The Evidence of Things Unseen- Hebrews 11:1

In Hebrews 11, the Bible tells us what faith is, it is the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen”. In our previous post, we examined the first part of this verse, so we will now examine the second part, the “evidence of things unseen”. We have seen that faith, by definition, requires action. We believe something to be true, so we act on it, we order our lives according to it. This is something all human beings do. We drive through a green light in faith, trusting that the people going the other way will stop for the red light. We board an airplane in faith, trusting that the pilot, maintenance people, etc. know what they are doing and the plane won’t crash to the ground. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, it is also the evidence of things unseen. The Greek word “evidence” here is elenchos, a word used only here in the New Testament. It is a word which literally means “to bring to light” or “to demonstrate”. It is commonly used to refer to an attempt to prove or show something as being either true or false, correct or incorrect. The Greek words “things” is pragmaton, from which we get our English word pragmatic. This term refers to a “thing done, a deed or action”. The Greek word “unseen” is ou blepomenon, a form of the Greek word blepo, which means “to see”. Their are several Greek words used to refer to “seeing”, and not all seeing has to do with the eyes. The word most commonly used for seeing in the New Testament is horao, and it generally is used to refer to seeing something with the eyes. Blepo can be used for seeing with the eyes, but is generally used to describe intellectual or spiritual perception, to see as perception or insight, to see into or understand. It is our contention here that the word blepo is specifically chosen by the writer in order to refer to both types of seeing, and this for a specific purpose. Philosophers and others who deny and oppose “religion” claim to base their lives on reason and fact, while people of faith base their lives on myth and superstition. This is not so according to this passage, and philosophers have themselves discovered this. In very general terms, there are basically two schools of thought in philosophy, rationalism and empiricism. Both contend that what may be known must be justified, or proven. Rationalists contend that what cannot be proven by human reason can’t be “known” (is not fact but belief), and empiricists contend that what cannot be proven by sense experience can’t be “known”, is not fact but belief. The common factor is that they both attempt to exclude faith (the evidence of things unseen) as a valid means of “knowing” anything. The philosopher David Hume demonstrated rather conclusively (and has never really been refuted) that we cannot rationally or empirically “prove” everything. His example was cause and effect. We can observe the fact that event A is always followed by event B, but that is all we can really do, and we can’t conclude that event A caused event B. To make a long story short, what all of that means is that all knowledge is ultimately based on assumptions about reality, on things that can’t be “proven” empirically or rationally, on things “unseen”. Immanuel Kant took Hume one step further, showing that there are basic truths that must be presupposed (assumed to be true without being “proven”) in order for us to make any sense of reality, things like the existence of space and time, the existence of the self, and cause and effect. So what do we take from this passage and our very brief excursion into philosophy? We take the awareness that all the atheists, scientists and rationalists who claim the “higher ground” of living by reason and “fact” really live the same way people of faith do, by faith, by the evidence of things unseen, by assumptions they make about the way things are which can’t be proven, but must be assumed beforehand and accepted as true without rational or empirical justification. We take the understanding that rationalists and empiricists live by faith just as much as believers do, that their understanding of reality is also a “belief system”, that they live by faith also, and that much of what they assert as fact is built on a foundation of faith, for the way we live, the way we order our lives, is the “evidence of things unseen”, a demonstration of our assumptions about reality.

No Comments Christian Philosophy  //  Epistles  //  Faith  //  Nature of Man

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