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Four Types of Faith

There are four different ways to define faith. It is incredibly important that we, as Christians, don’t go wrong here.

1. Blind Faith: Faith is a blind leap into the dark.

“Faith is a blind leap into the dark. The blinder the leap, the greater the faith.” Have you ever heard this? In the 1989 film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, this mentality was put on the big screen. Indiana Jones was making his way through the caves through tests and trials as he attempted to retrieve the Holy Grail, which would bring life back to his dying father. The last test was a “test of faith.” Here Jones was challenged by a great chasm which separated him from the grail. But when he looked, there was no way across the chasm. The solution? A step of faith. After much hesitation, he closed his eyes, held his breath and took the blind leap. His faith was rewarded as a bridge, unseen to the naked eye, suddenly appeared.

Take something as simple as a chair. God is the chair. He is asking you to sit down (rest) in the chair. If faith were a blind leap into the dark, this is what it might look like:

Faith1

2. Irrational Faith: Faith as an irrational leap

In this view, faith is something we have in spite of the evidence. While everything may militate against our faith, we are to make the most irrational choice of all. The more irrational the faith, the greater the faith. Here is what it looks like with the chair (notice all the rationality is behind you):

Faith2

3. Warranted Faith: Faith as a step according to the evidence

The next option is that faith is a step taken according to rational evidence and inquiry. In other words, we believe because it makes sense. Everything in life, according to this view, takes faith. Even getting in your car and driving to work takes faith. You have to have faith that your car’s brakes won’t go out, that other drivers will not cross the yellow line, and that you won’t fall asleep at the wheel. These are all steps of faith, but they don’t need to be irrational or blind steps. We can have warranted trust in ourselves, other drivers, and our car due to our knowledge of these things. This is called “warranted faith.” We make our decisions precisely because the evidence supports it, but this is still faith. This is what it might look like:

Faith3

4. Biblical Faith: Warranted faith brought about by the Holy Spirit

It might surprise you to know that while all of these are legitimate ways that the word “faith” is used today, none of them represent the faith expressed in the Bible. The faith that God calls on us to have is neither blind nor irrational. And while we believe our faith is the most rational choice that we can make given the evidence, rational alone is not enough. The Bible says that without outside intervention, we are antagonistic to spiritual truths. If we rely on naked intellect or personal effort alone, even as Christians, we will never truly be able to rest in God. The most important component to our faith has yet to be revealed. What is this element? It is the power of the Holy Spirit. The third member of the Trinity must ignite our faith. Yes, he uses rationale , inquiry, evidences, personal effort, and our minds to do so. But these things alone can only get us so far. In order to have true faith, the power of the Holy Spirit must move within us, releasing us from the bondage of our will. True biblical faith looks like this:

Faith4

It is our will that is the problem. We don’t have the will to trust in God alone. Listen to what Paul says to the Corinthians:

1 Cor. 2:12-14 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Any time we rely on ourselves to rest in God, we are acting as “natural” people. We have to act as spiritual people and call on God to increase our faith through the power of the Spirit as the Spirit energizes our will and intellect.

34 Responses to “Four Types of Faith”

  1. I Like! Thanks, Michael.

  2. Nice surprise for me this morning! I’m sitting here drinking my coffee and reading this as if it’s a nice little encyclopedia article. 1…2…3…4! Hello, Holy Spirit! Praising God that He is with us on this faith journey.

  3. Mr. Patton, thank you for this work. I especially like the images you put with them. I will certainly refer people on to your page here when I speak of Christian faith. Those are wonderful images! Thank you my brother.

  4. Generally speaking, I think this does a good job of talking about different kinds of faith. However, I think there are two comments I would like to make:
    (1) What about the faith of our fathers? In other words, I think another kind of faith could be a more relational-based type of faith. It’s rooted more in the faith of godly influences in our lives (e.g. godly parents, church leaders, etc) who provide wonderful examples of faith for us to follow. So a person my start with this kind of faith, until his/her faith becomes truly personal by the Holy Spirit.
    (2) Sometimes Biblical faith is irrational. Many examples are in Scripture of God calling people to do things in faith that appeared extremely irrational: Noah building the ark; Abraham leaving to an unknown destination; Moses confronting Pharoah; David facing Goliath, etc. In modern times, this can be seen in the lives of Christians who are called by God to a certain mission field or type of service that requires a complete financial surrender (and even cashing out their retirement and/or savings to do so). I am a church planter, and the financial side of my life makes no sense. We have surrendered everything, and are living in a major city and making less than ever before. On paper, we shouldn’t be here. But walking this journey every day by faith in this calling of God upon us, God is taking care of us. And yes, it makes zero sense how (on paper).
    So generally I like this article, but with the above caveats.
    Peace,
    Brian

  5. Mr. Patton, I appreciated this as well. My small group has been discussing this topic. The question that remains open, unless I missed something in your article, is does the Holy Spirit empower us also to “make the decision” to believe or simply reveal what we need to believe? A different way to ask the question, is can your figure in #4 reject Christ after the Holy Spirit does his part? Thank you.

  6. could not nature as a pointer or evidence toward God leave one without excuse before God, this would strictly be reason and observation in this sense.

  7. Even the devil believes.

    Entrusting yourself to that object of faith, is another thing altogether.

  8. Brian (good name!),

    For your second example, I think it we could still categorize it as Spirit-ignited, warranted faith. The question is in what is the faith placed? If David’s faith was in his own ability to take out Goliath, it would certainly have been irrational. If, however, his faith was in a God who, when led by the Spirit, one can rationally see as powerful and up to the task, it’s a different story.

    Now the world may view this faith as irrational. We may at times be tempted to question our own rationality. But true faith in Christ is never irrational, because his power is evidenced in the world itself, as well as his life, death, and resurrection. If he can tell a crippled man to get up and walk, and tell that same man (with authority) that his sins are forgiven, then trusting his hand in our finances or in anything else is completely rational.

    Irrational faith would be more like believing that God is going to do something he hasn’t promised to do in his Word. And so believing that he will take care of your needs, as he has promised–completely rational. Believing he will provide for you to live in a particular area for no other reason than that you wish him to–that’s irrational. He may well provide in that way, but the end does not make the faith rational.

  9. There was a story about Billy Graham talking to a friend about his friend’s doubts and how he didn’t have any good answers. The story goes that his ministry really took off when he got down on his knees and told God, “look, this doesn’t all make sense but I am going to believe you anyways”

    This seems to indicate an irrational faith, but I’m sure he would call it a biblical faith.

  10. Scott (post #6),

    I highly recommend either the audio or video (or even the book) “Chosen by God”, by R.C. Sproul – he answers your question in these resources.

    http://www.ligonier.org/store/chosen-by-god-dvd/

  11. @scott #6

    A different way to ask the question, is can your figure in #4 reject Christ after the Holy Spirit does his part?

    that is a question answered differently by a Calvinist and a non-Calvinist. The former says no and the latter yes.

  12. I like the breakout here b/c so many assume faith is blind and/or irrational.

    Assuming faith in placing one’s trust in Jesus Christ then I agree with the definition for Biblical faith. This is a Spirit powered and rational based faith.

    I can’t prove Jesus died and rose but a rational case can be made and with the aid of the HS I understand my need and thus trust in Him.

  13. @Brian #5

    I think another kind of faith could be a more relational-based type of faith. It’s rooted more in the faith of godly influences in our lives

    Interesting possible addition. It also made me think of the faith decisions made at large events largely based on emotion too. So maybe an Emotional Faith that covers these types of decisions. They would be examples that are not formally irrational decisions (that is not contra the logical evidence) but not formally and logically rational either.

  14. Great post :)

    However, in regards to your use of Indiana Jones to illustrate blind faith, I came away with the opposite take on that.
    After all, Indy’s father had pieced together all of the clues that would help them find the location of the Grail, and when they finally arrived, Indy had to face those three tests. Every piece of evidence proved to be a true pointer to the object of their quest, and Indy used what he knew by reason to pass the first two tests. Now he comes to the last test, where reason and evidence has brought him, but cannot go any farther. Yet he knows that what got him this far is true, so there must be a way across, even if he can’t see it. I thought the scene portrayed the struggle in Indy’s heart of hearts, of the need to finish the quest (for the stakes are life and death now) with the fear of taking that last step.

    What do you think?

  15. some of us need to pay more attention to Warfield-
    we are not saved by faith
    we are saved by Christ through faith
    understanding the instrumentality of God-given faith is the answer to many of the confused questions above

  16. You mentioned that there are four types of faith of which was numbered and well explained, but not each one was supported by Bible References from the Bible.
    Numbers 1-4 must be sopported by the relevant Bible verse to explain to me that all the different faiths are in the Bible
    Thanks a lot
    Freddie

  17. Good stuff. Thanks

  18. The subject on Faith is one that must be really understood because many have a misconception about it. We can’t have faith outside the plans and purpose of God for our lives. It is pertinent therefore to know God’s intent for us and then apply our faith on that…faith mixed with truth (Word) brings desired results.

  19. I like the way you’ve broken this down and put diagrams to emphasize each level of faith. I have to admit, I’m not always sure how translate what the Bible says to give the proof needed to children learning about Christ.

  20. This site is doing my whole report for me!! Thanks so much I love cheating on my paper! LIFE IS GOOD FAM.

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