In a recent interview with Stephen Colbert, Thomas Rosica asked the late-night talk show host about faith. Colbert revealed an impressive knowledge of Christian apologetics, referring to Anselm’s proof for God’s existence. He said he believed Anselm’s arguments to be “logically perfect” and “completely unsatisfying.” Then he explained, “Faith ultimately can’t be argued. Faith has to be felt.” Colbert continued, saying these feelings come from love and gratitude for the world.
It is nice to see a late-night talk show host unabashedly discussing his faith, but something is missing from Colbert’s view of faith. Currently he is on top of the world. Having received so much, it is easy for him to feel love and gratitude. But what if I am not a successful late-night television host? What if I live in war-torn Afghanistan or I am trying to survive Ebola in a third world country? Is it possible for me to have faith? Colbert’s view of faith is dangerous because it reduces faith to personal belief. Saving faith goes deeper than that.
Granted, faith has to be more than an academic question of God’s existence and the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many people believe these facts yet remain unchanged in the world. So is Colbert right? Does faith depend upon feelings?
Jesus gave a much wiser answer in the Parable of the Sower. He discussed faith in terms of the ability of a seed (the Word of God) to germinate and grow into a healthy plant. Some seed falls on hard, impenetrable soil. Some seed is cast onto rocky ground, which is rich enough to allow the seed to germinate, but too shallow for it to develop roots, so the plant eventually dies when confronted with hardship. Some seed falls among thorns and is choked by distracting weeds. And some seed falls on fertile soil and is able to produce a hundredfold (Matthew 13:18-23). So the development of faith depends not so much on what’s there as on what is not there. Alongside intellectual concession to the facts of the gospel, one must free himself from stubbornness, prejudice, immaturity, anxiety, materialism, and temptation in order to experience God in a real way through His Word and His people. That is how faith becomes real and completely satisfying.