Hopefully the previous posts have helped you come to grips that, regardless your background and mindset, faith is for you. Pursing faith is always wise.
Being personally excited about the power and relevance of faith, I would prefer to launch now into a description of your potential journey of faith. I truly desire to help guide you through the maze of modern faiths and show you how to use your God-given commonsense to identify and benefit from a consistent and reliable faith.
However I realize many of you are still not ready to hit the adventurous path with me.
I have interacted with enough people through my years as a Christian and a pastor, and read enough about people’s worldviews, to know that many of you may have a reluctance to take any step of faith! So I do not want to rush things or skirt the issues which are important to you.
I know that at least some of your skepticism stems from inaccurate or unduly negative messages spread around by biased intellectuals who disparage religion and mock faith no matter the kind. Some skepticism, I would agree, is certainly wise, but much is distracting noise void of sound reasoning.
Other reasons against faith, of course, are legitimate concerns anyone should have when making such a weighty decision about life. I certainly do not fault anyone for being cautious about religious claims.
So before describing faith or choosing a faith or learning to practice a faith, let’s make a detour first to help you sort through your objections and hesitancies.
(BTW – If you are not one of those hesitant to consider faith, then you might want to skip this next series on “Removing Roadblocks to Faith” and advance to the series on using your commonsense to choose a faith. Or you may want to skip that series and jump to the section on the Top Down approach which explains the Christian faith in detail.)
In this series of posts, I want to survey some roadblocks to faith placed in front of people. By doing this we should be able to show faith in a better light. Prejudice against faith is not helpful or admirable! However, if you give faith an objective and balanced treatment, you have a better chance of beholding her beauty.
Where do we start? How about with a working definition of faith! If just for the moment we accept the basic definition of faith as “belief in something which cannot be completely proven;” that is, faith is “a trust or confidence in someone or something beyond our full sight and knowledge,” then we can see in that brief definition how needed faith will be for life. The simple fact is that no one has all sight and knowledge. Apart from having exhaustive divine knowledge of the mysteries of life there will always be room for faith.
Yet a reasonable faith is not wishful thinking but based on evidence, logic, knowledge, and goodness. The more factual, logical, ethical, and comprehensive a faith is, the better it will be.
When it comes to faith, different people have different roadblocks. The following are 10 common roadblocks which prevent people from pursuing faith. Look through these presentations, and find the ones which concern you most. I’ll assign each a label so we can better reference them. After I explain each objection, I will show why each one should not keep anyone back from a pursuit of true faith. If we can remove these roadblocks from your path, you should have more energy and freedom for the pursuit.
Roadblock #1 = The Misrepresentation Factor
TYPICAL WORDING “Oh, I see! So you are ‘a person of faith.’ I don’t view myself that way. Honestly I don’t find much use for faith.”
PROBLEM: Many in the 21st century, including Baby Boomers (born appx. 1945-1963), Baby Busters or generation X (1964-1980), and Millennials (come of age in the new millennium), don’t want to identify with a community of faith because they don’t want to be categorized as “a person of faith” or looked down upon due to that kind of association. Let’s face it, there remains strong social pressure, especially in certain educated and elite circles, to disparage faith and view it as a handicap worthy of social outcasting. It conjures up notions of narrow-mindedness, intolerance, and antiquation. Of course, no one wants to be a pariah or come across as doctrinaire or puritanical. That’s why in some social and academic circles it is just more acceptable to say, “No, I’m not really religious,” and leave it at that. This dismissive mindset is a roadblock to a serious consideration of faith.
SOLUTION: The idea that some people have faith and others don’t is really an illusion. So-called “secular people” or irreligious people have just as much faith as avid church-goers or devout monks. Their faith is just placed in something different. That does not mean it is good; I’m just making the point that some kind of faith is present in their lives. The undeniable truth is that all people are people of faith in something; they just don’t all admit it or realize it. In fact, it is quite easy to prove everyone has faith and lives a life of faith in something or someone. Even people who vehemently deny faith in God, do so because of confident faith in something else – something they can’t fully prove.
FURTHER EXPLANATION: Many don’t realize that so called “secular” people, who never attend worship services of any kind, practice zealous faith and guide their lives by their faith. Properly understood they even have their own way of worshipping. Worship is not reserved for formal religious gatherings or only directed at named gods. Worship is an ongoing human reality demonstrated almost daily in every human heart’s devotion to something.
Another way of explaining this is that everyone has a view of reality – what some call a worldview or philosophy of life or outlook on life or core beliefs about the world. Each person views the world and humanity in a certain way, though she cannot completely prove that her view of the universe is correct or best. He may be completely mistaken, yet he holds on to his beliefs nonetheless. She also shows dedication (worship) to that set of ideas.
Some would call their worldview a philosophy not a religion, but a philosophy which encompasses a worldview is equivalent to a religion. That’s because people who follow a complete philosophical worldview inject into it all the essential elements of a religion:
- They believe in some ultimate truth which guides their life. (This is even true of self-proclaimed relativists who make relativism their ultimate reality.)
- To believe in that truth they must exercise a certain amount of faith to fill in the gaps in their knowledge. Sometimes this faith is quite extensive.
- They believe strongly enough in their faith to promote it, and try to persuade others that their view of the world is wisest. (This is even true among those who claim all religions are legitimate and urge “coexisting”)
- They also practice their faith by living in accordance with what they believe. In other words, life and faith are integrated.
- They make life-decisions based on what they believe. Their faith provides practical guidance. Their worldview is not theoretical but life-changing.
- They even distinguish themselves from others by their beliefs. They gain their identity through their beliefs.
- It is ultimately their highest commitment – i.e. worship, sacrifice, devotion etc…
Two examples of supposed nonreligious positions which are really faith positions will be helpful at this point. I chose these two examples because they describe people who would not usually be classified as a “person of faith” by educators, the media, or society in general. Yet they show all the signs of faith.
As the name indicates humanists believe in humanity not in some higher power. Modern Humanists believe that “man is the measure of all things.” Along with this belief they typically believe in the goodness and progress of humanity. They don’t believe in God or any gods or other metaphysical realities, miracles, or the supernatural. Instead they believe man is the highest being in the universe (or at least associated with this planet), the standard of all things, and accountable only to himself. Humanists, true to their beliefs, try to actualize their potential as human beings so they can live fulfilled lives and benefit the rest of mankind.
Do they sound like people of faith to you?
Some distinguish religious humanism from philosophical humanism to avoid the religion label. However all humanism is a faith because its adherents have to exercise faith in the greatness and goodness of humanity. Faith also enters the equation because they have to come up with an explanation for life on earth without any Designer or Maker. Though humanists claim a purely “rational” or “scientific” approach to life and existence, they cannot avoid certain faith assumptions. They also have to put forward evidence for humanity’s basic goodness in the face of many acts of evil.
Contrary to the humanist’s belief system, everyone knows that humans often act selfishly and destructively. Everyone experiences these evils. Men and women lie, cheat, abuse others, hate, fight, slander, rape, intimidate, injure, pollute, and do a host of other evils. Yet humanists hold to their faith in man’s goodness in the face of an avalanche of evidence to the contrary. With each invention of man comes more evil. We now have hackers, suicide bombers, and social media stalkers. Humanists, like everyone else, are well aware of all the wars, prejudice, intimidation, oppression, exploitation, and horrors on the news, yet they maintain faith that man is basically good and will ultimately overcome his problems.
What’s more, humanists act on their optimistic belief about man and his future. Belief in the goodness of man inspires them to dedicate themselves to things like education, philanthropy, peacemaking, politics, medicine, education, or the pursuit of technology. They try to maintain an optimistic view of man’s ability to come together and solve problems. Indeed they can get quite religious about their pursuits (pun intended).
Of course, their belief in humanity has never been proven. There is a gap in their knowledge – a leap of faith they must take. We know one thing for sure; mankind certainly did not invent himself, so that already presents a problem for their faith.
one more surprising example …
Even Atheists who seem to be the least likely to be labeled as people of faith, have to exercise a mountain of faith to believe what they think is true. Some would argue atheists have the strongest faith of all people on earth! Let me explain.
The atheist’s worldview is that there is no god and never has been a god at any time. Though the universe exists in all its complexities, there is no designer, no creator, no spiritual cause to the universe. All talk of god to them is nonsensical. Yet it is obvious that our universe exists. How did it get here, and how does it function the way it does? If the atheist provides no answer, he would only prove how untenable his position is. Atheism would be exposed as being pure faith and irrational. So the atheist has to come up with some answer to the existence of this orderly and amazing universe. Their faith requires them to believe that all the brilliant, intricate design we behold at every level of nature is merely an accident, without plan or purpose. They must tell us that the design we see is only imagined. Even though our logic tells us this looks and acts like a design, we must keep telling ourselves there is no design.
Furthermore, the atheist must believe, without proof, that all the order in the universe, all the beauty, morality, personality, consciousness, DNA, logic, etc… and even the universe itself had no cause and no purpose. That’s truly amazing, mountain-sized faith, because it is so counterintuitive and runs against logic! We all see nature’s power and know it must come from somewhere.
Human morality – knowledge of good and evil – is an undeniable reality too. Everyone intuitively knows there must be some great cause to such a great effect. To speak otherwise does violence to the intellect. Atheism cannot posit much of a cause for it either.
Now pause a moment and think how deep this faith must be for the atheist. An atheist ultimately has only three logical options to explain the existence of the universe.
- One explanation is that everything that exists came into being from nothing. However nothing is not much of a cause. In fact, nothing is nothing. That means it has nothing, contains nothing, does nothing. With nothing there is no space, no time, no matter, no energy, no activity, no movement, no intelligence, no plan, no black hole, no black matter – nothing. Actually if nothing every existed at any time in the past, then nothing would exist right now, (Think about that for a moment.) because nothing produces nothing. Nothing always produces nothing, because it is nothing. But since in their view there is no god, no creative power, no plan, no intelligence, no energy, no matter, no particles, what is left to cause the universe? Not the universe itself. Not radiation! Not a singularity! Not super condensed matter! Not God! Not even chance or luck! Nothing! This is “pure faith!”
- Another option is for the atheist to believe the universe is its own cause. That takes a ton of faith too. For something to be its own cause, by definition, it has to exist before the effect it causes. How can the universe exist before the universe existed? That’s a faith which contradicts logic and science. Or some posit another twist to this cause: they believe another universe or a previous state of this same universe caused this universe. In turn that previous state of the universe was caused by an even earlier state and so on. However this is nothing more than pure speculation. Not a sliver of data exists for another physical universe. Such an alternate universe or a previous universe would not solve the problem of origins anyway, for then a cause for that alternate universe or previous universe would need to be posited. This problem will not go away for the atheist. All he has is faith.
- A third option is the universe had no cause and always existed. The universe would then be an eternal reality without a cause. It is just a brute fact we are to accept without an explanation. This really sounds like a copout! Logic screams against this theory. Everything we know about reality argues against the idea that matter and energy and particles exist by themselves. Science itself has disproven this theory already. This view is basically the old Steady State theory which has been refuted due to facts discovered in the universe itself including quasars and Cosmic Background Radiation. The universe we are told, definitely was caused and had an origin. Indeed it is expanding. So this explanation also requires great faith.
An atheist has no other direction to go. Usually atheists just make fun of the “god hypothesis” but provide little defense for their own beliefs. They argue in a circle by starting with the assumption that only things we can prove by our senses exist, then they come to the conclusion that only things which can be proven by our sense are real. It’s a marvelous display of unjustified, circular reasoning which requires lots of faith.
So even the atheist walks their journey of life based upon a belief they cannot prove and indeed which seems impossible. Science cannot prove atheism. Logic cannot prove atheism. Observation cannot prove atheism. Nothing can prove atheism. Atheism must be believed.
We could go on speaking of pantheism, deism, dualism, polytheism, hedonism or many other religions and philosophies of life. With each one we would find their areas of ignorance and assumptions. For now, that is my main point. There is no escaping faith. All people are “people of faith” in someone or something or some set of laws, rules, or metaphysical realities or ideas. Faith is really unavoidable.
Right now, whether you realize it or not, you are a person of faith. It may be faith in humanity, faith in yourself, faith in society, faith in some mystical enlightenment, faith in Mother Nature, faith in a spiritual leader, faith in a personal spiritual experience or feeling, faith in an ancient prophet, faith in Satan, faith in holy writings, faith in aliens, faith in the lucky stars, or just faith in your family heritage. There you stand: You are a person of faith!
So with that roadblock removed, we are freed to have a discussion about which faith is reasonable, wise, and good.