WHAT IS FAITH?Program 145 by Ernest O'Neill LISTEN
What really is faith? One little boy in Sunday School was asked that question
and quick as a flash he replied, "Believing something you know isn't true." And I don't know what
you feel about it. I often thought that that's what faith was.It's believing something that you know with your mind isn't true. It's
some kind of overdrive that you push in with a button of some kind in your mind
or your emotions or somewhere as "they" say down in your heart, to get you to
accept something that you know with your intellect could not possibly be true.
And so many of us, I think, in this world today are sceptical of the whole idea
of faith, because we think of it as something not connected with the ordinary
processes of the mind at all and actually opposed to the convictions of the
intellect. And so many of us who have been through some kind of education and
especially some kind of scientific education get the idea that to have faith
you have to in some way close up your mind, or in some way put your intellect
to sleep, or in some way ignore the conclusions of science and conclusions of
That's absolutely ridiculous. Faith is not that kind of an irrational thing at all. Faith, in fact, is something that you and I exercise every day in our lives. And we've exercised it from the very moment we were born. I suppose it's true that your mother even encouraged you to feel that we could trust her when we lay in her arms. And we learned day by day that was true, she would not drop us, that she was reliable, and we could put our faith in her arms.
And so as we grew up and came to the age of two or three or four years old and our Mom would ask us to jump from one chair into her arms, we would jump, because we would feel, "Yes, we can put our faith in her because she has never let us fall before. And every time we have observed her, every time we have experienced the stability and the safety of her arms we have not been disappointed, and so we learned to put our faith in her.
It was the same when we began to ride on a bicycle. We started to find out that the bicycle would carry our weight. Then as our Dad taught us how to balance we found that it was possible, amazing though it was, to push the bicycle along on the ground in such a way that we could stay up even though it had only two wheels. And we began to put our faith in the bicycle and in our ability to ride it and to stay up all the time.
And so in all of our lives we have gradually come to put our faith in all kinds of things. If I ask you, "Would you put your faith in that chair that is sitting opposite you in your office or in your home?" You will probably reply to me, "That chair?
Yes, yes I would put my faith in that chair. That is, I would gladly go over and sit on that chair, because I have observed it holding other people. It has held me myself on many occasions, and I'm prepared to bet my life on the strength of that chair."
It's so in the car this morning. If you're sitting in your automobile and you're in rush hour traffic, and you see the guy's lights in front of you or the woman's lights in front of you brighten up, you put your faith in the fact that the car in front of you is going to slow up. And you immediately move your foot from your accelerator over to your brake because you put your faith in the stop light of the car in front of you working properly. Now sometimes, of course, it is not working properly and sometimes it fails to work. Then you find you are in real trouble at that moment. But even that failure of the car's tail light is proof that you actually do normally live by faith in that mechanism working efficiently.
And so it is in all kinds of situations. You lift the phone when you hear the phone ringing, and you're absolutely certain that you will hear somebody speak on the other side of it. And it's the same when you hear the doorbell sounding, you're pretty certain that when you go to that door and open it you have faith that there will be someone standing on the other side.
And so it is in all kinds of more important and vital matters. In
connection with your bank account you have absolute faith that when you write a
cheque out and send it to a certain person your bank will forward to them the
necessary amount of money as long as it's in your account. You put faith in
your bank to do that.
Then we have all kinds of complicated expressions of faith when you get to the stock exchange floor. And you get to the buying of stocks and shares and you find that all kinds of massive purchases of stocks and shares in companies and investments are made simply on the word of one man. Often on the wild waving hands of some man on the stock exchange floor. And they shake the hand and that's the deal done. Often, even thousands and millions of dollars change hands because they put faith in the shake of the other person's hand, or they put faith in what the other person has said is going to happen.
So it is of course every time we step into a plane. We put faith in the incredible theory of aerodynamics that assures us that the mass of metal is going to lift into the air and going to cross thousands of miles of ocean. Then it lands us safely in another country, even though to our ordinary eyes and to our ordinary intellect we cannot understand why that plane could possibly rise off the ground like that. And yet we put our faith in it because we've seen it happen again and again.
And so it goes on throughout all of our life. We'll often allow ourselves to be put to sleep by some stranger in a hospital because we'll have absolute faith in what the hospital has done with other people. We have even seen other hospitals do this with our own relatives and we have seen doctors and surgeons do. We'll put our faith in a great many unknown people and unknown events and unknown techniques, simply because we have observed in the past and we have good grounds for putting our faith in those things.
So practically everyday in our life we exercise faith a thousand times. We breathe because we put our faith in the fact that the air is clean enough to breathe and is not filled with poisonous gas.
So in all kinds of manifold situations we put our faith again and again in people, in things, in events, in techniques, in strategies, in processes that actually on many occasions we have not tried before, but we have observed other people trying them. So when we think of faith let's not think of something strange and superstitious; let's not think of something religious or something non-rational. Let's see that faith is something that we practise every day in our lives.