But there is absolutely no reason to believe what ain't so. I never understood the effort some parents go to in order to keep their children believing in Santa Claus. Or all the Christmas movies that hail "faith" as a virtue in and of itself. Faith is only as valid as the object of our faith. This means that we should only believe in the truth. Anything less is misplaced faith.
According to the Bible, faith is the means by which we arrive at the truth about God. But that seems somewhat backwards, because generally we determine the truth first and then believe. Seeing is believing. But the Bible turns that around and says that believing is seeing. Why is that? Because in our natural state we are cut off from God, and none of our faculties can bridge the gap. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised." Faith means a spiritual awakening that removes the veil from our eyes, so that we can perceive spiritual realities.
Why is this spiritual rebirth necessary? Let's look at some of the other ways we might go about arriving at the truth about God: science, experience, and reason.
Science: The Bible is God's message of salvation rather than a science textbook; however, it does clearly state some things about the universe. Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." So the Bible says that it had a beginning. And Hebrews 11:3 says, "By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible." God spoke the universe into existence out of nothing. He created space, time, and matter by fiat.
In our scientific age, we have an advantage over prior generations in that we have substantial evidence to support the biblical account. The big bang marked the beginning of time, the universe emerged out of nothing, and it was finely tuned for life. It appears to have been purposefully created with us in mind.
So does this dispense with the need for faith? No, because one can always argue that we simply don't know enough yet. Maybe there is an infinite number of universes, and this one just happens to be the one where everything went exactly right. Never mind that there is no evidence for that; if we have a naturalistic mindset, we will choose any explanation rather than the supernatural, no matter how improbable.
Experience: I've heard non-believers say that they would believe in God if they witnessed a miracle. But is that really true? C. S. Lewis said the following:
In all my life I have met only one person who claims to have seen a ghost. And the interesting thing about the story is that the person disbelieved in the immortal soul before she saw the ghost and still disbelieves after seeing it. She says that what she saw must have been an illusion or a trick of the nerves. And obviously she may be right. Seeing is not believing.
For this reason, the question whether miracles occur can never be answered simply by experience. Every event which might claim to be a miracle is, in the last resort, something presented to our senses, something seen, heard, touched, smelled, or tasted. And our senses are not infallible. If anything extraordinary seems to have happened, we can always say that we have been the victims of an illusion. If we hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural, this is what we shall always say.A miracle is by definition a supernatural event, but unless we know everything about the limits of nature, how do we know if something was supernatural? If a person is healed of an incurable disease, we will most likely interpret the event according to our preexisting philosophy. So if we assume naturalism, we will either try to give a natural explanation, or we will just accept that we don't know. We will not consider the event to be evidence for the existence of God.
Reason: I am a firm believer in critical thinking and sound logic, and I believe it reinforces faith. Critical thinking cannot destroy true faith, which has to be built on truth. Of course, if we craft an idol out of select parts of the Bible and mistake that for God's revealed truth, that idol can easily be shattered by a well-aimed argument. But the word of God itself, understood accurately in context, can withstand intense, honest scrutiny.
Logic is a useful tool, but one problem is that none of us are pure rationalists. Most of the time there are certain things we want to believe and other things we don't want to believe. We are invested in our philosophies of life because they define us. So if we lose a debate, we don't necessarily modify our views--we just walk away. And next time we'll come up with better arguments.
Another problem with logic is that it is very difficult to arrive at the truth by way of deductive reasoning because we don't always recognize our own assumptions. Like I said before, people often assume naturalism, which means that their conceptual framework excludes the possibility of a God. So deductive reasoning will never lead them to conclude that God exists whether or not He does.
Bertrand Russell said: "The question is how to arrive at your opinions and not what your opinions are. The thing in which we believe is the supremacy of reason. If reason should lead you to orthodox conclusions, well and good; you are still a Rationalist." As a relativist, Russell had no problem with this, but if rationalism can lead us to all kinds of different conclusions it is not the ideal tool for discerning truth. Most of us are not capable of the kind of objectivity that would lead us step by step toward truth.
In light of all this, it makes sense that God would choose a method of revealing Himself to us that transcends our intellects and our senses, because these are fallible. That is why the Bible talks about being born of the Holy Spirit, who leads us into all truth. 1 Corinthians 2:16 says, "For who has known the mind of God that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ."
When Christ died on the cross the heavy veil keeping all but the high priest out of the inner chamber of the temple tore in two, symbolizing the penalty for sin having been paid, granting us free access into God's presence. But it also symbolizes the "veil" being removed from our eyes, so that we may see God.
Isaiah 25:7 prophesies: "And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all people, even the veil which is stretched over all nations." The veil is that which blinds us to God. But 2 Corinthians 3:16 says, "whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed."
Back when I experienced this spiritual rebirth, I became very conscious of God in nature, like I was seeing everything for the first time as part of God's creation. Nothing had changed, except the lens through which I viewed the world. I saw that God is indeed present in His creation.
Someone might argue that my experience was subjective, and that would be true. Everything we perceive with our minds and through our senses is subjective. But we can still know that they are very real. The times when Christ was closest to me have left no doubt in my mind that He is real. C. S. Lewis says in his novel Till We Have Faces: "I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice? Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words."
However, faith is always a matter of degree, so in order for it grow stronger we have to allow it to be tested. We should embrace truth of every kind, and never hide from challenges to our faith. Faith is not a fragile object to be hidden away someplace safe. We have to reinforce it with reason, experience, and truth, knowing that "this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith" (1 John 5:4).