Faith Vs. Wishful Thinking

Sometimes I feel like I’m beating a dead horse, but when an atheist friend tells me in a comment, as happened a few days ago, that he understands faith better than I do, I need to set the record straight.

How can someone who says he has no faith understand faith better than someone who claims to live by faith?

When I first joined the atheist/theist Facebook group I’ve mentioned from time to time, our first discussion was about the definition of faith. It was then that I learned, when atheists say “faith” they mean what Christians refer to as “blind faith,” which is nothing more than wishful thinking. I wish I didn’t have to go to work—maybe tomorrow will be some holiday I didn’t know about, or a snow day, or (here in SoCal) a fire day. (I seriously doubt if anyone ever wishes for that!)

Yesderday I saw the clash between meanings arise again, this time on a video of John Lennox debating Richard Dawkins. The two men each saw faith as different entities: Dawkins as little more than wishful thinking and Lennox as a reasoned position that is trustworthy.

The two meanings can’t get further apart, I don’t think.

I know the difference. As I’ve recounted before, when I was a child, I prayed for a bicycle. That was actually wishful thinking. I wanted a bike and asked God for one. I had no reason to ask Him. I had no idea if He wanted me to have a bike. Though I thought He had the power to give me a bike, I didn’t know if He would give me a bike. I wanted one, and that’s all that mattered.

But that’s not faith.

Faith is actually a reasoned position that is reliable and can be trusted.

Atheists have faith just as much as Christians do, though I have no doubt they will deny it. The point is, they have a reasoned position that they find reliable and trustworthy. They arrive at their position by believing the various scientists and the conclusions they reach, without considering other disciplines.

Christians don’t all have the same reasonings. Some look to the Bible, some to what a church leader or parent has taught, some to their own personal experience, some to the natural world, some to philosophy, and some to a mixture of all these. Maybe more. The bottom line, however, is that Christians have some reason they find belief in God and His Son Jesus to be reliable and trustworthy.

There is no wishful thinking involved in Christianity. Unless in error, like my prayer for a bike. Which explains why a lot of people claim they were Christians but no longer are. They had no reasoned position that they found to be reliable and trustworthy. They did what they thought was expected of them or what they hoped would bring them something—acceptance, maybe, or peace and happiness. But it was never a reasoned position they found reliable and trustworthy.

Christians aren’t fervently wishing heaven was a true place. On the contrary, we have reason to believe Heaven exists and is in our future. Christians aren’t desperately wishing for a Savior. Rather, we have reasons to believe we have a Savior, One who is reliable and trustworthy.

In fact, however a Christian reaches the conclusion that Jesus is reliable and trustworthy, we discover, as we walk with Him day in and day out, that He gives us more and more reasons to count Him worthy of our trust. Not because He heals our cancer or that of our loved ones. Because Christians die of cancer. Not because He spares us from suffering and persecution or abuse. Christians get tortured, beheaded, persecuted today even as they were in the first century.

So what’s reliable and trustworthy about a God that won’t stop all the bad things from happening?

First and foremost is His promise that He will go with us in the midst of all the trouble. God said through Isaiah: “Though you pass through the river, I will be with you.” And even more convincingly, Jesus came and lived right here with us. Truly, He did what He said: I will be with you.

Then, when Jesus left, He sent the Holy Spirit who not only lives with us but in us. Think about it. The people of God’s choosing, the descendants of Abraham, had God in their midst as they traveled from Egypt to the Promised Land in the form of a pillar of cloud and of fire. Then He showed His glory in the tabernacle and eventually in the temple. He sent prophets to relay His words, to demonstrate that, yes, He was still faithful, even though some didn’t believe.

Christians don’t have God in a temple made with hands. Or a church building. We don’t have God walking beside us or making an occasional appearance. We have Him with us every second of every day. We are the temple.

We are the living stones. Sure, we can ignore Him or we can rely on Him. We can go our own way or go His way. But the presence of the Holy Spirit is a powerful evidence of our relationship with God, our trustworthy and reliable position upon which our faith rests.

I certainly don’t “wish” I had the Holy Spirit. To be honest, His conviction can be decidedly uncomfortable. But having the Holy Spirit also means I have access to His gifts and His fruit and His intercession in prayer and His guidance and more. I don’t pretend to understand all about the Holy Spirit, or the Triune God, for that matter, but I do know believing Him, counting Him trustworthy and reliable, is nothing like wishful thinking.

But I don’t know if people who rely on something else can see the difference.

Published in: on October 29, 2019 at 5:49 pm  Comments (17)  
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  1. Faith in the religious sense is simply wishful thinking.
    As with prayer, there is no verifiable evidence whatsoever that faith can be supported.

    Or as Twain put it:
    ”Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”

    When an atheist uses the term it is as a colloquialism and generally refers to trust based on experience.

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    • Ark, your comment is no better than the one Steve made. I just wrote an entire post to explain that for Christians, faith is NOT the same as wishful thinking and then you respond that actually “faith in the religious sense” is wishful thinking. This is why there is so much disagreement—people talk past each other and decide that they don’t actually have to listen because they already know, even if the other person says, That’s not what I’m saying, that’s not what I believe.

      Maybe Christians don’t have “faith in the religious sense,” though I’m not really sure what that means. Christians believe in a reliable authority upon which we base our worldview. Isn’t that what you try to do, Ark? I’ve said often that atheists aren’t all out there repeating every scientific experiment or digging up fossilized bones or calculating the age of rock. Actually they trust the people who have done these things and the conclusions those people have reached.

      We are no different, you and I, except we trust different sources. I haven’t heard an atheist ever once give a philosophical or moral reason for not believing in God. Everything I hear is all determined by one source and one source alone: that which can be discovered in the material world (by the admittedly shifting sands of science—in fact, the much acclaimed and praised, shifting sands). Christians are not limited in this way. We think outside that small box. And scientists used to do the same.

      If I understand your last line, you are saying that atheists trust, based on experience, is that right? But whose experience?

      I’m also trusting, based on experience, but that experience is not the experience you rely on—you are not relying on the things Jesus experienced or Abraham experienced or the experiences I’ve had in submitting to Christ or a host of other experiences. Those, you find some reason to disregard.

      And that’s where our similarities end. You believe—with no rational or experiential evidence—that my reasons for trusting the sources I trust, are not sufficient, that they are not valid. Just because atheists rule them invalid.

      Whether you recognize them or not, Christians have reasons for believing the claims of Christ. We are not exercising wishful thinking.

      Becky

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      • Christians believe in a reliable authority upon which we base our worldview.

        Based on no evidence whatsoever.

        Just because atheists rule them invalid.

        No, Rebecca. Because you have no evidence to support that faith.
        You can believe all you want to, but you have no right or reason to claim any sort of veracity because you cannot support such beliefs. And that is what faith is.
        Believing in something you cannot support with evidence.

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        • I will tell you again, Ark. Christians do have evidence, whether you recognize it as valid or not. I’ve given it to you before and will do so again. Start here: https://rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com/2019/02/25/evidence-for-gods-existence/ There are others which I’ll give you if you’re at all serious about learning why we belief what we belief. Hint: it has nothing to do with wishful thinking. I am beginning to wonder if it is the wishful thinking of atheists that Christians have no basis for what they believe.

          Here’s what I think trips atheists up. In your thinking faith is the opposite of reason. In a Christian’s thinking faith is contrasted with works. We can’t do enough good things to restore a relationship with God. We must instead trust what He’s done. Not our acts but our faith. But that faith doesn’t pop up out of the blue. It isn’t manufactured by repeating a mantra over and over. It is built upon logic and experience and written records and the reports of others. Faith is not separated from the why of its existence. We believe in God because . . . We believe in Jesus because . . .

          Becky

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          • Based on my interactions with Christians none have ever produced evidence to support their beliefs, only claims.
            .
            As you plainly disagree with this, then perhaps your position is unique and you do, in fact , have evidence to support your claims.
            Might I suggest you list said examples (bullet point?) of evidence and then we can check each one in turn?

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          • Ark, I don’t know if you are missing the comments I’ve made that include the link to my list or what, but I have done what you are saying: listed them out. I linked to the post because I explained each a little. I have the shorter version if you want them all together. But here’s the first one: 1) According to evolutionary theory, life began with single celled organisms. But even those single cells, we now know, have very complex DNA codes with tiny “machines” involved in DNA copying. So at it’s basic, most simple form, life is amazingly complex. How could such complexity come into being apart from a complex designer?

            Condensed version of the same point: 1) Even single cell organisms contain complex parts. Complexity requires a complex designer.

            Mutation of simple organisms or of their DNA does not explain how the complexity existed in the first place.

            Becky

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          • I wanted to comment on the link Rebecca, but the comments are closed.
            Nothing on the list establishes evidence for your assertions.
            1) Even single cell organisms contain complex parts. Complexity requires a complex designer.

            Opinion that has not been established. Furthermore, even if this were the case there is nothing to suggest this designer is your god.

            So, once again, you have no evidence for you beliefs, only claims.

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          • Yea, I wouldn’t expect you to comment over there, Ark. Few people would find whatever you might say.

            Actually, the issue of complexity has been established. Name one complex structure that was not built by someone outside the structure.

            The question was not whether the designer is the God I know and worship. That’s a separate discussion. But the contention of atheists is, there is no god. And these points show that there is a designer who is not of this world, not part of what has been made.

            Becky

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          • I did not comment because the comments are closed. Open them up and I will; comment.

            You’ve been having these arguments since forever and Boxing Pythagoras explained on on post in detail why your position is wrong, and yet you persist in trying to justify it.

            But the contention of atheists is, there is no god.

            Again, you persist with this fallacious assertion.
            Atheists claim there is no evidence for gods. Do you refuse to acknowledge the difference between your assertion and the truth?
            I sometimes wonder whether you have a mental block on this particular issue or you are simply being willfully ignorant.
            I reiterate. NO EVIDENCE for gods.

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  2. Thank you, Rebecca. This is definitely a well-reasoned explanation.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for putting this out there. I’m not sure it will make sense to those who have no desire to understand it, but then only God can open hearts, so all we can do is speak the truth and pray.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ann, I think you’re right, but I had to try. Much as you say, God opens blind eyes, but sometimes He uses whatever offerings we put out there in order to do His will. That’s one of the things that truly amazes me!

      Becky

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  4. I became a Christian at the age of nine having been brought up in a Christian home. Some may see that as indoctrination, but over the years there has been much thought and consideration about my faith when faced with challenges.
    As a child and teenager I was bullied and became quite depressed, wondering why God had caused me to be born if I was always going to be laughed at. What kept me going in the faith wasn’t warm feelings, but a first conviction that the Bible told the truth about God, sin and the world.
    As an adult, I reached a very low point and felt that I’d messed up everything I’d ever touched. I prayed to God to let me die because I felt my family were better off without me. I kept praying at this time because despite how I felt I knew that God was real. He answered my prayers by not taking my life but rather putting loving Christians in the right place at the right time.
    I know others could write this off as mere coincidence, but I wouldn’t still be here living the Christian life without His faithfulness and the love of His people. I’m 42 now and have seen others I love fall away from the faith, but my testimony is in Christ the Solid Rock, the One who never changes and has loved me with an everlasting love. Circumstances change, difficulties come, but the word of the Lord stands forever.
    Thank you for your thoughtful, well-written articles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carol, I am so grateful you shared your personal experience with us (which we Christians refer to as our testimony. 🙂 ) The thing is, your story is multiplied over and over. And yes, some who were raised in a home by believers and had the same opportunities to know God through His Son, walk away. For Christians, though, there is this sincere knowing. We know whom we have believed and are persuaded that He is able to keep that which we’ve entrusted to Him. And we hold on. Even when the doubts and the testings and the temptations come.

      Praise God that He has shown Himself faithful and continues to do so through His people. Just an awesome example of God working in the life of one of His.

      Becky

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  5. The fact that God is always with me is what gives me the strenth to face each day as it comes. It’s easy to get caught up on ‘wishful thinking’ and then become angry at God when we don’t get what we want. Accepting that my will is not the same as God’s will; Submitting my will to God’s will.

    Liked by 1 person


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