The Heart of the Matter
I recently read an article in the New York Times titled, "How Can I Possibly Believe That Faith Is Better Than Doubt?" by Peter Wehner. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/25/opinion/faith-christmas-religion.html
I thought it was a good, balanced assessment of what it means to have faith as well as the possibility of doubt in regards to the Christian tradition. Faith basically implies that we acknowledge something that seems beyond reason but not always opposed to it. Faith is what gives the Christian religion substance as we can't see God nor can He be proved mathematically. We also cannot prove that Jesus was actually God's son and that he rose from the dead after He was crucified although historians testify to his existence in Palestine at that time.
When it comes to doubt, the best-known example often referred to is when Thomas said he wouldn't believe in Jesus' resurrection unless he could put his fingers in his side. The phrase 'doubting Thomas' sometimes comes up in a conversation when people are uncertain of a particular situation for example.
But isn’t this just a comforting, sentimental thought we have – especially at the funeral of our loved one? Is there any rational basis for this view? Karl Marx dismissed religion as “the opium of the masses.” Has anyone ever come back from the dead to tell us what it’s like?
I found it quite interesting and unsurprising the various responses in the comments section. Many were coming from an either agnostic or atheist viewpoint. They often saw faith as either unnecessary for life or a belief system in a religious fairytale. Others were using it to deride the political system. Doubt enters in as there is no empirical evidence to support the various tenets of the Christian faith as espoused in this article.
To the skeptical or doubting person, faith has trumped reason by appealing to a certain bias or emotion, whether political or religious. When one is confronted with the facts but dismisses them as untrue, does that imply honest doubt or false, biased faith? This can be seen when someone supports a politician even though that politician has been discredited by factual, verifiable events.
Jesus Christ is regarded by historians as a moral teacher and no charge was made for his execution. He himself said that he was the Son of God and even God Himself. “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30) and predicted his own death and resurrection to heaven. He promised this same after life to his followers. When his crucified body was laid in a stone tomb by the Roman executioners who guarded his body (lest his disciples steal it) Jesus miraculously came back to life and appeared in different places to his followers. At one point he let a doubting Thomas put his fingers into his side and ate fish with others to assure them that he was indeed alive and not a vision or spirit. He then left the earth forever and his body never found.
This is a different kind of faith than what a scientist or physicist would feel when about to test their hypothesis. They would have 'faith' that their experiment would succeed with the data they have but at the same time, there is always a sense of doubt until proven true. Richard Feynman, a theoretical physicist and Nobel prize winner said that doubt is an important part of the scientific mind. Doubt allows you to never accept things at face value until proven true.
I believe the author best summarizes Christian faith as not biased or based on empirical facts but in a relationship. It's been said that to define Christianity is to go beyond a simple religious belief. It is a personal relationship with a personal God and His son Jesus Christ. If you think about it, love is a relationship based on trust which is really faith. True faith is God inspired. Marriage vows are based on faith and trust, not doubt.
We are all men and women of faith whether we believe it or not. The author best explains it when he writes, “Denying the existence of God is as much a leap of faith as asserting it.” What or who will we put our faith in?