybe I can make it true —
and while this appears totally unreasonable, I can wonder that we can’t
really express or even conceive of the real truth here, but that “make it true” is
as close as we can come…
F. And finally, there are such things as self-hypnosis and ‘subliminal advertising.’
In other words, we humans do have a way of creating a belief by sheer force
of will — and maybe we can do that by saying, to ourselves, “I think I can. I
think I can.” enough times. And then, if as argued above, we humans have
the sense of G-d and Jesus hard-wired into our genes, all we’re doing with the
self-hypnosis, or subliminally advertising for Jesus, is creating a round peg for
the round hole we already have.
G. And really finally, there’s the reasonable possibility that, somewhere “down
deep,” we know it’s true but for whatever reasons, at some level, do not want
to consciously recognize it, and what we’re really being urged to do here, is
simply … “Wake, or face, up!”
4C. Christians say that it is by “Grace” alone that we have faith, and that who
ultimately receives faith has nothing to do with his own efforts or his “percentile
rank” on the deserving chart. How could that be a religion of free will and
4C5. My answer so far.
– Most Christians believe that G-d does offer Faith and Salvation to everyone —
that’s the Grace part — but, it’s up to each of us, individually, to accept the offer —
that’s the free will part.
– If these same Christians were to “parse” their own beliefs in this area, they
would see that “taking” G-d’s offer here does require some effort on our parts.
Salvation may not depend upon good works, but it does depend upon effort —
recognizing, and then accepting, G-d’s Grace is not easy.
– These Christians would say that the truth of Jesus is somehow, inherently,
known to us, but only in a whisper, and naturally requires a lot of work to hear it
and to then pay attention.
– And that’s the easy part. It’s accepting the offer that’s so hard.
Accepting G-d’s offer, requires that we sacrifice our own egos… And, that‘s the
4D. Due to our ‘luck of the draw’ circumstances, our potentials for having faith in
Jesus should vary enormously from one person to another — and some of us
should have no potential at all due to our circumstances. How could a Just G-d
create a world like that?
4D5. My answer so far. (As Jack Benny once said.) “I’m thinking! I’m thinking!”
5. So, what’s the story?
A. It seems to me that I have satisfactorily answered the first three objections.
– Christians are not asking us to withhold our own judgement (though they can
get confused on that point) — they are asking us to look beneath our own
surface for a match with Christian doctrine.
– Secondly, at least most of the time that Christians are asking us to “have faith,”
they are, indeed, referring to behavior that we can voluntarily do.
– And thirdly, while reaching heaven is not based upon good works, it is based
upon good intentions and hard work.
B. The fourth objection, however, is still a problem. Would a Just G-d allow a
severely retarded Bushman baby to go to hell? Or what’s worse, could a Just G-d not
give us all equal opportunities?
6. Possible partial solutions to the equal opportunity problem.
A. Reincarnation is a fact of life and we all have numerous chances at salvation.
B. Nobody really goes to Hell.
C. Some people aren’t real, and we don’t have to worry about them!
D. We can experience G-d’s Kingdom during life, and being saved has to do
with experiencing G-d’s Kingdom, here and now, rather than with going to
Heaven when we die.
E. The Son may be the only way to the Father, but “Son” may just represent the
idea of G-d incarnate. It could be that what we need is an exquisitely
‘personal’ sense of G-d – and immersing oneself in the Jesus story is just (by
far?) the easiest way to do that.
F. It could be that the Son being the only way to the Father was really intended for
a somewhat specific audience, and for others, there are other ways.
G. It could be that this is the only way for the “common man” to experience the
Kingdom – especially for the common man of Jesus’ day and environs – but
that uncommon men can experience the Kingdom through other means.
Buddhism for instance?
H. Perhaps, Jesus had to state his case simplistically in order to have it
appreciated by His audience — and, there are other answers for other people.
I. Perhaps, the New Testament is somewhat errant.
J. Perhaps, normative Christianity misinterprets the New Testament in places.
K. Perhaps, I’m trying to understand something that defies — at least current — human
understanding. But G-d has it figured out.
7. Interim conclusion?
A. There do seem to be possible combinations of disclaimers, reasonable to
non-Christians, that would reasonably solve the equal opportunity problem. They
all seem to involve, however, some revision to the normative Christian
B. It would seem that the only solution that does not involve some degree of
Christian revision is the last disclaimer (6K) by itself. Unfortunately(?), in my opinion
at least, there is substantial reason for thinking that 6K is, in fact, the case. Look at
C. Probably, most Christians accept that there seems to be a problem here, just that
they have faith — based upon what has gone before in their own experience and
understanding — that G-d has a good answer…
D. And keep in mind that we’re talking about magic and true love, here — where all
bets are off and anything is possible.
E. Whatever … this is getting ahead of the game, in the sense that it has much more to
do with the probability of accepting Jesus into my life than it has to do with the
probability that Jesus was the prophesied Jewish Messiah…
– Whatever, whatever, however, all this thought is making me wonder about some
serious errancy — at least in the normative Christian interpretation of Jesus’
teachings, if not in the New Testament itself. Please read on — my explanation here is
probably not as bad as it first sounds. And besides, my opinions have been known to
A. The striking thing about the Christian religion is that “faith in Jesus” — rather than
“good works” — is what gets a person into Heaven.
B. While through hard work and good intentions we can, apparently, influence our
ability to receive faith, it seems clear that we do not all have equal opportunity to
C. And, keep in mind that the New Testament keeps reminding us that believers have
nothing to boast about, and that faith is a gift rather than a reward.
D. In other words, going to Heaven is not a reward. It’s simply a gift, and G-d is not
just another Santa Clause, rewarding us for being good and punishing us for being
E. And going to Hell is not a punishment…
F. Houston, we have a problem.
G. To me, the solution lies in making a distinction between going to heaven and
entering G-d’s Kingdom. We can experience G-d’s Kingdom right here and now. We
don’t have to wait until we die. And truly believing in Jesus, or accepting Him as our
Lord and Savior, does give us access to a sublime sense of innocence, security,
peace, love, transcendence, immortality and life abundant — right now. Sure sounds
like G-d’s Kingdom to me.
H. I suggest that whereas a Just G-d would have to give us equal opportunity
towards getting into Heaven, He would not have to give us equal opportunity towards
entering His Kingdom (in the way I just described). Heaven versus Hell for eternity is
not something that a just G-d could leave, in the slightest way, to chance. Whereas,
entering His Kindom, during this lifetime, is something that could be left somewhat to
chance. Especially when Jesus and His missionaries and the New Testament are all
out there telling us how to do it.
I. I think that Jesus was just trying to tell us the Good News. He was saying, “Just
believe in Me and I’ll lift the weight of sin off your shoulders, allow you to remember all
your love, your innocence, transcendence and immortality and to live life abundantly,
to really live. It’s simply My gift to you. It’s a fact of life. It is not a reward. Try it; you’ll
J. My best guess is that Jesus’ apparent statements about Heaven and Hell have
been largely mis-stated or misunderstood, and Jesus deliberately left that part blank
cause it isn’t something that we can understand. For now, we should just relish in the
Good News and bathe in His love.
The following is some relevant thinking out loud that, for the moment at least, I’d like
to save and to share. I keep thinking that it should be included in the discussion and
analysis of “faith,” but then can’t quite see how it really adds much…
1. My own elaboration. “Faith” — a degree of belief not justified by explicit
A. Though, it could be that this degree is justified by non-explicit evidence.
1. It could be that we can’t quite put our fingers on it, but the evidence is
all there, and we can subconsciously(?) recognize it — we just can’t
verbalize the logic, or the pattern, we subconsciously recognize.
2. There are studies in Psychology and Neurology that confirm such a
3. It just ‘fits.’ It ‘feels’ right. It ‘clicks.’ We don’t know why we know it, but
4. Very often, “faith” is referring to the previous dependableness of a particular
source and is the trust (perhaps, absolute) that one has in the source.
B. But also, the excess degree of belief could be justified by “intuition.”
A. Now, what we refer to as “intuition” could all be based upon what we
just covered – non-explicit evidence.
B. But then, intuition could also be, at least to some extent, based upon
a “supernatural” phenomena.
C. Intuition could also be based upon a ‘story’ hard-wired into our
genes. (Click here.)
D. As noted above, “faith,” very often, refers to the previous dependableness of
a particular source and is the trust that one has in the source. If that trust is
absolute, it goes beyond the sum of the evidential parts.
C. Unfortunately, the excess degree sometimes seems justified by what
Psychologists call “conventional morality” — this is a stage of moral development
characterized by the sense that authority determines what is right and what is
wrong, and this stage cannot deal with authorities of differing opinions.
Whatever, in this stage, your authorities are right.
2. Unfortunately, there is even more to be considered.
A. From Webster’s: “BELIEF may or may not imply certitude in the believer
<my belief that I had caught all the errors>. FAITH (on the other hand)
almost always implies certitude even where there is no evidence or
proof…” I would qualify such a description by saying that “faith” is
sometimes thought of in terms of degree, but only when explicitly
B. Whatever, to “believe” something is to consider it to be true or honest (also
from (Webster’s), and “faith,” therefore, is the state of considering
something to be true, with a conviction that is not, or has not been, explicitly
C. Faith: A certitude that is more than the sum of its parts. A certitude not justified
by the sum of its evidential parts. Somehow, you ‘know’ that something is true.
D. And, in Christianity, to have faith in Jesus usually means to believe — with
certitude — that what Jesus taught is true.