Why I Stopped Trying to ‘Have More Faith’

In doing apologetics — attempting to provide a rational basis for Christian doctrine — one comes across Christian anti-intellectualism from time-to-time. With good intentions, these sort of folks trot out the usual responses like, “We don’t need reason, we just need faith.” Christian anti-intellectualism, more or less, views reason as the enemy of faith. After all, Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is blind, right? Who needs reason?

As I’ve described in other places, it should be no surprise that on this understanding of faith many young Christians walk away from their faith when confronted with counter-evidence to their beliefs. Take a teenager, who has never been taught why they believe in Christianity, and drop them off at your average University today, and are we really surprised by the statistics? I’m not.

Telling teens with doubts that they need to just ‘have more faith’ is a serious problem. First of all, what does this even mean?

What is Faith?

I’ve already argued (and linked above) that Hebrews 11:1 is not arguing for a blind faith. Hebrews 11:3 makes that interpretation impossible. The author of Hebrews believes that we can have faith in a God that we cannot see based on the creation that we do see. In other words, the object of our faith (God) may be unseen, but the nature of our faith is based on the evidence of what we do see (creation). The move from the seen to the unseen is a move of reason. We can trust, or have faith, that God exists because of what we observe.

But faith, at least in the Biblical sense, is more than just knowledge. After all, The demons have knowledge of God and Jesus, yet surely they do not possess what some have called saving faith. The difference is loyalty. The demons know God and Jesus, yet refuse to pledge their loyalty. For the Christian, to have faith in Jesus is not to have blind faith, but to have believing loyalty that is based on evidence.

Have More Faith

Back to our original situation: what does it mean to tell a young, doubting believer to “Have more faith.” If you mean they should have more trust in Christ, very well. However, as we have just seen, this trust is based on evidence. For example, say the young Christian is having doubts as to whether or not Jesus actually rose from the dead. They are saying things like, “I want to believe, but there are billions of people who have died throughout history and not one of them has ever risen from the dead.” They are having trouble trusting in Jesus because they aren’t finding sufficient evidence to support their belief.

To answer this doubter with “Have more faith” is simply to say “Believe anyway.” “Keep believing even if there isn’t any evidence.” This ridiculous statement wouldn’t be applied under any other circumstances, but for some reason when it comes to our religious beliefs, many people think this a sufficient way of reasoning. Name one instance where it is reasonable to believe something without any evidence, outside of your religious beliefs. If you think religious beliefs deserve special treatment, show me where you get that idea from. If you think the Bible advocates for believing things even if there is no reason to believe them, show me where.

The good news is that there are reasons “for the hope that is within us.” We shoot ourselves in the foot when we give nonsense answers like “Well, just have more faith.” If you don’t know the answer to someone’s doubt, at least be honest and say “I’m not sure, but I bet there is a good answer” rather than radically redefining the word “faith.” Rather than admit ignorance, which is fine, some have opted to make the Christian faith completely unintelligible. I’m guessing it would be a good idea to stop that.

For these reasons, let’s stop being lazy and start doing the hard work of apologetics. Let’s stop being dishonest and admit we don’t always know the answer. There are reasons to believe, and we will only benefit from knowing them. Imagine how much stronger this young person’s faith would be if we provided them with a good answer. Perhaps, with a stronger faith, these all-too-familiar statistics will begin to decline.

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14 Comments »

  1. This is so important! I did a study on this once and remember learning about how it’s not that we can conjure up more faith… but that it’s the faith of God that we are to receive… His very faith being imparted to us. Not something we can stir up ourselves. Great post!

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  2. I agree and it is why I have issues with Inerrancy. The moment we lose the flexibility with faith is when we can no longer defend it. In my experience, that’s when doubt creeps in and takes over. Great points, thank you.

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  3. I love your conversational, humorous style. I am full of doubts, and I am not a young adult. My faith is based on experience, after 38 years of atheism. I take the mystical approach, but I really love reading your apologetic approach. I am following you.

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  4. I agree! We have such good reason to believe what we do, we just have to share that with others. Not answering someones doubts and saying that you “just have to have faith” is so harmful and it’s the reason we have found ourselves in the situation we are in today with my generation of believers, Generation Z. Keep up the hard work of sharing the truth brother!

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  5. Very well said brother. We must not only believe, but be ready to defend our beliefs with arguments more compelling than pseudoscientific speculation. Fake scientists believe in the Big Bang and Abiogenesis. They put their faith in those non-events, and they reason, albeit with flawed logic. In the meantime, we blindly put our faith in God, and do not seek to reason with those self-proclaimed reasoners. Yet we have evidence all around us! The laws and limits that govern the natural world indicate the existence of God.

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  6. Solid word! Love it and your website is amazing. If you’re ever looking to guest post, you should check out DailyPS.com – We’d love to have you! No pressure though – I really just wanted to say you’re doing a great job and making a difference. KEEP IT UP!

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  7. Good word. Would you provide illustrative responces in example to, for instance, the university student? Instead of saying, Have more faith!, what might you have actually said to that person?

    Saying to someone, simply, Have more faith!, is akin to scriptures rebuking people who say, Be blessed! and yet offer no assistance to someone in need. When someone asking for food because they’re hungry, or clothes because they’re cold, or even faith having little and not enough, you saying to them, Have more faith! is like saying, Be blessed, be filled, be warm and of good cheer! … But doing nothing for them. When someone is having a crisis of faith, we should be able to reply with truth and love.

    I think on the verse, Teach your childen in the way they should go (in the Lord), and when they are older they will not depart from it. So similarly I was raised in the Church, but going to university I followed somewhat after the status quo, sinning much; but it wasnt long before it was apparent to me this was not the Way, and came running after God.

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