Is Faith based on Knowledge?

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By BibleAsk Team


The concept of faith is central to Christian theology, often described as belief and trust in God. A common debate within theological circles revolves around whether faith is based on knowledge or if it can be considered “blind.” This essay argues that genuine faith is indeed built on knowledge and facts presented to the mind, a view supported by various biblical passages.

Faith and Knowledge in the Bible

The Nature of Faith

The New Testament provides a foundational definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1:

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1, NKJV)

This verse suggests that faith involves a conviction about things not visible, yet it also implies that this conviction is based on substantial evidence and assurance. The term “substance” (Greek: hypostasis) indicates a firm foundation, and “evidence” (Greek: elegchos) implies a reasoned conviction.

Faith Based on Knowledge: The Example of Thomas

The story of Thomas, often referred to as “Doubting Thomas,” is a significant example of faith based on knowledge. In John 20:24-29, Thomas initially doubts the resurrection of Jesus until he sees and touches Jesus’ wounds. Upon encountering the risen Christ, Thomas declares, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28, NKJV). Jesus responds:

“Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'” (John 20:29, NKJV)

While Jesus acknowledges Thomas’s belief after seeing evidence, He also blesses those who believe without seeing. This highlights that faith is not blind but can be based on credible testimony and evidence.

John’s Purpose for Writing

John’s Gospel explicitly states its purpose in promoting faith based on knowledge:

“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31, NKJV)

John indicates that his record of Jesus’ signs and miracles serves to provide a factual basis for faith. The recorded miracles and teachings of Jesus are meant to inform and persuade the reader to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.

Faith and Knowledge in the Life of Abraham

Abraham is often cited as the epitome of faith in the Bible. His journey with God illustrates how faith is built on knowledge and experiences of God’s faithfulness. Romans 4:20-21 describes Abraham’s faith:

“He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.” (Romans 4:20-21, NKJV)

Abraham’s faith was based on his knowledge of God’s character and previous acts. His trust in God’s promises grew from his understanding and experience of God’s faithfulness.

Faith and Knowledge in the Teachings of Jesus

Jesus’ ministry often emphasized the importance of knowledge in fostering faith. He performed miracles and taught in ways that provided evidence of His divine nature and mission. For example, in John 14:11, Jesus says:

“Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.” (John 14:11, NKJV)

Jesus encouraged belief based on the evidence of His works, suggesting that faith is not blind but informed by observable actions and miracles.

The Role of Miracles

Miracles in the Gospels serve as signs that authenticate Jesus’ identity and message. The feeding of the 5,000, the healing of the blind, and the raising of Lazarus are not just acts of compassion but also signs that provide a foundation for faith. In John 11:42, Jesus prays before raising Lazarus from the dead:

“And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” (John 11:42, NKJV)

The miracle was performed to provide evidence for the people, fostering belief in Jesus as the sent one of God.

Faith and Reason in Pauline Theology

The Apostle Paul frequently connects faith with knowledge and reason. In Romans 10:17, he states:

“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Romans 10:17, NKJV)

Faith arises from hearing the message of Christ, implying that faith is based on the knowledge of God’s word. Paul’s ministry involved reasoning and persuading his listeners to believe in Jesus (Acts 17:2-4).

The Example of Berean Jews

The Berean Jews exemplify how faith and knowledge intersect. Acts 17:11 describes their response to Paul’s preaching:

“These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11, NKJV)

The Bereans’ faith was grounded in their examination of the Scriptures. They sought knowledge and verification before accepting Paul’s message, demonstrating that genuine faith involves critical engagement with facts.

Faith and Knowledge in the Epistle to the Hebrews

The Epistle to the Hebrews offers profound insights into the nature of faith, particularly in relation to knowledge and understanding. Hebrews 11, often called the “Faith Chapter,” recounts the faith of numerous biblical figures, emphasizing how their faith was based on their knowledge and experience of God’s promises.

Moses’ Faith

Hebrews 11:24-27 describes the faith of Moses:

“By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward. By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” (Hebrews 11:24-27, NKJV)

Moses’ faith was rooted in his knowledge of God’s promises and his anticipation of future rewards. His actions were based on a firm conviction, informed by his understanding of God’s will and character.

The Relationship Between Faith and Evidence

The Testimony of Eyewitnesses

The New Testament often highlights the role of eyewitness testimony in fostering faith. The apostles’ preaching and writings were based on their direct experiences with Jesus. In 1 John 1:1-3, John emphasizes the tangible basis of their message:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:1-3, NKJV)

John’s emphasis on what they had seen and heard underscores that their faith—and the faith they encourage in others—is based on verifiable experiences and evidence.

The Resurrection of Jesus

The resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone of Christian faith, presented as a historical event witnessed by many. Paul underscores the importance of the resurrection and the eyewitness testimony supporting it in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8:

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, NKJV)

Paul presents the resurrection as a well-attested fact, encouraging faith based on the credible testimony of numerous witnesses.

Faith and Rational Inquiry

Engaging the Mind

Christian faith encourages the engagement of the mind and rational inquiry. Jesus Himself highlighted the importance of loving God with all one’s mind in Matthew 22:37:

“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'” (Matthew 22:37, NKJV)

This commandment implies that faith involves intellectual engagement and understanding.

Apologetics and Reasoned Defense

The practice of apologetics, or reasoned defense of the faith, underscores the relationship between faith and knowledge. In 1 Peter 3:15, believers are instructed to be prepared to give a reason for their hope:

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15, NKJV)

This verse highlights the importance of being able to articulate and defend one’s faith through reason and evidence.

Conclusion

The examination of biblical texts reveals that genuine faith is indeed built on knowledge and facts presented to the mind. The examples of Thomas, Abraham, Moses, and the Berean Jews illustrate how faith is rooted in understanding and evidence. Jesus’ teachings, the apostles’ testimony, and the resurrection of Christ all emphasize the importance of knowledge in fostering faith.

Far from being “blind,” Christian faith involves a reasoned conviction based on credible evidence and rational inquiry. The command to love God with all one’s mind and the practice of apologetics further reinforce the relationship between faith and knowledge. Thus, genuine faith is both informed and rational, grounded in the truth of God’s revelation and the evidence of His works.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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