Many people use the term "faith" to describe belief in something for which there is no evidence, or perhaps insufficient evidence. Is that really what is meant by biblical faith? It seems that the correct idea of what faith entails is something closer to trust.
Some say that faith is a blind leap in the dark. Now, I will say something that may raise the hackles of some Christians (particularly fellow apologists out there) but I think that there is some truth to that statement. Faith is a sort of blind leap in the dark, but that I think that this illustration needs to be more thoroughly expounded upon because I think that everyone has faith in one thing or another at any given time and that in all these cases, they are making a blind leap in the dark.
I think that most people can agree that there are few things that we can know with the same type of precision and confidence that we know 2+2=4. There is a level of "mathematical" certainty that is unobtainable for most of the elements and areas of our every day lives. For example, I know that my wife loves me. However, I have to also admit that it is possible that she does not.
Before my wife gets angry with me, I'd better explain further. While I do think that it is possible that I incorrectly believe that she loves me, that is because her love for me is not something I can know with indubitable certainty (that is...without the possibility of being wrong). It is possible that she married me and has stayed with me and shared her life with me for some sort of ulterior, self-serving reason. But, while such a theory may be possible, it seems highly unlikely that my wife would marry me, live with me, have children with me, share her life with me and generally do things that seem to enhance the quality of my life.
Another, less volitile, example would be what I had for lunch this afternoon. I know what I had for lunch. But I could be mistaken. It is possible that while I still can see the evidence of the wrapper that is in the trash can, the plate and napkin I used with an appearance that corresponds to what I believe I had for lunch, I could still be incorrect. What if someone else had disposed of those items in that trash can? That's possible. However, I recall eating my lunch and throwing away that particular trash in that particular trash can. Unless I have some sort of reason to doubt my own memory, I am perfectly justified in believing that I am correctly remembering what I had for lunch.
Yet again, how does one disprove that we are not brains in a vat being electro-chemically stimulated to experience the sensations that we have of the world around us? We can't prove that this isn't the case, but we are certainly not being unreasonable in thinking that the world really is what we perceive it to be.
This is where faith comes in. While I cannot know with mathematical certainty that my wife loves me, there is enough evidence to make it more probably true than not that she does love me. So, if I see that the more plausible conclusion is that she loves me, how do I bridge the gap between "it's likely true" to "I'm going to live my life as if it were true?" That, to my understanding, is faith.
When we talk about faith being equivalent to trust, what we mean is that faith is acting as though the thing you believe to be true actually is true. When I sit in my chair, I have every reason to believe that it will support my weight and therefore I act as if that were the case by placing my faith (trust) in the chair when I sit in it. The same is true when we believe that an airplane will get us safely to our destination. We get on the plane because we are acting as though the believe in the plane's (and crew's) ability to get us safely to our destination is actually true. We trust that it is so and so we act accordingly.
How does this relate to religious faith? Well, as a Christian, it seems to me that the evidence makes it more plausibly true than not that Jesus of Nazareth spent three years teaching His disciples, predicted His own death, burial and resurrection, and then proceeded to actually fulfill the predictions He made some time around 30 A.D. That, along with other evidence such as the eyewitness testimonies of the apostles, seems to me to provide enough evidence to show that these events are more probably than not. Therefore, I am going to live my life as though these things are true, historical facts that actually happened. And if they did actually happen, it seems to me that they bring with them some major implications on my life and my future.
So, faith is not "wishing" although, in a sense, it is a blind leap in the dark. However, this "blind leap" is only taken after we have been assured by a trusted source that we will safely land on solid footing. I may not know indubitably that God exists or that Christianity is true, but the evidence seems so overwhelmingly to point to that conclusion that I am going to take that "leap of faith" by living my life as if it is true.
For more resources:
- Faith is Not Wishing: 13 Essays for Christian Thinkers - Greg Koukl
- Faith is Not Wishing - Apologetics Guy
- Biblical Faith vs. Blind Faith - Cerebral Faith