Hebrews 11:1 "Faith is the Substance of things hoped for, the Evidence of things not seen"
In a June 2013 Gallup Poll, Americans were asked the question "how much trust do you place in several different institutions?" The categories of responses they could give were 1) a great deal, 2) quite a lot, 3) some, 4) very little trust, and 5) none. The top institution that Americans trust is our military, where 76% of Americans surveyed trust the military either a great deal or quite a lot. Since this Poll began in 1973, this percentage has been steadily increasing from the mid-fifties.
So where does the church or organized religion fall in this Poll? The church came in fourth place, with only 48% of Americans having a great deal or a lot of trust in the church. The sad thing to note, though, is unlike our military, whose trust has been growing with Americans since 1973, American’s trust in the church has been steadily declining since then, when back in 1973 65% of Americans trusted in the church as their source for truth. So if more and more Americans are no longer going to the church to cultivate their worldview, how do people go about testing if their personal set of beliefs are worth living by?
In his book ‘Why Jesus?’, Dr. Ravi Zacharias examines the mass marketing of spirituality in America and the seeming willingness of today’s American culture to trust indiscriminately in most anything the media presents to us. But with his examination of American culture, he presents four key elements each person should be considering when examining their belief system: the combinations of truth and relevance, and the combinations of reason and faith.
He explains it this way: "The first is the combination of truth and relevance: How do I know that what I believe is true, and is what I believe in any way relevant to my day-to-day life? The danger here is that we often mistake relevance for truth and make truth so academic that it seems to have become irrelevant. But there is second combination, and that is of reason and faith. Every worldview has to bring together reason and faith. Some admit to both, and some like to pretend they have both in the proper order. The naturalist is too proud to admit that a heavy dose of faith is required in order to believe as he or she does. And the religious person can often become smug and say ‘I really don’t care what you say, my faith is the most important thing to me.’ I have often put it this way: God has put enough into this world to make faith in him the most reasonable thing; but He has left enough out to make it impossible to live by reason alone."
I am I complete agreement with Ravi. And the Bible tells us the same thing. Our verse this week out of Hebrews squarely explains that the God of the Bible wants you to examine the faith you place in your belief system based on both the substance of it (its relevance in your life that has caused you to stand upon it) and the evidence behind it (those convincing proofs that cause you to go from mere belief to a conviction).
The Greek word in Hebrews 11:1 for ‘substance’ means ‘the foundation upon which I stand’, which can be based on objective facts or subjective opinion, and the word for ‘evidence’ means ‘the convincing proofs that lead to conviction (i.e., faith) in or on a matter or subject’.
The question for each of us is, have we seriously examined our worldview to see if it is worth believing? Are we are standing on a solid foundation of evidence that leads us to live with conviction, or are we, as Dr. Zacharias says, being swept along by the media and mass marketing into a worldview that we have almost unconsciously adopt without questioning it.
Dr. Stephen Meyers, one of the leading scientists in the Intelligent Design movement today, explains his own journey this way: "For a 2-year period in my life, I was attracted to Nietzsche’s version of existentialism. He asked, ‘Why should God rule and I serve?’ That resonated within me. Why should a condition of my happiness be submission to the will of God? I sensed I couldn’t be happy without Him; I knew my bad lifestyle only brought misery. The intellectual rebellion the apostle Paul talks about is very true in my own life. Even in my Christian thinking today, I find a tendency to slide back into what Paul refers to as the natural mind. And here’s what the scientific evidence for God does for me: it realigns me. It helps me recognize that despite my natural tendency toward self-focus and self-absorption, I can’t ignore God’s accomplishment in this world to let everyone know that He is real, that He is the Creator, and that we need to get right with Him."
Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called "Faith: Substance and Evidence." He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.