Christians are often at pains to point out that, contrary to popular perception, Christian faith is not blind but rather rests on a solid foundation of evidence and reason. Yet there is a place for blind faith in some measure, for didn’t Jesus say to Thomas “Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe”?
John’s gospel is written so that its readers might believe that Jesus is the Christ and so have life through his name, and it narrates the signs Jesus gave so that all may have reason for believing. Yet it also seems to suggest that there is a superior kind of faith that does not merely believe on the basis of sight, but actually believes without sight as well. Why might this be?
Possibly we see a glimpse of some of the inherent weaknesses in faith-by-sight in John 6, in which a crowd has witnessed the incredible miracle of the feeding of the 5000 and is now pursuing Jesus in search of a repeat performance (6:30-31). Faith that rests on sight is never satisfied – it always wants more evidence, more feelings, more experiences that will replenish the faith tank.
We have a tendency to forget the things we have already seen the hand of God in, and demand an ever-present display of miracles. I have a funny feeling that if Jesus started to turn water into wine on my dinner table each night, pretty soon it would be no more remarkable to me than the provision of breakfast cereal each morning, and I would then be needing Jesus to part the Brisbane river each day (which would certainly save me paying the toll) for my faith to be bolstered.
Furthermore, faith that rests on sight tends to become focussed on the physical rather than the spiritual. In John 6, Jesus critiques a large crowd of people for that very thing – their desire is simply to have another free lunch provided rather than to feed on the living bread of life, Jesus Himself. Faith by sight may get excited by miracles, apologetic arguments, or spectacular experiences, and yet fail to focus on the wonderful person from whom these may come.
Every evening I have great faith that I will enjoy a wonderful meal – but it is not just the smell of the food, or the history of past meals, that convinces me. It is the presence of my wife that makes the meal wonderful, and the food is just an added bonus. When we become fixated on the physical, we run the risk of placing faith in Jesus because of what He can do for us rather than who He is to us.
Jesus wishes to push us beyond mere faith-by-sight. Because sometimes we will not be able to see Him, and He will appear to go missing as He did in the case of Mary and Martha on the death of their brother (John 11). Yet His purpose is to push us to a deeper recognition of our fallen weakness, and of His sufficiency for all our needs, resulting in a faith which loves Jesus on a far deeper level.
So let us keep encouraging one another to have blind faith – faith that is not unquenchable in its thirst for ‘proof’ but instead is satiated by the person of Jesus.