A critique often leveled against Christianity is that Christians embrace a kind of "blind" faith. Famed atheist Richard Dawkins, for example, has written that "Faith, being belief that isn't based on evidence, is the principle vice of any religion" (Is Science a Religion?). Some Christians welcome the challenge and, citing Hebrews 11:1, happily boast that the less evidence there is, the greater their faith. In other words, faith is blind, and a blind faith is a blessed faith. Really? I don't buy it.
On the contrary, it seems to me that the New Testament writers worked very hard to give evidence of the reality about which they wrote.
Thus, Luke did some pretty thorough research, talked to eyewitnesses, and then carefully compiled an "orderly account." Why? So that we might have a blind faith? No, of course not. He did all this "that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught" (Luke 1:4).
Likewise John carefully records the story of Jesus' life. He says, "these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ" (John 20:31). In his first epistle, John takes great pains to ground the Christian faith in real, physical evidence. He writes:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-- the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-- that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (1 John 1:1-3).
Paul tells us that nature gives evidence of the reality of God. "For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20).
Paul also reminds us that when Jesus rose from the dead, he really did rise from the dead, as evidenced from the hundreds of people who saw him (1 Corinthians 15:4-8).
Peter cites his own eyewitness experience with Christ to refute the idea that the Christian faith is a myth. "For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2 Peter 1:16).
In no way do the Scriptures present the Christian faith as a "blind" faith. Our belief in Christ is appropriately grounded in evidence.
What about Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen"?
To be sure, that sounds like it is promoting "blind" faith. But if we continue to read through this great "hall of faith" chapter, we quickly discover that it is full of men and women to whom God gave plenty of real, tangible evidence for his existence. Consider Noah. God spoke directly to Noah. Noah knew without question that God existed. The real question of faith for Noah was not over God's existence, but over whether or not he should believe and trust God. Thus the author of Hebrews writes, "By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark..." (Hebrews 11:7).
Thus, the"conviction of things not seen" in Hebrews 11:1 refers, not to a blind faith in God without evidence, but to a question of trust. Will you believe what God has said? Will God be true to His Word? Do God's promises have real substance? These are the "unseen" elements of faith in Hebrews 11.
So, it's about time we put an end to boasting in blind faith. Dawkins is right. A faith not based on evidence is a vice, and I would add, unbiblical at best.