Faith Seeking Understanding: Part 2

christmas_faithIn *Handbook of Christian Apologetics*, by Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, the authors describe four elements of true faith. Faith consists of (a) emotional faith, (b) intellectual faith, (c) volitional faith and (d) heart faith. Emotional faith is the inward psychological feeling of trust we have for God. This could be described as certitude. Emotional faith encompasses hope–which is more than mere wishing–and peace–which is greater than mere serenity. Intellectual faith is belief. It is like an anchor in knowledge which grounds and strengthens emotional faith. It is more than mere opinion, but rooted in clearly understood fact. Volitional

faith is the act of the will in obedience to God. This element of faith is described by James, the brother of Jesus:

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness’—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” – James 2:14-16, ESV

Volitional faith is an element of faith born out of love. Just as hope is
more than wishing for emotional faith, and belief is not simply an
opinion for intellectual faith, volitional faith comes from a love deeper than a vague feeling. This aspect of faith is something more than a quiver in our liver.

“The intellect is the soul’s navigator, but the will is its captain. The
intellect is Mr. Spock, the will is its Captain Kirk, and the feelings are
its Dr. McCoy. The soul is an ‘Enterprise,’ a real starship. The will can
command the intellect to think, but the intellect cannot command the will to will, only inform it, as a navigator informs the captain. Yet the will cannot simply make you believe. It can’t force the intellect to believe what appears to it to be false, or to disbelieve what seems to it to be true. Belief is what happens when you decide to be honest and put your mind in the service of truth.” – *Handbook of Christian Apologetics*

The will is the power of the soul that is closest to the heart. In the
Bible, the heart does not refer to our feelings but to the absolute center of the soul. Rather than being an object within the soul, like the emotions, intellect, and will, it is the self. In other words, it is the
one who has emotions, intellect, and will. It is also where the Holy Spirit dwells and works. This is why Solomon advised, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).

*Folk reason *is restricted to what we can prove through methods such as science. However, the older definition of reason included understanding and discovering, as well as proving. Proponents of *folk reason* claim that they will not believe anything without hard evidence. Taking after the Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume, they would say that if a claim cannot be proven either mathematically or scientifically, “Commit it then to the Flames: For it can contain nothing but Sophistry and Illusion.” The only problem is that we cannot prove the truth of this sort of statement mathematically or scientifically! It is self-refuting. And the
truth is no one actually lives according to this standard. Everyone starts with first principles (see my last couple of posts) which they reason from to arrive at their conclusions about anything else. We start with the principles that truth cannot be contradictory, that everything in the world around us has a cause, and that there is a reasonable explanation of it all–even if we do not currently claim to know what that explanation is. When we are introduced to folk reasoners, they do not subject us to a series of scientific tests to prove we are who we claim to be. Folk reasoners assume that the laws of nature are true and constant, and that the sun will rise tomorrow just as it rose today. They only bring up their
objections that (for example) the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth is not observable, repeatable, or scientifically testable, when it suits them. Whatever folk reasoners might claim, strict empirical certainty is unrealistic and unlivable. We all know most of what we know by faith based on what other people, such as parents, teacher, friends, pastors, etc. have told us.

Faith and reason are relative to truth; they are both ways of understanding or discovering what it true. There are three kinds of truths:

a. truths of faith alone,

b. truths of faith and reason,

c. truths of reason alone.

Truths of faith alone are truths revealed by God that we could not discover through human reason. These include truths such as that God is a Trinity–one God existing in three Persons, or that the crucifixion of Jesus atoned for human sin. Truths of faith and reason are truths revealed by God that we can also understand using reason. These include truths such as the claim that there is one God, or that there is a universal and objective moral law. Truths of reason alone are truths such as *E* = *mc*2 or that the distance from Earth to the Sun is 93 million miles. The task of the Christian apologist is to defend the faith by attempting to prove all the truths of faith and reason, and to answer all objections to truths of faith alone.

Faith and reason are not in conflict if we understand them correctly. Faith and reason are complimentary ways of knowing truth. Biblical faith is not a blind leap in the dark. There is more to reason than empirical testing of the physical world. *Folk faith* and *folk reason* are unrealistic. We all know most of what we know by faith, and even skeptics who demand hard evidence for Christian truth claims do not consistently apply this standard for most other areas of their lives. Since *true faith* and *true reason* explain
the world around us better than *folk faith* and *folk reason*, Christians equipped with apologetics are actually have an advantage over skeptics. Use this knowledge wisely, readers.

~Jared Abbott

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One thought on “Faith Seeking Understanding: Part 2

  1. Some of the best stuff I’ve read regarding Apologetics… period. Thanks Jared. I’ve really enjoyed these posts.

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