Faith is a Virtue
By Brian Forbes
© 2012 Brian Forbes
Those in science often say that we ought to doubt everything.† Thereís no question that scammers make their living on the trusting.† It is healthy in this fallen world to maintain a measure of doubt.
My grandmother is getting very old.† She has started to lose her memory, and it can be interesting to hear the connections she makes when I talk to her about our past together.† A few years back, she was befriended by a man who was more or less than a couple decades younger than her.† They fell in love.† My aunts, uncles, and dad werenít so convinced of his pure motives.† Sure enough, the first chance he got, he ran off to Vegas with her and they were married.† He was quoted as bragging that he was about to marry a rich widow, and he was about to come into a nice inheritance.† Needless to say, we were all concerned, and there were those in our family with sense enough to ignore the letter of the law and break her out of this prison she found herself in.† Little did the old groom know, the money wasnít being controlled by his feeble bride anymore, and he wasnít going to get any of it anyhow.† In the end, the criminal system worked.† It ignored the actions of my family members and annulled the marriage without the consent of my grandma.† To this day, when she talks about her dead husband, we donít know which one sheís referring to.
That guy was a scammer.† He was a liar.† He was a thief.† He wasnít worthy of any of our faith.† We were right to doubt his motives.† My grandmaís faith, or trust, was not a virtue in this case.
You see, faith is not always a virtue.† Doubt isnít always a virtue either.† It all depends on who or what your faith is in.† Itís the object of your faith that will show, in the end, whether you were right or wrong, in good faith or in danger.
So, is faith in Genesis a vice or a virtue?† Is doubt in Genesis a vice or a virtue?† The answer is that you canít start there.† If you start there, youíll be like my grandma, not really discerning true motives.† You have to start a little closer to you.† You have to trust the people who present the arguments to you.† You have to trust their sources, their presenters, and the documents they use for evidence.† Weíre building a ladder of trust that goes back through generations, through copies of copies, through the history of mankind back to the beginning.† Every generation between now and the source will have had to ask these same questions.† They will have had to trust that what they were given was either true or false.† Letís face it; Genesis is a long time back.
We have to trust.† It seems so hard to trust when anyone along the way could have fudged the numbers or tweaked the details.† Are there any solid nodes of reliability as we trace our understanding through the pages of time?† I believe, yes, there are many such reliable islands in this sea of blind faith.† I would start with the modern publishers.† They all seem to be consistent in the text they give us.† The English translations are all, with slight variation, proof of a common source.† I would take the modern publishers back to the first official English translation, the KJV.† Iím told that the group that got that translation together was seriously iron sharpening iron.† The next island goes back through the various other language translations throughout late history back to the Latin Vulgate, translated by Jerome in 382.† I think this has to be among the most solidly attested facts of history, especially for its time in history.† You can take it further back through some early churches and translations to what are considered to be eye witness accounts of Jesus.† Of the four gospels, two, Matthew and John, were purported to be among the 12 disciples, Mark was supposed to be the scribe of Peter, and Luke was a researcher under Paul.† Iím glad we have four accounts, because even if one is wrong, forged, or not on good authority, at least we can hope in the other three.† Now, weíre to the solid rock that is Jesus.† Iíll assume that most of my audience will not have a problem accepting the historical nature of the figure of Jesus.† I believe it takes more faith to ignore the solidity of the testimony of Jesus than it does to accept it.
Iíve done a rough sketch through history of the amount of faith that is required for you to believe in the historic Jesus.† Once you get to Jesus, the faith measuring cups start to get much larger in your world view recipe.† Did he walk in water?† You have to take the testimony of the guys who saw it happen.† Did Paul become blind and hear a voice before he was healed of his blindness and believed?† Youíll have to take his word on that.† Most importantly to this article, was Jesus a Jew?† I think thereís overwhelming testimony in every source that He placed himself under the authority of the courts set up by Moses.† He told people who asked him questions to consult Moses.† He said that he didnít come to abolish the Law of Moses or the prophets; he came to fulfill them.† He kept the Law of Moses.† Only slightly more faith would be measured for the fact that he accepted the stories given by Moses as historical accounts.† He talked about the flood as though it happened and a future judgment that will be similar in more ways than one.† There is a further testimony to this in that the author of Hebrews, who presumably knew people who knew Jesus, if he didnít know Jesus directly, laid out in Heb. 11 that the stories of Genesis are accurate accounts of history.† I have placed my faith in these testimonies.† I have found a solid island of truth to trust in.† I value this choice more than many other faith issues in my life.
As I write this, itís campaign season.† There are many political candidates trying to get me to believe in them.† They want me to trust their record, their ability, and their promises.† I have seen people with faith all over in this campaign vying for their favorite candidate.† Their faith is sometimes well founded, sometimes thoroughly researched, and sometimes voters have a blind faith in their candidate.† There are varying levels of faith and doubt for each voter, but one thing is clear, if you vote, you are exercising faith.
I bring in politics to show that it really doesnít matter who you are, you have to trust someone.† If you accept the testimony of one person, youíre denying the testimony of others.† If you choose to accuse, you are showing your doubt.† Itís impossible to be empirical about politics, a thing we can research always, never pausing for a breath, and weíll still end up having to trust someone.†
So, why do I say faith is a virtue?† Empirical evidence does exist.† Thereís no doubt of that.† I saw on TV a woman pick up a phone that was unplugged, act like she was talking to someone on the other end, and hang up.† The guy pointed out that the phone was unplugged, and she responded, ďAre you calling me a liar?Ē† ďI donít know what to say.Ē† The evidence, when itís solid, does the talking for you.† But why doesnít an all powerful God remove all doubt?† It would be easy for God to show the chord of the unplugged phone.† I would respond with a couple things.† One is that weíre not done yet.† Maybe He still will.† The other is that there is no faith when you have perfect empirical evidence.† I believe faith is a virtueÖ a virtue, that is, when itís placed in the proper object.
Why did God invent work?† He could do everything so nothing ever needed to be done.† Working for people shows love.† Why didnít He make space in such a way that you could get anywhere in an instant?† My answer is twofold.† One is that He isnít finished yet.† The other is that the joy is partly found in the adventure.† Could you imagine the Hobbit that started with the ring at the Shire and ended with the fires of Mt. Doom?†† Why does God require faith?† Havenít you ever heard the question, ďDonít you trust me?Ē† It feels good to have someone trust you.† It shows love.† God wants to be trusted, and who can blame Him?† Why does God use prophets?† I think that if He revealed it to us directly, weíd have to trust ourselves.† Thereís no great virtue in that.† We all trust ourselves.† Itís doubting ourselves that we need to do a little more of.† He likes when we trust those that He has put his trust in.† We need to love Godís servants, just as He has done.
One final thought.† This world is set up in terms of trust or faith largely because itís where we went wrong in the Garden.† We showed there that at least the first man and woman didnít believe God and would need to develop that trust.† I believe the world is one huge empirical experiment.† There have been times in history were the people knew nearly nothing about God.† There are regions where the culture is driven by guilt and shame, whereas others are concerned with forgiveness.† It doesnít matter who you are, your lot in life is entirely unique, yet there will always be others you can compare yourself to.† We are in the age of knowledge, and, regrettably few spend their time researching things that really matter.† Who can accuse God?† Who can make excuses?† We have empirical evidence that God is faithful.† He is a man of His word, if itís lawful to call him a man.† The best we have in this world is to prove our pukefulness.† We can lend our faith to our politicians and our skeptical friends.† If we place our faith there, our faith becomes a vice.† Anyone who places their faith in God embodies the essence of virtue.