Lesson 5: Faith 1

Biblical faith is best defined as trust. To have faith does not mean simply believing God exists or accepting some teaching about him. It is to trust God’s promises.

So when Jesus wonders out loud in Luke 18: 8, “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”, he could be asking if he will find anyone who still has faith in God or perhaps even one person who trusts anyone or anything.

Studies of trust in the past 15 or so years might support his concern. They usually begin with statements such as Sisela Bok made in Lying: “Trust is a social good to be protected just as much as the air we breathe or the water we drink. When it is damaged, the community as a whole suffers; and when it is destroyed, societies falter and collapse…trust in some degree of veracity functions as a foundation of relations among human beings: when this trust shatters or wears away, institutions collapse”

These studies very often follow with empirical studies reporting a decline of trust in the United States over the past 50 years. One figure often cited is that 55% of American said they trusted other people in 1960 and only 35% were willing to make the same assertion in 2000. It certainly has grown worse in the past few years.

Bok believes this decline results from the lack of truth telling. “If I can not trust your word” she asks, “how can I trust that you will treat me fairly, that you will have my interests at heart, that you will do me no harm?”

Other scholars see two other causes: 1) the risk that has resulted from the tremendous power available to individuals as well as large groups and 2) the necessity of dealing with strangers in our global society. Strangers with power have always confronted people. However, the situation has drastically changed when the stranger carries an automatic pistol or powerful explosives rather than a knife and when it can not be assumed that he operates with any common moral standards.

Today we speak of risk management that operates by rational choice, but that is hardly what we used to mean by trust. Some might think this as a good situation, believing we might trust God when we can no longer have faith in anything else. Others see it as a devastating situation that has resulted, because people have lost their faith in God.

Either way, the question becomes, “Can we still have faith in God, and what does that involve? What do we trust God to do for us?”

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