Here is a recent sermon where we took some time to look at Hebrews 11, the most well-known chapter in the book. The passage has a lot to teach us about faith.
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Heb 11:6)
In a certain sense, faith is relatively simple: faith believes that God exists and that obeying Him is worth it. Now, this is exactly the problem a lot of people have with faith. They ask, “How can you know that He actually exists? Isn’t faith just some blind leap in the dark, believing that God exists with no evidence?” But the author of Hebrews isn’t encouraging us to believe just because; he’s telling us that faith is believing that God is as God has revealed Himself.
The Bible never sets out a philosophical proof for the existence of God. Instead, it points to the places He is speaking and says, “Do you recognize these as the voice of God?” We hear His voice in creation. As Psalm 19 says: “The heavens declare the glory of God.” Most people have an innate sense that ‘nothing x nobody’ can’t equal everything.
We hear His voice in our guilt. Even people who abandon morality and attempt to live for pleasure have a deep sense of guilt that they cannot shake, no matter how hard they try. And the nagging sense that we are going to be accountable implies a Person we are accountable to.
We hear His voice in our longing for eternity or in the transcendence of romantic love. How satisfying is it to hear that everything we feel is just chemical processes and randomly firing neurons? Even if we mentally agree that we are only a pack of neurons, something in our hearts cries out that it isn’t true.
We hear His voice in the gratitude we experience in our happiest moments. As C. S. Lewis said, atheists have the problem of feeling profound gratitude in joyful moments and not knowing whom to thank.
We all hear this voice. Faith is hearing it and recognizing that it is the voice of God. Theologians have called this the sensus divinatus, the “sense of the divine.” This sense is instinctual to us, like our aversion to murder or genocide. Imagine meeting someone who wanted to convince you that the holocaust was actually a moral good. This person might lay out all sorts of arguments, but you know he’s wrong before he even gets into his reasoning. There are good logical reasons to disbelieve him, but you reject the conclusion primarily on the basis of instinct.
As the famous church father Anselm said, Christianity is “faith seeking understanding.” Like you, I have all kinds of hard questions for God, about the morality of the Bible and the existence of hell. I want to understand, and every now and then I get a flash of insight. But in the meantime, when I can’t understand, I hold onto what God has revealed about Himself: He is all-loving, kind, good, and powerful. Even if I can’t understand it all now, I trust in Him because the source of my faith is not explanation, but revelation.