Atheists suggest that belief in God is equivalent to believing in the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus. Andy Bannister helps us understand what it really means to believe in something so that we can respond to claims made by skeptics or seekers in a productive manner. He says it’s important to note that atheists may have misconceptions about the true meaning of the word ‘faith’.

“Some atheists have mistakenly assumed that faith means believing things which there is no evidence, or as Richard Dawkins put it, ‘faith is believing things in the teeth of the evidence.’ Nobody really wants to believe things for which there is no evidence; we want to be reasonable human beings and so religion is written off. But the problem with that is it represents an absolute misunderstanding of what the word faith means.”

“The Bible says that ‘faith means believing things which there is no evidence’ (Hebrews 11:1). The Bible describes faith as a gift, but it’s not the gift of stupidity. In fact, the word faith is interesting. You see, the English word faith comes from a Latin word fides, which means trust. To have faith means to put your trust in something; it means to look at the facts, look at the evidence.”

There comes a point where we all have to move beyond the evidence and head knowledge, and actually put our trust in something. He shares a personal example of this,

“I’ve been married to my wife now for 19 years, and 19 ½ years ago when I asked her to marry me, I had all kinds of facts that I knew about my wife; I know how she looked, I knew what made her laugh, I knew her favorite food, etc. But the moment I asked her to marry me, I was putting my trust in her. I was moving from beliefs-about to belief-in.

As followers of Christ, we are encouraged to study the evidence and then make a decision based on that evidence.

“The Bible says here’s the evidence of who God is and all the things He’s done in history. But the Bible says belief is not enough. The Bible doesn’t want us to just believe in God. If you recall the Bible says, ‘even the demons believe in God and shudder’ (James 2:19).”

“What the Bible wants us to do is to look at who God is, supremely, who He has revealed Himself to be in and through Jesus. Then the question is not, will you believe? But the question is, will you trust?  That’s what faith means. It’s not blind faith. It’s looking at the evidence and saying, now am I willing to make this personal and actually take an action based upon the facts that are in front of me?”

While engaging in conversations with skeptics, it’s important for Christians to articulate that our faith in Christ is more than just a belief that we carry. It’s an informative decision that we have made, based on facts, to fully put our trust in God.

Andy Bannister is the Director of the Solas Centre for Public Christianity and an Adjunct Speaker for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, speaking and teaching regularly throughout the UK, Europe, Canada, the USA, and the wider world. From universities to churches, business forums to TV and radio, he regularly addresses audiences of both Christians and those of all faiths and none on issues relating to faith, culture, politics and society.

What forms our beliefs
Also on this edition of Neil Stavem
Leith Anderson on church and culture