Mere Christianity, Book Three, Chapter 11: “Faith”

“Faith” in the first sense: Belief — “accepting or regarding as true the doctrines of Christianity.”

  • Obviously, something should be accepted or rejected based on the facts about what seems to be true.
    • Being honestly wrong about something doesn’t mean a person is ‘bad,’ only (possibly) ‘not very clever.’
    • If a person thinks the evidence for something is bad, but he wills himself to believe it anyway, he’s just stupid.

This assumes that we accept and reject things strictly on reason, which is not true.

  • example of panic on the operating table

It is not reason that is taking away my faith: on the contrary, my faith is based on reason. It is my imagination and emotions. The battle is between faith and reason on one side and emotion and imagination on the other.

  • example of the girl who lies, and the boy can’t keep his head about her.

The same thing happens in Christianity.

  • You should only accept Christianity, if your best reason says that it’s true.
  • Within a few weeks of accepting it, something will come along that makes you question Christianity:
    • bad news, trouble, or your friends who aren’t Christians.
    • temptation, when Christianity not being true would seem convenient.
  • In these times, your emotions will carry out an assault on what your reason accepted.
  • These are all moods that rise up against what you accepted by reason.

Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes.

So, you must train the habit of Faith.

  • Recognize that moods change
  • Spend some time, every day deliberately reflecting on some of the main doctrines of Christianity. (quiet time, small groups, prayer, Bible reading)
  • “We have to be continually reminded of what we believe.”
  • No belief will automatically remain alive in the mind.
  • People who abandon Christianity rarely have been reasoned out of it — they simply drift away.

Faith in the second/higher sense – stick to it.

‘”No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.”

  • It is silly that people who always yield to temptation think that those who don’t aren’t tempted, “Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in.”
  • Those to always give into temptation live the sheltered life of never having to face the struggle of fighting it.
  • Jesus is the only complete realist because he is the only man who every faced temptation and never yielded — thereby facing the full fury of temptation and evil.

We find that a serious attempt to practice Christian virtues results in our failing. In that failing we find that our only hope is to rely on God — that we cannot do it without him.

  • we learn that we can never be good enough to put God in our debt.

Then comes another discovery. Every faculty you have, your power of thinking or of moving your limbs from moment to moment, is given you by God. If you devoted every moment of your whole life exclusively to His service you could not give Him anything that was not in a sense His own already. So that when we talk of a man doing anything for God or giving anything to God, I will tell you what it is really like…. When a man has made these two discoveries God can really get to work. It is after this that real life begins. The man is awake now. We can now go on to talk of Faith in the second sense.

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Parent: Mere Christianity: Leaders’ Notes Series

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