February 20, 2011

Faith part 3: The Ballad of Jungle Joe

Posted in Faith tagged , , , , , at 4:20 PM by E. M.

God has all the knowledge in existence.  In order to fully know God we would have to have all the knowledge in existence.  But since we don’t, we can only believe in God by faith. And as we saw in the last post, faith in God can be considered reasonable faith because it is based on knowledge and experience.

But God doesn’t JUST ask that we believe in His existence, He wants us to believe in in Him TOTALLY!

Based on the fact that there are almost 400 references to faith in the Bible, faith is obviously a critical part of a fellowship with God.  Why is faith so important to God’s plan?  Let’s look again at the components of faith.

Rational faith seems to be the willingness to rely on something that we do not have full knowledge of, based on some degree of prior knowledge/experience that we have had with the object of faith. In order to have faith, you must intentionally choose to ask the question “what don’t I know?”  That is a contrastive question!

The reason that faith is so important to God’s plan is because Reasonable faith requires humility and contrastive thinking.  And contrastive thinking is the way to become more righteous.

On the other hand, comparative thinking is antithetical to faith in this case because when you are comparative, you are relying only on what you do know. And again, since our knowledge is limited, we cannot fully believe in God if we are comparative.  This is the reason why the second dispensation failed!

If a person should reasonably believe in God because of their knowledge and/or experience of God, then the converse must also be true – one should NOT reasonably believe in God if that person has NO knowledge or experience with Him.

This brings up one of the skeptics’ favorite “contradictions” concerning faith in God and salvation.  It takes a form similar to the encounter below, which I have heard so many times I have come to refer to it as “The Jungle Joe Paradox”.  It goes something like this:

“You Christians say that all people are doomed to Hell from birth and the only way to be saved into Heaven is to believe in God.  Well that’s fine for people in America where there is a church on every corner and 24-hour Christian television, but what about the people who live in primitive jungles?  They may go their entire life without ever meeting a Christian or reading the Bible.  According to you, God is going to send them all to Hell because they never believed in Him.  That’s totally unfair and I can’t believe in a so called “loving God” who would operate like that.

When a cynic or an atheist presents this argument, it is usually not out of a sincere desire to know God’s plan, but more as a deflection to take the focus off of their personal unbelief and project it onto the hypothetical “Jungle Joe”.

The silliness of that objection can easily be shown by asking them a few questions.  I first ask them if they’ve had an opportunity to choose a college, a career, a place to live, and a spouse during their life.  The answer is usually yes.  Then I ask them if the relative predicament of an anonymous person living in the jungle played a role in any of these decisions.  The answer of course is no.  Thus they acknowledge that they are fully capable of making choices that have great impact on their lives without taking Jungle Joe into account, and the decision about their eternity should be no different.”

However, essence of the dilemma does deserve to be addressed.  If there are people who have no knowledge or experience with God, it would be unjust of God to hold them accountable to have reasonable faith in Him. However, the Bible makes it clear

For what can beknown about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. – Romans 1:19-21 ESV

What this verse is saying is that the nature of creation itself testifies to God’s existence.  The first 8 posts in this blog proves God’s existence based solely on logic and reason. The reason Jungle Joe can be held to the same level of accountability as someone in the “civilized word” is that man has an innate knowledge of God whether he has been exposed to organized Christianity or not.

No matter what geographical, political, or social situation in which a human being exists, they are universally aware of six things

  1. There is a transcendent being who is all powerful and created the universe – People are inherently theistic, you don’t have to convince a young child or “uncivilized” man to believe in God; it’s natural to them.  Atheism has to be taught.
  2. This transcendent being is not indifferent to his creation and interacts with it/us – People in primitive societies acknowledge that deity(s) intervene in their lives.  There are no deists in the jungle
  3. There is an absolute right and wrong (good and bad). – Moral relativism is another creation of “civilized society”
  4. The rightness (righteousness) originates in the transcendent being and wrongness (unrighteousness) is all that is in opposition to him – We all inherently know that we need to be justified
  5. Like righteousness, justice exists, is absolute, and is mediated by the transcendent being – We all inherently know when we are being treated unfairly and we all expect justice to be equaled out.
  6. Man’s natural tendency is to be unrighteous and unjust (sinful) – all societies and cultures have to impose rules/laws to enforce good behavior.

Here’s the most important part – if, after realizing that it is impossible for him to be always and completely righteous and just by his own power, Jungle Joe contrastively appeals to the transcendent being (and Him alone) to rescue him from his unconquerable desire to do evil, then he has shown the faith that God desires, and it is counted to him as righteousness in the same manner as the Old Testament saints [Galatians 3:6-9]. But if he decides to justify himself and/or appease the deity by his own actions, his situation is no different than any other unbeliever.

Everyone has enough knowledge of God to have reasonable faith in Him.  Whether or not we choose to have faith is up to us.

Biblical faith is based on hope that something good will occur.  But there is a darker form of “faith” that is actually the opposite of Biblical faith and can result in evil.  Next time, we take a look at “fear”.

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1 Comment »

  1. “Biblical faith is based on hope that something good will occur.”
    More so Biblical Faith is based upon the ‘word of God” Assurance in things hoped for and evidence of things not seen. So this can only be by the Word and not by what we see. To go further Jesus is the Word so our Faith is in Him not anything we can do or say.


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