In recent years, I've heard much talk about faith and spirituality in diverse sources. Some research has showed that regular church-goers tend to live longer, more stress-free lives than people who do not regularly attend church. Given that finding and other data, some suggest that having acting spiritual life provides benefits to an individual. As such, certain people in the health field encourage people to become active in the community, including a church or synagogue, say, and to even offer up a prayer regularly. Apparently, participating in such activities and performing such actions may lead to a healthier, happier, and longer life.
While such research and suggestions are interesting, I'd like you to think about the matter from another perspective. If you follow the advice of going to church or synagogue and praying purely for the health benefits, you're approaching these activities with the idea of improving yourself. To put it another way, you'd be having faith in something simply because the feelings of faith will prove beneficial regardless of whether there's a God to have faith in. If you enter into religious rituals for the benefit those rituals provide, then it's the rituals that provide the salutory effect, not the object of those rituals: God. The faith, then, is really self-centered, and your faith would be in faith or in religious rituals, not in God, Yahweh, or Allah. Also, the beneficiary of your faith or actions would be you, not other people and not God, Yahweh, or Allah.
But what if God actually exists? Let's consider some basic characteristics of God that I believe are common to the 3 major religions, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. In all 3 religion, God is presumed to be all-powerful, all-knowing, and omnipresent. He created the universe and everything in it and maintains an active interest in the affairs of the human beings who inhabit this one small planet we call the Earth. If we assume, just for a moment, that those characteristics are true of God, what does that mean for us?
Well, consider the work God has created, if indeed he bears the qualities the three primary monotheistic religions ascribe to him. He created the Earth, the moon, the stars, and every single galaxy and speck of dust in the entire universe. Whether he did this piece by piece or set the events into motion through something like the Big Bang, the fact is that such a creation is monumental.
The universe is a thing of beauty whose scope staggers the mind. Some scientists estimate that the universe is currently about 15 billion light years, or 90,000 billion miles, in diameter. The conditions set in place on Earth under the current physical laws that govern activity in the universe are so narrowly restricted that even a slight deviation would make our planet uninhabitable. Some scientists have even speculated that life is unique to Earth.
Whether that's the case or not, clearly, if God exists and did create the Universe and the Earth and all life that inhabits it, then he possesses skills and knowledge, both artistic and scientific beyond anything we can imagine. The word 'omniscient' gains more meaning the more we learn about the world and Universe we inhabit, and the more we know how little we truly do know by comparison with all there is to know.
Now, assuming these characteristics of God are correct, how do you think he would react if we live our lives either pretending to have faith in him for our benefit or if we snub our noses at him day and night? If we live our lives as if he doesn't exist and didn't create the world we so carelessly use and abuse, do you think he will be happy about it? If he created us, knitting together the very fabric of our beings and that of the mountains, rivers, and valleys around us, will he maintain an interest in his wondrous work of art?
For those of you who might doubt his interest in us, his creation, let's consider something. Have you ever had someone sacrifice something for your sake or spend hours creating something for you? Imagine you know a person skilled in carpentry who hand carved a kitchen table for you and gave it to you as house-warming gift. What, I ask, would the person's who done so much for you do if you received the table, say, and instead of squealing with delight over it, took a hammer to it and smashed it to pieces in front of him? Or, if you simply took the table and put it up your attic for the dust and termites to eat away at it? Instead, perhaps you put it in your kitchen, but complained about the table and the person who made it for you to everyone who came to visit. How would the person who toiled for your sake react if you acted like that? I think you can guess, but the likely reaction is anger, hurt, and resentment for you who so carelessly tossed aside the gift he labored to give to you.
That unfortunately, is how many of us act in the face of God's munificence. Assuming he does exist and toiled to create us and the world around us, it behooves us to at least show some gratitude to him. Like the Psalmist we should cry "I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made..." Psalm 139:14. Even if we don't consider ourselves to be fearfully and wonderfully made, we are, and even if you don't believe in God, at least show respect out of the possibility that he exists and that your very existence is possible only through him.
Assuming you're still with me, consider a bit further...
The preceding argument arose out of an assumption that God exists and the very world and universe around us are possible only through him and because of him. It does not distinguish between the different religions, but simply posits the existence of a single all-powerful deity. Let us make a further assumption, though, that God has done what the Christians claim. He has sent his one and only Son to die on a cross that we might be saved and share heaven for eternity with him.
Now, to properly explain the Christian faith is beyond the scope of this article and those of you who are not familiar with the Christian faith may leave this with many unanswered questions. Still, I propose not to argue for Christ or for his divinity, but to simply suggest to you what would happen if he does exist and did what Christians say he did.
That being said, consider the enormity of the action. One story I read illustrates the point. Years ago, a man who operated the gears for a train track that passed over a draw bridge brought his son to work. The son played outside his office while he did his work. While playing, the son dropped a ball down in the gears that controlled the bridges raising and lowering. Just at that moment, a train whistle sounded.
The father, looking toward the bridge, saw that it stood upright. It needed to be lowered. The train drew closer. His son stood hundreds of feet away blocked off from hearing his father's cries by a thick sheet of glass. He did not have time to run down to warn or remove his son from the gears. Anguished, the man knew that he had two choices: he could turn the levers to permit the people to cross the bridge and thereby crush his son to death, or he could let his son live and permit the train to dive into the water and thereby kill all its passengers. Save his son, or let all the fathers, mothers, and sons on that train day. With a last, tortured cry, he turned the levers. As the bridge lowered, he slammed his fists repeatedly on the glass, knowing his son was dying to save others.
If Christians are right, this is what God did. Only, with Jesus, the son let himself die willingly, for his death would be the only way people could be saved. Should Christians be right, imagine the gravity of the action for both Father and Son! Do you think God would care whether people believed what he has done for them? For such a sacrifice, I think it would be of the utmost importance that people believed what he has done for them. God takes his promises and actions seriously and expects us to treat them the same way. If some small suspicion of belief that what the Christian say is true dwells in you, act on it and treat God's proposed actions with respect lest you one day learn to your dismay that you have snubbed your nose at his enormous love
As I mentioned on the previous page, many question remain unanswered by my treatment of faith. Why would Jesus need to die for us to reach heaven? What in us required such a dramatic sacrifice? Is Jesus divine or simply the 'son of God'? How accurate are the gospel accounts of Jesus' life? Many others might be asked and you can ask them of me if you wish by using the e-mail link at the bottom of each page.
For now, though, I will leave off by describing what the title of this article means. It's not faith itself that saves, but faith in something or, more appropriately, someone. Christians argue, as do I, that this someone is, in fact, Jesus Christ. We must have faith in him and what he did for us if we are to live forever in heaven. If not, we are doomed to eternal destruction. Should we have faith, though, the door will open1 and Jesus and His Father will greet us on the other side with a smile that shall make our knees melt. We shall fall to our knees and weep, saying 'Thank you, Lord, for you are good."