As an apologist I am constantly thinking through the evidence that surrounds my Christian faith. I’m always looking for ways to communicate the reasonableness and evidence for my belief in Jesus Christ. I want to explain that I have not made a blind leap into the abyss of nothingness so many have dubbed “faith.”
Yet no matter how strongly I’m able to demonstrate the truth of Christianity there will be people who continue to tell me, “Your faith is blind.” In other words, if I would open my eyes and choose to see, I’d give up my faith in God and in Jesus Christ specifically. They tell me I can’t see God, and what I think is evidence is really phantom lights as my eyes strain in the darkness. The clear implication is that seeing is believing; sight is foundational to belief.
I must admit I struggle with this notion. Consider that so much of what we believe in can’t be seen. We can’t see love, gravity, hope, or justice. While we experience their effects, we cannot see them. Yet we believe in them.
But my struggle goes deeper than recognizing that we daily believe in things we cannot see. The real reason I struggle with the idea that sight equals belief is because I wonder if it’s actually true. If you saw everything you think you need to see to believe that God exists, Jesus Christ is who he claimed to be, and the Bible is true, would you automatically believe?
Let me illustrate what I mean. Because I believe God exists and want to live in a way that honors Him, I ask him for guidance in decision-making. There have been times when I’ve had to make a big life-changing choice and I’ve been at a loss, not knowing what to do. In those moments I’ve been known to tell God that I really wish he’d just speak audibly and tell me what to do. If I could just physically hear him tell me what he wants then I would do it. In a very real sense I’ve fallen into the idea that seeing is believing.
In those circumstances I’ve had to stop and ask myself some questions. If I heard God audibly speak to me, would I be more likely to obey? Would I be more likely to believe? I’d like to think so, but I wonder.
Moses saw God’s presence in the burning bush and argued with him, a very reluctant leader of Israel (Exodus 3-4). Gideon met the angel of the Lord and was commanded to free Israel from their oppressor, and he also hesitated. He put God to the test, not trusting that the audible voice of God’s command was a good enough reason to obey (Judges 6). The people of Israel wandered in the desert for forty years with a pillar of fire hanging in the air by night and a cloud by day. It was a physical representation of God’s presence with them, but they still got together and made a false god (Exodus 13, 32).
Jesus performed miracle after miracle. He taught as one who had the same authority God had. He fulfilled countless prophecies. He proclaimed he was the Messiah, backed it up with his actions, and was still rejected. If anything should cause someone to believe that Jesus was telling the truth, watching him bring a man back to life and then coming back to life himself should have done it. Yet then, as today, people refused to believe.
Jesus himself testified to the reality that sight does not equal belief. He told a story of two men, a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. Both men died; the rich man went to hell and Lazarus went to heaven. While in hell, the rich man sees Lazarus with Abraham, and begs Abraham to let the Lazarus go back to earth to warn his brothers to repent and avoid the torments of hell. “But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31)
The Bible records so many accounts of men and women physically seeing God at work and yet refusing to believe him. In my life I can think of times where I’ve seen God at work, yet I’ve still doubted him in disbelief. This is why I wonder if “seeing is believing.”
Our search for “proof” or evidence of God’s existence is a good search. After all, if faith in God is blind I’d like to know. I’d prefer not to chase phantom lights. The point is that the evidence is there. So why don’t we, why don’t I, believe?
There must be something more to faith than seeing. While it is not less than seeing, it is more than sight. And this is exactly the kind of faith we see the Bible teaching. Faith is not simply seeing who God is or the evidence for his existence. Faith is entrusting yourself to him. It’s acknowledging that he is trustworthy and then actually trusting him.
So then, if you saw what you think you need to see, would you believe?