Faith According To Mormons
Occasionally, I meet with Mormon missionaries on campus and ask them questions about their beliefs. They tend to be very friendly and painfully agreeable, to the point that, based on their answers, it’s difficult to tell the difference between Mormonism and Christianity. After asking difficult, pointed questions, finding unsatisfactory answers, and answering with a rebuttal, the usual response is that you simply need to have faith and the inner conviction of the Holy Spirit will guide you to the truth of Mormonism. I am told to have faith in order that I may know that Mormonism is true. In other words, I am asked to suspend my critical faculties when judging the assertions of the Mormon Church, opting instead for subjective internal feelings that are accepted on faith.
Faith According to Atheists
As friendly and agreeable as most Mormon missionaries are, most Atheist missionaries are that angry and disagreeable. An exhaustingly jocular movement based around the satirical Flying Spaghetti Monster began in order to mock religions for accepting assertions based on faith. The thrust of the argument, after cutting through a few miles of sarcasm, is that if you’re willing to believe in God on faith apart from evidence, then you’re no different than someone who believes that the world was created by a monster made of pasta. Again, the definition of faith in the view of the Atheist is what enables a religious person to judge a set of assertions to be true apart from or in opposition to objective reasons.
1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
The Atheists were right, huh? No, I hope you don’t read this passage that superficially. What does Hebrews 11 mean in context? Go back to chapter 10. Remember, the original manuscripts have no headings, and no chapter or verse divisions. Notice that all the chapters begin with words like, “therefore,” “since,” and “now.” When Hebrews 11 begins with, “Now faith…” it is continuing from a chain of arguments that goes all the way back to the beginning of the letter.
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Notice, the justification for faith is not blind. It is not belief in assertions suspended in the air entirely unsupported. The reason for faith is the faithfulness of God, “for he who promised is faithful.”
My Faithful Wife
As a newlywed, I really love my wife. I have faith in her. We are faithful to each other. My faith in her should be an honor because when I declare, “I trust my wife,” I am really saying that I consider her trustworthy. Suppose my wife asked me, “Ben, why do you consider me trustworthy?”, and I answer, “because I just do!” She would be incredibly insulted. Hallie has done things and proven herself time and time again that she is faithful and trustworthy. When Hallie reports something to me, I believe her, not because I relax my brain and refuse to think, but because Hallie has proven that she is trustworthy. In the same way, Christians put their faith in Jesus because he is trustworthy, not because we have turned off our brains.
God Proves Himself to Israel
The Israelites were people who constantly wavered in their faithfulness to God. It seems that they were always hesitant to trust in God and always quick to abandon him. Yet these were people who walked across the parted Red Sea, who ate the bread from Heaven in the wilderness, who saw Moses’ face glow when he brought them the commandments from Mt. Sinai, and watched the walls of Jericho fall without siege. God was speaking along the way, saying things like “…that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel,” “…that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you,” and “…that you may know that I am the Lord your God.” God is constantly doing things in order to prove himself to his people. He has always required faith in him, but he has always provided his people with reasons to believe him. This is why people are morally culpable for their faith! For the Jews to reject the Lord is for them to blindfold their eyes to what he has done.
Jesus Proves his Divinity
Jesus wants you to believe that he is God, that he created the world, that he died for your sins, and that he rose from the dead, but Jesus is not asking to believe simply because you believe. Throughout his earthly ministry, Jesus constantly justifies the things he does using Old Testament scripture. He enters debates and offers evidences so that you may believe. Meanwhile, he is going throughout the Roman world privately changing water into wine and transfiguring into a celestial form, and publicly healing the blind, the sick, and the lame, walking on water, raising the dead, and multiplying food. When the disciples are skeptical that Jesus rose from the dead bodily, he showed them his hands, and asked to eat broiled fish to prove that it was him and that he was not a spirit, but flesh and bones. Paul reports that over 500 people at a time witnesses the resurrected Jesus. Jesus does not simply command belief in him without doing anything that would warrant it, he proves it time and time again.
But I Wasn’t There
It would be fantastic to have lived in the first century and witnessed the life and work of Jesus personally, but unfortunately for us we can’t. How then do we know whether these proofs are historical? Well, how do we know that anything is historical? These events occurred before photography, video, and audio recording existed. Before you’re tempted to claim that we can’t know things without photos, videos, or recordings, remember that to make such a statement means that we have to throw away all history prior to the inventions of recording devices. In all matters of history, historians rely on witnesses, documents, and testimonies and can establish credibility based on objective features.
Peter Proves Jesus is the Messiah
Throughout his preaching to the unbelieving masses in the book of Acts, Peter calls people to believe based on proofs and reasons. Throughout his sermons Peter exposits the Old Testament to show how what was was foretold, has been fulfilled. He doesn’t call them to believe for no reason, but because of the soundness of scripture. Even when miracles surrounded his preaching, Peter never once pointed at them to prove that these things were so, but insisted on the scripture’s testimony and his firsthand witness. In his second letter, Peter expounds on the merit of his testimony saying,
2 Peter 1: 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
Do Christians Believe Anything Without Evidence?
Given that evidence supports the assertions of Christianity, do we believe anything apart from evidence? Answer: Yes. When Christians take things on faith, they are not suspending their reasoning and building their beliefs on the air, they are trusting the mouth of the God whose works speak for him. No one has witnessed the beginning of the world. God has. Do we trust him? No one has experienced life in the new Heavens and the new Earth. God sees it like it is today. God’s track record for honesty is solid, so when God speaks we need to believe him, not in spite of reasons, but because he has proven himself trustworthy.