“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 helps us understand faith, but there certainly more to it! Let’s see what the Bible says.
Is Our Faith Blind?
A core belief of Christian doctrine is that we are saved by faith alone (sola fide). However, Christians are often accused of having a blind faith. What’s more, many times the very idea of having faith is conflated with the idea of blind faith. But that’s not true, and it’s important that we understand the distinction.
Blind faith is a trust in something or someone despite there being no evidence to support such a claim. Often, blind faith not only relies on no evidence, but it also directly flies in the face of contrary evidence!
Now, the very fact that we can use a qualifying word such as “blind” to describe faith necessarily presumes that true faith is not blind. In fact, that’s exactly what we read in Hebrews 11:1—“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Biblical faith is directly tied to the hope and conviction for the Kingdom which God has promised us. However, it’s important to remember that the way our society uses the words faith and hope are far different than how they were used in antiquity. So, in order to understand what the author of Hebrews is conveying here, we must understand it as it was originally written.
A Confident Trust
In the Greek, the word faith is pistis. Its root meaning is “to be persuaded,” and it is also translated as confidence and trust. Thus, biblical faith is a confident trust based on the persuasive evidence—which is a lot different than the definition of blind faith. The biblical idea of hope is taken from the Greek word is elpis. It comes from the infinitive “to anticipate,” and it can also be translated as expectation.
So, with these two ideas in mind, how can we approach Hebrews 11:1? We know that faith and hope are both rooted in evidence, not in blind desire for something to be true. In fact, the author argues that our faith is so deeply rooted in evidence that its expectations about the future are assured! With these understandings in mind, is it any wonder why the word “conviction” is translated as “evidence” in many other translations?
No, faith is not blind. The Bible repeatedly praises those who seek out wisdom over blind belief (Proverbs 3:13, 1 Thessalonians 5:21). Take the story of the Bereans when Paul first shared with them the Gospel in Acts 17:10-12. The Bereans were not counted “more noble” because they believed Paul blindly. They were counted more noble because they examined Paul’s words in light of evidence in order to see if what he said was true. And notice what happens: “Many of them therefore believed” (v. 12). They believed in the gospel because they sought evidence to prove Paul’s claims, and the evidence pointed them to the truth.
God Proves Himself
In proving His divinity, Jesus didn’t just say He was God, though that would have been sufficient in itself. Rather, He used miracles so that all would “know that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:9-11), and John reaffirmed this by writing that the purpose of Jesus’ signs and miracles were written down “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31). In addition, in propelling the gospel forward, Jesus and His disciples also consistently used scripture to prove their arguments, pointing to how Jesus fulfilled Old Testament prophecies as evidence that He was the Messiah. In fact, of the 27 books in the New Testament, only four do not reference a verse from the Old Testament as evidence.
The Lord certainly does not want our faith to be one based on a blind hope that something might be true. Instead, He consistently proves Himself through fulfilling His promises and providing us with evidence so that we would believe Him to be faithful in the evidence of things not seen.
Biblical Evidence for Christ
So, what evidence is there to bolster our faith? Well, a lot, so much so that it turned Detective J. Warner Wallace from an atheist to a Christian at age 35 after he investigated the gospels as potential eyewitness accounts to Jesus’ life. Later, he wrote the book Cold Case Christianity in recounting this journey, and he has taken to helping propel Christians towards being able to defend their faith with evidence.
“I was able to knock down anything any Christian would bring to me because most of the Christians I knew had not examined what they said they believed,” Wallace said in an interview with Focus on the Family. “I mean, for a guy who’s an investigator, I’m like, ‘really? An unexamined life is not worth living.’ How many times have you heard that? And it appears to me, you have not examined your Christian life, so I don’t know why you would live it.”
Biblical Backed Faith
While Christians weren’t able to answer Wallace’s many questions against the faith, God did. Because the four gospel accounts are eyewitness claims about Jesus, Wallace knew he could test the reliability of their testimonies in the same way he tests any other eyewitness account:
- Was it written by someone who was really there?
- Can it be corroborated by some pieces of touchpoint evidence?
- Has it changed over time or stayed consistent?
- Do the writers possess a bias that would cause them to lie?
“As I examined those four areas of eyewitness reliability… [the Bible] passes the test,” Wallace said.
In fact, not only did the gospel accounts pass the test as reliable testimonies, but they flew past with flying colors. Their consistent accuracy in both history and archeology is unmatched, to the point that Wallace claims, were it not for an inherent bias against the supernatural, no one would question their authenticity.
“If you were to take out the supernatural elements—the resurrection, the miracles of the New Testament—there would be not a single scholar in the history of scholars who would ever doubt that this is the most attested to ancient person in all ancient persons,” Wallace said. “The manuscript evidence would be considered excellent.”
Even Jesus’ opponents in the Bible make what Wallace calls “reluctant admissions” to Jesus’ divinity—that is, though they do not affirm He is divine, they affirm many of the divine aspects which surrounded Him.
“When somebody says, for example, that they attribute the miracles of Jesus to Satan, they have to reluctantly admit that He is doing miracles,” Wallace said.
And that’s not all they reluctantly admitted. Opponents of Jesus, upon hearing His body was no longer in the tomb, spread the rumor that Jesus’ disciples came and stole the body away (Matthew 28:13). But in this rumor, they reluctantly admit that Jesus was, in fact, no longer in the tomb—that something had, in fact, happened at the tomb, something so compelling and amazing enough that it caused all of Jesus’ disciples (save John) to rather die for it than live a lie.
Non-Biblical Evidence for Christ
It’s not just the Bible which provides evidence for our faith. Many ancient non-Christian historians, such as the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, the Roman historian Tacitus and the Roman governor Pliny the Younger, all reference the existence of Jesus Christ. In addition, the authority and authenticity of the Bible is consistently affirmed through new discoveries in archeology, such as the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Tel Dan Inscription.
In addition, there are many arguments regarding the creation of universal truths which make convincing evidence-based cases for God. One of these, called a cosmological argument, is what helped to convince J. Warner Wallace of the existence of God. In touching on the idea of the Big Bang, Wallace couldn’t get past its premise that everything came from nothing.
“It’s the idea that everything in the universe, all space, time, matter, physics, chemistry, all of that stuff, comes from nothing at a point in the distant past,” Wallace said. “That means that whatever causes these things to come into existence has to be outside of space, time and matter. Do you realize that the first move of science pauses that there is something outside of nature that is the cause of everything that we call nature, space, time and matter?”
That’s not the only argument that exists for God. The late theologian C.S. Lewis became convinced about God’s existence through a moral argument. This moral argument states that for morality to exist and for things to be considered objectively right or objectively wrong, they must be under an absolute standard—a universal moral law. For this law to be objective, humans cannot have had any role in creating it—it must be correct regardless of humanity’s existence. Finally, for this objective law to exist apart from humanity, this universal moral law must have been put in place by God upon the hearts of men (Romans 2:14-15). In this argument, the secular person “can either affirm an objective moral law exists but have no ability to explain why it is objective, or they can deny an objective moral law exists and have no authority to assert that their subjective moral law is best.”
Other Support for our Faith
There’s other arguments as well, such as the teleological argument and the ontological argument. And when we consider how our God is the Creator of the universe, morality, design and logic, it makes sense that these four arguments remain popular—the God of reason has provided us this ability. Former atheist Lee Strobel, author of The Case for Christ, summarizes all four of these arguments best:
“I realized that to stay an atheist, I would have to believe that nothing produces everything; non-life produces life; randomness produces fine-tuning; chaos produces information; unconsciousness produces consciousness; and non-reason produces reason,” Strobel said. “Those leaps of faith were simply too big for me to take, especially in light of the affirmative case for God’s existence.”
An Evidence-Backed Faith
Is our faith blind? Certainly not! The Lord has provided us with many evidences of His existence and His trustworthiness—whether that is through the intentional design of His creation (Psalm 19), the reliability of His Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17) or His continual faithfulness to His promises (Deuteronomy 7:9, 1 Corinthians 1:9).
Actively seek out and store up knowledge and wisdom of God, and the pursuit of this theology will grow you in your faith. In this way, you can be prepared to defend the gospel and the joy within you (Philippians 1:7, 1 Peter 3:15-16), and you can “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Grow in your understanding of who God is. Though God Himself does not need someone to defend Him, the Lord can use evidence to provoke unbelievers into repentance and belief in Him, as He has done with the aforementioned J. Warner Wallace, C.S. Lewis and Lee Strobel.
This evidence will point us to a God who loves us. Though we bring nothing to God but our own sin (Isaiah 64:6), He has made us right with Him through the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. And Christ, though He had lived a perfect life in accordance with God’s standard of goodness, willingly took the wrath of God upon Himself on the cross for the sins of those who put their faith in Him as their perfect substitutionary sacrifice.
Jesus didn’t just die, He rose from the dead three days later, proving Himself to be the Son of God and Messiah whom even death cannot overcome. Those who profess Jesus as Lord and confess faith that God raised Him from the dead will be saved as Christ intercedes on their behalf with his perfect righteousness, and Christ takes the punishment of their sins upon Himself (Romans 10:9).
Through the evidence God has provided to us, we can have a faith and a hope made in the way the author of Hebrews intended us to have. Though we do not yet see Him, we have been persuaded by the evidence to actively expect that which is certain—the future inheritance that is being kept for us (1 Peter 1:3-5).
The next time you are challenged in your faith, remember the firm foundation that you stand on, and kindly share it with others.
Want to learn more about the existence of God? Check out Richard Simmons III book, Reflections on the Existence of God. “Our Children need to understand why they believe in God and who God is to them personally. They need to know that what believe is TRUE” – Richard Simmons III
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