The Limitations of Blind Faith

Google “blind faith.”

You see two definitions: 1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something 2. strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

In my opinion those two definitions show the essence of the problem with blind faith for the Christian.

Complete trust or confidence is a good thing.

Don’t we admire it, the man or woman who takes on a task for God and maybe they don’t have the skills, the materials or the money to do the task. But they do it anyway. They have blind faith, complete faith that the Lord will provide.

This kind of faith is inspirational. I read a Christian classic, Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby a few years ago where the theme was “God will provide”. Over and over, Christians believed that God would supply their needs and the check arrived in the mail just in time. I was amazed at the number of illustrations of blind faith believers who had direct support from God.

Who are we to question that?

We can’t.

However does Dr. Willard advocate that we become “blind faith” Christians?

He doesn’t.

Dr. Willard states, “Those who understand God’s presence only in these ways must be encouraged to believe that there is much more for them to know and receive. Otherwise they will never enter into their capacities as kings and priests, never ‘reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ’” (Romans 5:17).

Why would he say that?

Let’s look at the second definition of blind faith, “strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.”

He feels that the foundation of a Christian’s belief should not be based on blind faith: “[blind faith is not] an adequate foundation for sustained spiritual growth.

As you look at the second definition, key words jump out. One is “spiritual apprehension.” What does that mean? To get a clear definition is difficult because the word apprehension means “anxiety or fear that something bad or unpleasant will happen.” That can throw someone off the trail as it seems that belief is based on fear but that is not what spiritual apprehension means. One of the best definitions I was able to research was contributed by Pastor Joey Rodgers who says that “While God has given us brains and we are all capable of understanding and appreciating many of the lessons of life, spiritual truth always requires Divine interpretation. In fact, the primary reason God gave us a brain was not so that we would attempt to figure it out for ourselves and do life on our own, but so that we might have the sense to turn to Him. There is a difference between comprehending and apprehending. This is the task of the Spirit. While we might gain a head knowledge through our human reasoning and ingenuity, heart knowledge comes as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit interprets the deeper things of God giving us an apprehension of truth. Truth requires revelation, and revelation is the responsibility of God [italics mine].

So spiritual apprehension is not a bad thing but it relies on God communicating to us via the Holy Spirit.

Again, why would Dr. Willard write that “there is much more for them [the blind faith Christians] to know and receive.”

Dr. Willard, I feel is very much in line with John Wesley on this matter. The Anglican founder of Methodism was a practical man and he developed a four prong approach to spiritual growth called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. Wesley believed, first of all, that the living core of the Christian faith was revealed in “scripture”. The Word of God was at the center of Wesley’s concept of understanding God. However, doctrine had to be in keeping with Christian orthodox “tradition.” So, tradition became in his view the second aspect of the so-called Quadrilateral. What we know from the past does not need to be discarded. Traditional knowledge can inform present interpretation. Being a man who had some knowledge that God can communicate with us via our spirit, Wesley felt that we can all experience God in our daily lives. He called that “experiential” faith. The last “leg” of the quadrilateral was every doctrine must be able to be defended “rationally.” He did not divorce faith from reason. He was a highly educated man, a graduate of Oxford. Being a man of the Bible, he explained that tradition, experience, and reason, however, are subject always to scripture, which is primary.

I have not read Hearing God to the end. I am reading and writing as I go and this book has plenty to write about, but Dr. Willard is not content to say to us as Christians that we can just rely on blind faith to get us through life. He will not be content to disregard “head knowledge” in favor of “heart knowledge” if we have heads that are capable of understanding God’s word.

Too often Christians are attacked because we can’t articulate the basics of our faith to others. Is it because we have accepted God on blind faith? Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you [Matthew 28: 19-20]. How can we teach what we don’t know? How can we make disciples of the unchurched with blind faith as our tool or persuasion?

We can’t.

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