Saved by grace through faith

As a child my church would run summer holiday camps. These were daytime events kind of like Sunday school all week. I recall one in particular that focused heavily on the following variation on Ephesians 2:8.

“For you are saved by grace through faith, not by works lest any man should boast”

I recall sitting in a large tent in the local school playing field learning this verse and repeating it over and over. It was quoted at the start and end of each session. As I look back on it a question raises its head.

Grace I get. We’re nothing compared to God, sinners lost in iniquity, entirely unable to put things right on our own. But why faith? It’s central to Christianity, to the “Christian faith”. But what is it and why is it important? The dictionary gives two different definitions for the word faith.


  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.

When I read the bible it appears that many (though not all) of the references are using faith and particularly faithfulness in the first form. It’s about having confidence and trust in a person, someone you know and have met. Today however we take religious faith to be exclusively the second definition — belief without proof. And this is supported, even encouraged by biblical teaching.

“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:21.

What I have not ever understood though is why is it good to believe without evidence? We are rational beings. The scientific method was not developed by accident, it is a formalized version of the process by which we learn all things. Using trial and error, hypotheses, tests, evidence and results. So why is faith, blind trust, a requirement for salvation? Why would a God create a race of rational beings that make decisions based on evidence and then require that the single most important decision they can make should be made on entirely different grounds? Is it just an arbitrary hurdle to cut down the numbers?

Then there’s the issue that throughout the Old and New Testaments God performed all kinds of signs and wonders. God communicated directly with people in unambiguous ways. He appeared and spoke to people. Prophets performed miracles as did Jesus. Today however we have to take it on faith, faith that increasingly contradicts what the evidence is telling us. Does not morality require fairness? How is this in any way fair?

This presents for me a contradiction. A contradiction that’s easily resolved if we consider the Bible to be just another religious text containing a creation myth and associated stories. However a contradiction for which I have yet to find an alternative satisfying explanation.


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