I’ll be up front about this: I don’t think a lot of people, Christian or non-Christian, really know what faith is. Now, non-Christians can think what they want to about faith. It’s the fact that their definition of faith really corresponds with what most Christians would describe as faith in God, and that’s certainly not the case.
Essentially, most atheists define what Christians call faith as believing in something even though you see no supporting evidence whatsoever. To have faith in something means you’ve done little research of your own, and what you have done seems to go against it, but you still blindly keep your position anyway. And many Christians keep the same definition. After all, “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
But, as a wise man once said, “a text without context is a pretext for proof-text.” Essentially, what that means is that we can’t possibly look at the meaning of one verse without looking at the context in which it was written: who wrote it, what led into it, what did it lead into, etc. When we study the context of this particular verse, we find conflict with what many Christians would say faith is.
Again, most Christians would say that this refers to faith that God exists. And we know that we have to have faith that God exists and that Christ died on the cross. But I doubt his definition of faith means you’re not supposed to have any evidence whatsoever that Christ died on the cross and is the Son of God. And here’s why.
Reason 1: While we don’t know the author of this passage, we know that it’s extremely likely that the author is someone who encountered Jesus after the resurrection, or at least has a close relationship with someone who did. Therefore, they have evidence of Christ’s resurrection. And this person said they have faith. So there are only two possibilities. a. the person is lying about having faith, or b. our understanding of faith is twisted. And since we know that all scripture is breathed out by God and therefore cannot be a lie, our understanding of faith in and of itself must be a bit messed up. I’ll go into how later.
Reason 2: The rest of this chapter refers to the “unseen” things which we put our faith in, and it’s not the resurrection itself. Go through the chapter yourself. It’s all about tasks or problems in our own life that we may find insurmountable. It’s not “I have no evidence that God exists, but I’ll believe in Him anyway.” It’s “I have no idea how I’m going to get through this tribulation, but based on some evidence I know that God raised Christ from the dead, and if He can do that, He can help me through this particular problem.”
That’s where faith comes from. Not from ignorance, but from a knowledge of what has already come. If faith means total ignorance, having no evidence whatsoever but still being willing to jump in, then none of the disciples were saved. Paul wasn’t saved. And you weren’t saved. For we know that the Father has to approach someone before that someone approaches the Son. So everyone who is saved has some kind of evidence of Christ. Faith comes from knowing He will always be with us, not in spite of contrary evidence, but based on the evidence we already have. Some people believe based on scientific research and some believe because of a personal encounter with the Creator Himself. But everyone’s faith is based on some form of evidence. He reveals Himself to us, then we have faith that He’ll continue to show up when we need Him. Something to think about.