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Living by Faith: Always the WRONG Things to Do

By Ben Love ~

“We live by faith, not by sight.”

This is straight from the New Testament, words penned by Paul in one of his letters to the Corinthians. To be quite blunt, this might be the most incoherent statement I’ve ever heard. On the surface, it sounds profound and admirable, but some light dissection quickly reveals that there is actually nothing under the surface except hot air.

“We don’t live by sight.” What does this mean, exactly? I think the implication is that “sight” in this instance really refers to our collective five senses. Or perhaps a more accurate interpretation would be to say that “sight” refers to the natural world, and living by faith, then, refers to depending on the unseen or supernatural world (this existence of which you as a believer are taking for granted). Question: how do you not live by your senses? Name one activity that you do on a daily basis that does not depend solely upon that which you can smell, taste, touch, hear, and see.

“Thoughts,” you say.

Wrong. Thoughts are the product of human brains and are therefore still in the realm of the natural world.

“Prayer,” the Christian says.

Ah, but prayer, whether it is verbal or nonverbal, is still a process that is taking place in your physical brain. Synapses are transferring “thoughts” through the cells of your brain. These thoughts might be “addressed to God” (whoever or whatever that means to you personally), but prayer is still a physical process occurring in the natural world. Whether or not these prayerful thoughts punch through to some unproven spiritual realm is mere conjecture at best. Maybe they do. Maybe they don’t. In either case, you are still living your life in the natural world even as you pray.

Moreover, have you ever seen a Christian tie a blindfold over his eyes and then drive to work? Have you ever seen one walk into traffic without looking both ways first? When was the last time a Christian just threw caution to the wind and drank poison? If there was an atheist solider and a Christian solider in World War II, and both were standing next to a foxhole, and a shell was about to explode nearby, would only the atheist jump into the foxhole or would the Christian do so as well? I’m pretty sure that Christian would have his ass in the foxhole just as quick as the atheist would. What does it mean, then, to live by faith? Does faith only apply when you’re in need of a parking spot or when you’re trying to find a lost item? One would think that “living” by faith means absolutely nothing about your life depends on the natural world. Okay, well, show me one Christian whose entire life is not totally dependent on the natural world.

Better yet, how about I demonstrate an occasion where two Christians attempted to live by faith rather than by a dependence on the natural world, an attempt that backfired and resulted in tragedy. I recently heard of another case in the media about a couple who refused to take their infant to the hospital to get treatment. The baby was, apparently, very ill. But rather than put their trust “in men” (the natural world), the parents chose to put their trust “in God.”

Big surprise: the baby died.

What are the curious spectators to make of this? The parents were Christians. They were clearly demonstrating their faith in God. Their faith was clearly translating into action. And their action was...not rewarded. It’s not as though God, if he is who the Christians say he is, didn’t hear their prayer. And it’s not as though he didn’t want to answer it (I mean, does God want to let children die?). Further, the media was watching this case, and through the media, the whole world was watching this case. God had a chance to live up to his “reputation” and show the world that trusting him, that living by faith is the way to go.

But...big surprise: the baby died. As it turns out, the parents stood a better chance trusting in men (or, living by sight) rather than in God (living by faith). Had they trusted in men, the baby would most likely not be dead right now. As it is, these parents attempted to live by faith, and it resulted in the death of their child.

I submitted this question to two very good friends of mine, both of them solid believers, both “men of God,” as it were. The first man said that God chose not to answer this prayer because he doesn’t respond to such an ultimatum. What he meant, I think, is that the Christian God apparently doesn’t like being pushed into a corner with a life or death request. Personally, I think that if this God is accessible for the small stuff but is reluctant to address the more important stuff, he not only fails to live up to his own alleged description of himself, but he also shows himself to be, well, useless. Also, one has to wonder why faith, when it is demonstrated in a matter that involves life or death, would irk God. Isn’t that kind of faith exactly the type he supposedly wants to see demonstrated by those who believe in him?

The second man took a different route. He said that it was foolish of the parents to interpret “living by faith, not by sight” as a useful axiom for this situation. “Living by faith,” he said, “applies only to a degree. At some point, when it is a matter like the health of your baby, parents ought to do the right thing. They cannot expect God to answer that prayer because he has already done so through modern medicine, which they should have trusted.” This, to me, raises more concerns than the first man’s response. Living by faith is only practical and applicable up to a degree? Okay, but where is that line drawn? Who gets to draw it? Furthermore, if living by faith isn’t useful for something as important as the life or death of your baby, why “live” by it at all? Also, shouldn’t this also cause us to revisit the definition of “living by sight?” Is it only “living by sight” when the matter is trivial, or does “living by sight” apply to any example of a person trusting human intelligence (the natural world) rather than the providence of God? It would seem to me that either a human being lives by faith and that this theoretically reaches into every aspect of his life, or he is living by sight, by his senses, by his own intelligence and that of his species (the natural world). Besides, I cannot help but feel there is an unjust double standard floating around here. The Christian professes to live by faith up to a certain point, or up to a certain “degree,” as my friend put it, but he is excused from doing so when the going gets tough? In other words, he is saying this: “If it is a matter of life or death, trust in human medicine. Otherwise, look to God.” I see a problem here. Oh, and one more thing. It is interesting that my Christian friend differentiated between “living by faith” and “doing the right thing.”

Without beating a dead horse, let us continue to press this point. Seriously, why do these faith babies die every time? Every time. Why? As I see it, we have three options:

  1. God exists, but did not want to save the baby
  2. God exists, but was unable to save the baby
  3. God doesn’t exist

Of those three, only one option does not create painful and horrible questions for faith, because that option totally rejects faith. The conclusion must be that living by sight, by our senses, and depending on the natural world is the only sane way to approach life. If living by sight is the right thing to do when death is on the line, then it is always the right thing to do. Living by faith, then, no matter how admirable, how noble, or how inspirational it might be, is always the wrong thing to do.

And yet the Bible says that without faith you cannot please God. Think about that. Really, truly think about that. Without faith, you cannot please God. Period. This God must therefore be as incoherent as the idea of living by faith is. And guess what, he is. There may very well be a “God” out there, but it is not this mess of a flawed deity offered up by the errant pages of the Christian Bible.