Is Faith Like the Suspension of Disbelief?

Nathan Bierma

Eric Gregory
June 3, 2010

If faith is like the suspension of disbelief, and we never "wake up", I think faith becomes delusional fantasy. I agree with the comparison insofar as the reality of the Kingdom of God is different than what we see before our eyes each day (which I believe is one of the reasons that Israelites were instructed to keep the Law written on garments covering head and heart, along with always and everywhere proclaiming the truth of the Lord - it's not easily discerned with the naked eye, or by one attuned to the physical world alone); however, the stage's "reality" is a human construct designed to show us a truth about life that, while occasionally hidden, isn't something greater than oneself. Getting involved in Lord of the Rings, for instance, teaches us about struggle and faithfulness, weakness and pride, but it doesn't showcase the Kingdom of God. And no one believes that Middle Earth is real. Yet when we read the words of Jesus and see, in history, the acting of the Trinity, we are looking at what actually physically happens (or happened) in time - the truth of the Kingdom, however, transcends time and physicality. We, as Christians, are to make our lives a sacrament unto God, just as Christ is a sacrament for us.

June 3, 2010

I think faith is more deliberate than that. When Pater said to Jesus, “"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water." Then Jesus says, “Yes, come”. That kind of faith is not gradual, it is intentional and sudden. In a sense, faith is obediance. When we obey a command from God, we show evidence of “things not seen”. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark”. This kind of obediance was proof of his faith and gave evidence for the existence of the invisible God.

Faith does not come gradually by osmosis and is more than simply believing certain things are true. It is a deliberate acting on belief. Once born again we are free to not sin. God is the author and finisher of our faith but it is a faith that demands obediance, involves our choice. Whenever Jesus healed someone it would usually be accompanied by a faith action. “Take up your bed and walk”, “stretch out your hand”, “Go show yourself to the priests”. It is no different today.

June 3, 2010


"Suspending disbelief" implies a known temporary condition of not believing. When a person enters into faith in Christ, it's expected or intended to be permanent.

June 4, 2010

It seems to me that faith isn't belief despite (or in lack of) evidence, rather it is trusting something trustworthy based on good reasons. Koukl has a good article on the topic here:

Jeff Carpenter
June 4, 2010

Interesting metaphor, taken as just that, all ye serious theologians, a metaphor. There's also the "intermission," or even play's end---yet the images, the words, the story lingers . . . .
I always liked in A Midsummer Night's Dream, bumbling character Bottom's awakening: "I have had a most rare vision . . . ." who then tries to quote the passage from I Corinthians 2:9 about the depths of God's love: "The eye of man hath not heard . . . " So much reason in matters of faith gets suspended, transformed, into the un-reasonable. Life's "reasonableness" so often interferes with the mystery of faith. I'll take season's tickets to the play---

June 4, 2010

I have inscribed a quote from CS Lewis in the fly leaf of my Bible. He said this in response to questions about Jesus second coming. I love it;

"When the author walks on the stage the play is over."

June 7, 2010

I think our common culture today seriously underestimates what a complex thing belief actually is. How much are beliefs subject to our will and how much are we captives to them? Since the advent of psychology (and I assume before) we regularly ascribe erroneous beliefs in others as the result of past beliefs or other agendas. "He votes Republican because his father was a deadbeat..." etc.

Spiritual disciplines are an intentional pursuit to rewire the beliefs we fall into by following a training course. "I want to believe in Jesus more so I go to church and listen to the preacher and surround myself with others who have the same agenda." It's an interesting and complicated reality. So what deep beliefs are below the surface that motivate us to attempt to take the beliefs we fall into into our own willful hands?
Fun topic, thanks. pvk

June 7, 2010

Good point. This is a continuing discussion and misunderstanding I have with my Unitarian uncle. He is very patronizing towards my Mother’s faith and simply regards it as a set of beliefs that gives comfort to an insecure, emotional person. He regards her conversion as purely a psychological event and her growth in faith as dedication to a discipline or “going to church and listening to the preacher and surrounding myself with others who have the same agenda." He believes this of me as well. Of course that is a false perception. I was apprehended by God. I did not want to be a Christian, it cut against my freedoms, my desire to enjoy myself, my plans and self-will. It came out of the blue. But He revealed himself to me, speaking to me in a very clear dream the night before I gave my life to him. Once you meet the truth, once he apprehends you, how can you go back? Soon I was baptized in the Spirit and praying in tongues (which I have daily for 40 years). I experienced physical healing, saw miracles, heard others give accurate prophetic words and read the Bible voraciously because it was just so beautiful. What my uncle doesn’t understand is that I don’t simply have a set of beliefs, (or more accurately, I have Biblical beliefs that have been confirmed by experience), I have a relationship with a living God which is available to everyone. It is even humorous that he should think this, because God and I are friends. Secondly, we all (including my uncle) owe our existence to God. Thirdly, physics and cosmology naturally demand His creative and sustaining reality. As Abraham, Jacob and Paul discovered, faith is a rational response and decision to obey and follow, not an aberrant psychological condition.

June 10, 2010

I was thinking last Sunday, for the umpteenth time, do I really believe that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead? Do I really believe that he was born to a Virgin? Do I really believe that he fed thousands with two fish and five loaves of bread? Do I really believe that an angel walked Peter out of Herod's prison past all the guards? I can't say, with fervor or certainty "Yes! I believe!" But, these stories are part of the foundation of our faith. Do I really need to question them?

A materialistic atheist might say, well, there is no scientific explanation for how that could have happened. Well, for some there could be -- maybe Lazarus wasn't really dead, just in a coma. But the point is, the lack of a commonplace everyday explanation is what makes them miracles. A God who set matter in motion could intervene in miraculous ways that we cannot.

In any case, they are only minor demonstrations that the materially discernible is not all there is. Many beliefs widely recognized as superstition also claim some sort of miracles, perhaps faked, perhaps not. Do I have proof that there is one God, who made all that is, seen and unseen? Of course not. There is no "proof." Do I believe it? Yes. Because I have had the kind of direct visitation rickd has described? No, I really haven't. But partly, it makes sense, and partly, without proof, I sense that it is true. Some don't. For those who do, does faith require anything more?

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