Faith in God is trust in Him, based on a true understanding of who He is, as revealed in the Bible. Faith in God involves an intellectual assent to the facts concerning God and a life-changing reliance on those facts.
Faith in God has several components. The first is believing that He actually exists. However, simply believing that God exists is not enough. As James 2:19 explains, the demons believe in God’s existence as well.
After acknowledging that God exists, the second element of faith in God is commitment. Faith that does not result in action is a dead faith, not true faith (James 2:26).
However, even a faith in God that motivates us to action is not enough. For faith in God to be genuine, we must accept Him as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. We are not allowed to accept the attributes of God that we prefer and reject the ones we don’t. If we do not accept God as He is, then we are putting our faith in a false god of our own making. Much “religion” does exactly this, but any religion not based on the Bible is a designer religion with a designer god. For faith in God to be genuine, it must be based on the genuine God. For example, the God of the Bible is triune, so true faith in God must accept the deity and personality of the Son and the Holy Spirit as well as the Father.
There is much confusion today over the nature of faith. It is reported that, when asked to define faith, a little boy in Sunday school responded, “Believing what you know isn’t true.” Many of the “new atheists” place faith against science and evidence. They say that Christians have faith that God exists but that atheists have empirical evidence for science. Christians have faith, but scientists have knowledge. This comparison misunderstands the nature of faith in God.
Faith in God is not a blind leap without any evidence or, even worse, contrary to the evidence. Faith is simply trust. The Christian trusts in God. The scientific atheist has faith in science. If an atheist uses the scientific method to discover a medicine and then takes that medicine, he is exercising faith. He trusts his data, and he trusts that the medicine will cure him, not poison him. Some people may take the medicine with no thought whatsoever as to how it was developed or as to who prepared it. Others may only take the medicine after thoroughly investigating every aspect of the research. One person may take it with great confidence while another person takes it tentatively. In the final analysis, anyone who takes the medicine is exercising faith in the medicine. Ultimately, it is not the strength of the faith that determines if the medicine will work, but the efficacy of the medicine. Great faith in bad medicine will not cure a person. It is the object of faith, not the strength of faith that makes the difference. Uncertainty about a good medicine will not hinder its efficacy, as long as it is taken as prescribed. Faith is not the opposite of doubt; in fact, doubt can exist even in the heart of faith (see Mark 9:24). A person can exercise faith (trust and commitment) while at the same time being unsure about the thing or person he has committed himself to. Someone once defined doubt as “faith seeking understanding.”
Some people may simply trust God because it seems intuitive. They may have been raised in a Christian home and taught the Bible from their earliest remembrance. They have seen God work in the lives of other people, and they simply trust Him. Others may only have come to faith after a thorough examination of the evidence for God. Whether the decision to trust the God of the Bible is intuitive or deliberative, it is the mark of genuine faith.
The atheist likewise may come to his atheism by intuition or after careful deliberation. In the end, he has faith that God does not exist because he trusts either his instincts or his investigation and commits himself to live in a way that is consistent with his beliefs. Contrary to the claims of the new atheists, everyone has some kind of faith—everyone trusts something. It is impossible to live without trusting in something, even if it is only in the reliability of our five senses. The object of our faith is what makes all the difference.