Leap of Faith: The Substance and the Evidence

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As a fundamentalist boy I had to learn my Bible verses from the King James Bible. One I remember clearly is Hebrews 11.1 “For faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” For some reason I always loved the way that rolled off the tongue. It had a marvelous and mysterious meaning. I knew it sounded grand, but didn’t really know what it meant.

What does it mean that faith is the substance of things hoped for? There is a lot packed in here, but at first I suppose it meant that if you were hoping for something, that faith somehow made it come true. What the writer of Hebrews is saying is that faith, in some way, makes the what you had hoped for a reality. How can that be?  What you hope for is something good. Nobody would hope for a bad thing. Therefore the good thing you hope for comes alive in your life through faith. Faith is therefore a dynamic action of the mind, heart and will.  It is a mindset and a way of life that makes all the good things you hope for start to become true and real.

But there is more to it than that, and it was the word ‘substance’ which got me thinking about it further today. [Read More.]

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • Korou

    “In the combox over the last few weeks there have been a fair number of atheists insisting that the believers provide ‘evidence’ of the truth of Christianity or the miraculous or the existence of God. The problem is, they never really said what sort of evidence they were looking for.”

    But that isn’t the problem, and plenty of atheists at the time turned up to explain why to you. I’m afraid you ignored their explanations.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      The few explanations that were attempted were inadequate

  • Korou

    “It is a process that is like falling in love and making a commitment to marriage, or it is like the process of scientific discovery or the discovery of any other form of knowledge.”

    Try imagining a person and falling in love with him or her. Think of how beautiful this person is. Imagine spending time together, imagine growing in love, make your imaginationary pictures as real and detailed as you can.

    At what point does this imaginary person become real?

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      We must ask what one means by ‘real’ and what constitutes ‘reality’ before we attempt to answer the question

      • Korou

        Only if we’re concerned with evading the question.

  • http://reluctantliberal.wordpress.com Reluctant Liberal

    Doesn’t Pope Benedict treat this same verse in Spe Salvi? I think I liked his treatment better, though I doubt you’d mind conceding superiority to him.

  • Lisa

    Great post. You made this verse on faith very clear especially by using good examples. Thank you.

  • mary phillips

    I have always loved this scripture. For me the enormous mystery has been in it this way:
    “faith IS the substance…. faith IS the evidence..”

    Also, this discussion has brought to mind a sentence I have hanging on my fridge:
    “Credo ut intellegam = I believe SO THAT I may understand.”
    Saint Augustine

  • http://www.dymphnaswell.blogspot.com Dymphna

    I love the marriage analogy. Thank you.

  • 42Oolon

    The kind of evidence we atheists are looking for is that which meets the claims being made. You are apparently asking us to devote our existence to the elements of a proposed being (or three beings) and text, on the basis of hearsay (often centuries or millenia old) and individual subjective testimony. The claims we dispute are those that require us to accept that the robust and demonstrated science we rely daily may be set aside, e.g. the virgin birth, walking on water, a life after the death of a body. Show me a god healing an amputee, as a start.

    When my mother had cancer I wanted it gone. I did not want her to find inner peace, I wanted the melanoma out of her body. She had an amputation and it is gone. Bob Marley had the same health problem, he relied on faith until it was too late, and he died.

    Every once in a while a calm myself and think about what I am told is Jesus. I open myself up for this person to enter into a relationship with me. Nothing has ever happened.

    We atheists are just waiting for something verifiable, that is not consistent with the rest of mythology, or delusion. If the god you profess exists, he should be able to convince me without asking me to convince myself first. I don’t think that is too much to ask for.


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