Faith Based on Evidence

I’ve been reading Sinclair B. Ferguson’s “Know Your Christian Life”  and really enjoying Ferguson’s clarity and gentleness.  He is a wonderful teacher.  He is careful to be true to his subject and he woos the reader.  At least he does that to me.  J.I. Packer’s comment on the book is telling:

Knowing is for living, especially Christian knowing and Christian living.  This principle permeates Sinclair Ferguson’s theological introduction to the Christian life.  Knowledge about God is not mere information to be stored in our brains.  It is truth to be acted on.

 With clarity and contagious enthusiasm, Ferguson expounds key biblical themes: grace, sin, faith, repentance and many more.  “Christian doctrines are life-shaping,” he explains.  “They show us the God we worship.”

…Here is theology ; but don’t be frightened.  Dr. Ferguson is an accomplished divine in the best tradition anywhere….What he presents to us is biblical theology and in its conclusions reformed theology, of the older, riper, wiser, deeper sort.”

From the chapter “Faith in Christ”:

What is Faith?

    Faith is a great biblical word, but its currency has been taken over, unfortunately, by religious language in general.  As we have seen, in Scripture faith is generally the living personal trust in Christ.  But it is common to hear other religions today described as ‘other faiths’ even although faith in the biblical sense may have no part to play in them.  Biblical faith is a much richer and fuller notion altogether, and consists of several elements.

(i) Knowledge

           Faith is dependent on what can be known about God.  Even more significantly, in the New Testament faith involves us in coming to knowledge of God himself.  This is the great joy which Christ shared with his Father in the High Priestly Prayer of John 17: ‘This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’ (Jn. 17:3)….

    All trust is ultimately dependent on knowledge.  The problem we have in allowing complete strangers to take possession of our belongings is just that we do not know them well enough to trust them!  But the knowledge involved in faith is not merely intellectual baggage, because true knowledge in the Bible invariably involves personal fellowship….This kind of knowledge does not mean that we analyse its object from a distance, scrutinizing it objectively and dispassionately.  It is the kind of knowledge that brings us into immediate contact with God himself.  There is no greater privilege open to man than knowing God and this is what is held out to us through faith.

(ii). Assent

    ….Believing in Christ means assenting to the truth about Christ as well as coming to know him.  In fact there is a sense in which we may come to believe against our wishes!  It was so with Saul of Tarsus and has been with multitudes since that they have come to faith despite their unwillingness, because the evidence which has persuaded them has proved to be so overpoweringly strong. We speak in ordinary life about a man being so trustworthy that we would be compelled to trust him against our will.  So B. B. Warfield wrote: ‘The conception embodied in the terms “belief”, “faith”, in other words, is not that of an arbitrary act of the subject’s; it is that of a mental state or act which is determined by sufficient reasons.’ ….and John Murray adds to Warfield’s suggestion:

Faith is forced consent.  That is to say, when evidence is judged by the mind to be sufficient, the state of mind we call ‘faith’ is the inevitable precipitate.  It is not something we can resist or in respect of which we suspend judgment.  In such a case faith is compelled, it is demanded, it is commanded….

I love that last paragraph.   The chapter closes with:

(iii)  Trust in Christ

This is the heart of faith….Faith means abiding in Christ (Jn.15:1-11); it means receiving Christ (Jn. 1:12) and therefore embracing him in total trust.

           Such trust is always a costly thing because it involves us in surrendering our lives to Christ.  That is why in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) Jesus does not speak simply of ‘faith’.  He speaks about following and about carrying the cross.  He does this to emphasize what faith involves.  It means the practical recognition that Jesus is the Lord of our lives.  It means forsaking everything for his sake.  It means sacrifice and service.

I think you can buy the book here.



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