Knowledge precedes faith.~Francis Schaeffer
Many people think that faith and knowledge are opposites. Atheists often attack Christianity by criticizing a “faith” that they say is not supported by, or even contradicted by, evidence. Some Christians seem to agree with them. They support their view with verses like 2 Corinthians 5:7 for we walk by faith, not by sight (ESV).
Here’s the problem: to interpret this verse in such a way, one has to take it out of context.
To interpret faith as meaning a blind leap of faith, one has to ignore the passages surrounding this verse, ignore the context of Scripture as a whole, and ignore the original language the Bible was written in. Let’s start with the language. The Greek word translated into English as faith is pistis. Here is what Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary says about pistis:
…primarily, “firm persuasion,” a conviction based upon hearing (akin to peitho, “to persuade”)…
All this stands in contrast to belief in its purely natural exercise, which consists of an opinion held in good “faith” without necessary reference to its proof….
In the original language faith is not good “faith” held without rhyme or reason. Faith without evidence, or in contradiction to evidence, has no basis in the Bible. In fact, because our English word “faith” has thus been twisted, it might be better to translate pistis as “trust.” Only a fool would trust what he/she does not know. Christians who proclaim a blind leap of faith are the blind leading the blind.
This erroneous view of faith has made Christianity an easy target for antitheists. All they have to do to rob Christians of credibility is to set up a straw man argument against us, based on this idiotic view of faith!
In fact, if we read 2 Corinthians 5:7 in full context Paul says,
2 Corinthians 5:1-10 ESV (emphasis mine)
For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
Paul first gives an argument from desire, arguing that the believer knows he has eternal life because he longs for the eternal. Secondly, he says we have the Holy Spirit as a guarantee. The Christian believer has a rational belief in God on the basis that the very Spirit of the Almighty God lives within him or her! This faith may be “blind” in the sense that God is not seen, but the Believer has more than enough evidence that God is real. It is no leap of faith.
The faithful know that God is real, but what about the unbeliever? Without a direct experiential encounter with God, the Christian must attempt to show that he is real. If Christianity is true, we should find some evidence for it. With the help of the Holy Spirit, if the Christian will discipline themself to learn how to defend the faith with evidence, the skeptic may be convinced.
Apologetics is the Biblical way to witness to the skeptic. The term “apologetics” is derived from the Greek apologia. It does not mean Christians need to apologize for their faith. Apologia is translated as “answer” or “defense” in 1 Peter 3:15.
Since knowledge precedes faith, the Christian’s primary mission is to know God and to make Him known.
John 17:3 ESV
And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.