fear, not doubt, is the opposite for faith

Continuing our walk through Sunday’s Gospel lesson from Mark 4, we find ourselves standing alongside the Disciples as Jesus confronts them for their lack of faith.  Now, as one who is not particularly good at waking up, this part of the story could be read with a very human Jesus in mind: as if he’s grouchy from having been woken up and so he lays into his friends.  I’ve done it.  I’ve had it done to me, and while it might make for a funny story, as I mentioned on Monday, Mark isn’t into superfluous details.

Looking again at the narrative, we see that Jesus utters two sentences to his Disciples.  First he says, “Why are you afraid?”  Without even a pause for any sort of “But, Jesus…” he asks a second question, “Have you still no faith?”

Why are you afraid?

In many parts of the Christian world, doubt is considered to be the opposite of faith.  Doubt, in this context, is mostly focused in the brain.  If you doubt any of the claims that are made about the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then you obviously don’t have faith.  Or at least not the right kind of faith.  It gets played out in the mainstream culture in debates about literal creationism, the virgin birth, miracles, the resurrection and baptism by the Spirit.  If one does not believe that God created everything in seven, 24 hour days, impregnated Mary whose Son could walk on water and rise from the dead, by way of a Spirit who gives true believers the gift of tongues, then you aren’t among those who are saved.  I find this unhelpful.

What Scripture seems to argue, at least the Scripture before us today, is that fear, rather than doubt, is the opposite of faith.  “Why are you afraid?  Have you still no faith?”  The two questions are of equal importance to Jesus.  Fear equals a lack of trust and a lack of trust equals a lack of faith.  While doubt is a matter of the head, fear is a matter of the heart.  Fear holds us back from the full relationship that God calls us into.  Fear, as I’ve said before, causes us to act in all sorts of unhealthy ways.  God’s modus operandi (MO) is to invite us to “not be afraid.”  His angels start their appearances by calming fears.  Jesus, when he enters the upper room on Easter Day, attempts to quell the fear in the room.

Why are you afraid?  Have you still no faith?

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5 responses

  1. What I think is necessary to make this argument more clear is to first define what is “fear” and what is “faith”. The former probably doesn’t really need defining, but it would go a long way towards setting the parameters of the issue. As for the latter, a lot of people have a lot of definitions. For instance, I define faith as belief without evidence.

    • Thank you for reading and replying, Michael. I think the definitons you seek are helpful, and certainly defining them by negation, as I have in this post, isn’t neccessarily helpful. I define faith in a less scriptural way (assurance of things hoped for…) and more in a creedal sort of way. For me to place one’s faith in something or someone is to put one’s trust in that thing or person. In the argument at hand: faith in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: when we place trust, fully, we can have faith without fear. When we place limits on our trust, we introduce fear into our lives.

  2. Hi Steve.
    I do not believe that fear is the opposite of faith, although I agree that it can hold us back. Faith is not just a matter of ‘belief,’ it’s also a matter of conduct. Faith, like belief, is only an intellectual exercise until you have to ‘act’ on it, As with Shadrach, Meshak and Abednego before Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 3:16-18), or Jesus in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36, Luke 22:42), faith acted in spite of fear.
    Would it be accurate to say that Jesus had no faith because he showed fear? I don’t think so! “Even the demons believe, and shudder,” says James 2:19. One could say that the capacity to fear is a gift from God–a natural response to danger. Faith, “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1) empowers one to stay the course in spite of fear and storms.

  3. Pingback: On Faith and Fear | Draughting Theology

  4. Dear “J-P Duncan@”,

    That fear is the opposite of faith has nothing to do with the truth that works or act’s after faith makes faith perfect (James 2:22) or that faith acted in spite of fear.

    By telling the truth that fear is the opposite of faith, it’s meant that fear leads to destruction and that faith leads to salvation. You can of course have both, but the strongest part in you of fear or faith will win you either to destruction or to salvation.

    It’s just a matter of believing in our creator GOD(Jesus) instead of in our worldly fear.
    It’s just a matter of believing in the things which are not seen instead of the things which are seen.

    2 Corinthians 7:10;
    “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death”

    2 Corinthians 4:18;
    “while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

    2 Timothy 1:7;
    “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

    Romans 8:31;
    “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?”

    Isaiah 41:10;
    “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

    More here:

    http://www.openbible.info/topics/fear_and_anxiety

    So you clearly see that fear is the opposite of faith.

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