Archive for the ‘early Christians’ Tag

Faith is Clinging to What Is Known   3 comments

Faith is a complex experience, so it is hard to address the whole of it in a blog post. I’m not even attempting that.

The early Christian believers had knowledge as well as faith. Peter, John and Mary saw the empty tomb. Thomas was offered the opportunity to touch the nail scars. Paul met Jesus face-to-face in the road. They KNEW that Jesus was risen again because they’d seen and talked with Him. It was such a powerful experience that Jesus’ brothers, James and Jude, who were greatly opposed to His ministry during His lifetime, became believers who were willing to die for their faith. The knowledge that He was risen so convinced that them Jesus was God incarnate that it gave the early believers the courage to speak the gospel even under persecution and most of them would die for their faith. Even when everyone around them said they were wrong, they held fast to the KNOWLEDGE of what they had actually experienced and that gave them faith that God would keep His promises for the future.

Modern Christians do not KNOW God in the same way that early Christians did. We must exercise faith more than they did. Yet that does not mean we do not have some knowledge to support our faith.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:

I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of evidence is against it. That is not the point at which faith comes in. But supposing a man’s reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief. Or else there will come a moment when he wants a woman, or wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of making a little money in some way that is not perfectly fair; some moment, in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true. And once again his wishes and desires will carry out a blitz. I am not talking of moments at which any real new reasons against Christianity turn up. Those have to be faced and that is a different matter. I am talking about moments where a mere mood rises up against it.

Now faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian, I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist, I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why faith is such a necessary virtue; unless you teach your moods “where they get off” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of faith.

For Lewis faith is the determination of the mind to cling to what is known in the face of what is felt. Though it involves trust it’s all about knowledge: trusting that what one knows to be true remains true even when it does not feel true.

The early Christians had every reason to desire to recant their story. Their culture made it uncomfortable and eventually fatal to believe that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh. Their faith in Him didn’t bring them power or prestige. It brought them death, and yet they held to it even as the sword hung over their necks. Clearly, they had no doubts about what they believed.

They KNEW Jesus.

I may not know Him in the same tangible way they did, but that does not mean I don’t KNOW Him.

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