Is faith merely elephant optimism?



The word “faith” conjures up various meanings in our minds. To some it might suggest the type of optimism that it would take for an elephant to jump to a monkey on a trapeze. A leap of faith contrary to reality. Many think that those who have faith in Jesus will end up like the optimistic elephant ~ let down.

Is faith in the Trinity just wishful thinking? Or is it based on the observation of reality?

Ellis Potter, a former Buddhist monk, says that the ideas of Zen Buddhism, though attractive to him in many ways, did not explain reality as well as Trinitarian Christianity, particularly in the area of relationships. “It took less faith to believe in Christianity, because its truth is so connecting to life and reality as we live it and know it.”

Apologist Tim Keller points out that Jesus tells his followers who have little faith to consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Why? Because God’s care in feeding the birds and clothing the lilies is evidence and precedence that God will feed and clothe the disciples, as well. It isn’t mere optimism. It is considered trust in God, based on God’s prior actions.

Many atheists portray faith in God as unscientific and contrary to the evidence. The writer at the website Atheist Revolution first describes faith in God as having zero evidence ~ as unscientific.  Secondly, the writer defines faith in God as “continuing to believe something for which insufficient evidence exists.” An irrational faith.

Oxford Professor John Lennox says that Christianity is not un-scientific or irrational, and he resists the idea that faith in God is in opposition to a scientific way of thinking:

What I am amazed at is that serious thinkers today continue to ask us to choose between God and science. That’s like asking people to choose between Henry Ford and engineering as an explanation of the motor car. defines “faith” in this way:

1. confidence or trust in a person or thing.
2. belief that is not based on proof.
When God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, Abraham did not have to exercise faith contrary to what he knew about God. Although Abraham did not have proof, in one sense, the writer of Hebrews says that “he reasoned that God could even raise the dead…” Abraham’s faith was not based on thin air. His faith fulfilled both aspects of the definition above: Abraham had confidence in God, and he stepped out into unchartered ground, not with absolute proof, but with considered trust that God would act faithfully, as he had in the past.

If a father asks his son to run and get in the car, the father may not have time to prove to the son why he needs to do it, but it doesn’t make it an irrational choice if it is based on a relationship of trust.

Faith in God is much more than an elephant’s mere optimism ~ it is grounded in reality and relationship.

~Betsy McPeak

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