Faith in Faith—Is That Your Faith?
Faith is important, but faith in what? In itself, or in God and his Word the Bible?
HAVE you ever heard the statement or perhaps made it yourself: “What a man believes is not important just so long as he believes”? If so, did you know that that is the very teaching of certain leading Oriental religions? Yes, they hold that doctrine or teaching is not important but that religion of itself, any religion, is a good thing.
Commenting on this current trend, a feature writer in the American monthly Cosmopolitan once stated: “We have evolved a strange sort of religious utterance, what sociologist Will Herberg calls ‘faith in faith.’” Then calling attention to the ones that testified on the radio program “This I Believe,” and in the book by the same name, he goes on to observe that “few if any say what they believe, but everyone is heartily in favor of believing. The closest they get to a concrete statement is reflected by such remarks as ‘I believe in people, in sheer unadulterated humanity.’ Others make statements like ‘I take heart in the promising fact that the world contains food supplies sufficient for the entire population.’ Others affirm their devotion to . . . ‘The Great Whatever,’ otherwise referred to as that Power, that Presence, that Supreme Being, that Life Force, that Great Artist, whom some call Nature and some call Inspiration and some call God.”
But faith in faith is no faith! Faith can no more rest in or upon faith than we can walk upon our feet or a tub can rest upon its own bottom if there is nothing else beneath them. Faith in faith is merely a matter of feeling, a habit, an emotional state. It is a close cousin to credulity and superstition. Neither faith in faith nor credulity nor superstition depends upon the existence of facts or the exercise of reason. But genuine faith does. That is why the apostle Paul stated that knowledge must precede faith: “However, how will they call upon him in whom they have not put faith? How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard? . . . So faith follows the report. In turn, the report is through the word about Christ.”—Rom. 10:14, 17.
THE FIRST STEP
Thus we take our very first step of faith when we take note of the facts of the infinite universe, its design and order, its power and beauty and then reason upon this evidence. Doing so, we come to the inescapable conclusion that God’s “invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are understood by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship, so that they are inexcusable” in their denial of the existence of the Creator, Jehovah God.—Rom. 1:20.
But God does not expect us to rest our faith solely in what his visible creation, called “Nature,” reveals regarding him. Nature cannot tell us why we are here or what our destiny will be. Neither can it enlighten us as to God’s name or regarding his justice, mercy and love. Knowledge regarding these may be said to be even more essential to our faith, and therefore God provided us with a written Book, the Bible. To be pleasing to God we must believe not only that he exists but also that he “becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” We earnestly seek God when we study his Word and try to bring our lives in line with its righteous principles.—Heb. 11:6.
In the New World Translation of the Bible the very first reference to faith shows that Abraham exercised faith. In what? In faith? No, but faith in God, in what God promised to do for Abraham. God promised, and Abraham acted on that promise. Why? Because he had knowledge; he knew that God was dependable and possessed the means for making good his promises, even to the raising of Isaac from the dead if need be. That was faith, and for it Abraham was called “the father of all those having faith,” as well as being given the promise that “by means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves.”—Gen. 15:6; Heb. 11:17-19; Rom. 4:11; Gen. 22:18.
So also with us. We must have knowledge as a basis for our faith. Would we think of paying out money in exchange for a check made out by a stranger wholly unknown and even unseen by us? Of course not! We would require some information about him before we would put our faith in him to the extent of cashing his check. Even so we cannot truly exercise faith in Jehovah God unless we “know” him.
A study of God’s Word not only gives us a sound basis for faith in him and in his promises but it also weans us away from putting faith in feeble, imperfect man. As the psalmist counsels: “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs.” Why not? Because “his spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground, in that day his thoughts do perish.” Likewise it is folly to put faith in material goods. Not only do riches ‘make wings for themselves and fly away like an eagle,’ but in the day of God’s fury, so near at hand, such “valuable things will be of no benefit.” However, those who put their faith in God and in his Son-King, Jesus Christ, “will by no means come to disappointment.”—Ps. 146:3, 4; Prov. 23:4, 5; 11:4; 1 Pet. 2:6.
Regarding faith Paul tells us that it is “the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld.” Note that faith is not reflexive, not faith in faith, but that it goes out, to persons and things. It is convinced of things even though they are unseen; either because the object of one’s faith is spirit and therefore invisible, or because the things in which one has faith still lie in the future. We might therefore say that faith extends vertically, into the heavens, where it sees Jehovah God, Jesus Christ and the myriads of other spirit creatures in the heavens; and that it extends horizontally, backward to the beginning of creation and forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises in the far-distant future; namely, the complete vindication of God’s name and the full realization of his purposes regarding the earth and man. And faith itself, says the apostle Paul, is the evident demonstration of these things.—Heb. 11:1.
A SOUND BASIS
God’s Word gives us sound basis for our faith by revealing to us God’s name, Jehovah, and what his cardinal qualities or attributes are: power, wisdom, justice and love. And not only does his Word tell us that God has these qualities, but it tells us of his dealings with his creatures wherein he continually demonstrated these attributes so that we may have full confidence in him.—Ps. 62:11; 89:14; Prov. 2:6; 1 John 4:8.
Showing that we must also have faith in God’s Son, Jesus said: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.” And again, “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 3:16; 17:3.
And since faith is also “the assured expectation of things hoped for,” it follows that we must also have knowledge of what are the things we may and should hope for. Again, God’s Word provides us with the needed knowledge. It assures us that paradisaic conditions will be restored to this earth, and that on a world-wide scale, and that this restoration work can be expected to begin within the present generation. Then no one will “do any harm or cause any ruin . . . because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.” All mankind will be united in the worship of the one true God, Jehovah. Then also God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more.” Then truly all things will be made new.—Isa. 11:9; Rev. 21:4, 5.
Yes, we have not only God’s book of nature to tell us about God but his written Word, the Bible, so that we may have a solid basis for our faith, as did the Bereans of old, who carefully examined the Scriptures daily to see whether the things brought to them in the name of Christianity were indeed supported by God’s Word or not. That is why the apostle Paul wrote Timothy: “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.” Obviously, in this Scriptural testimony there is no room for a religion of mere feeling or for a faith based on the mental attitude of faith.—Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17.
BY THEIR FRUITS
The folly of a faith based on faith is to be clearly seen in Christendom and this is especially true of the United States: never so much profession of religion and yet never so little evidence of Christianity in the lives of the people.
Would you have a real live faith that is built on a solid foundation and that will help you to bring forth the fruits that will win you God’s approval and blessing? Then take in knowledge of God’s Word, study it with the aids that God has providentially made available. Act upon that knowledge as did the wise man who built his house upon a rock-mass. Bring your life in line with God’s righteous requirements. Associate with those who are of this same frame of mind, and then, as you have opportunity, tell others about the things you have learned. Doing so, you will prove that you have a live faith; and, remember, “he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:17.