We live in an empirical world where science has been crowned king and religion is ridiculed. A best-selling author says, “My suggestion is that you won't find any intelligent person who feels the need for the supernatural.” Another prominent philosopher said that Christians are “ignorant, or unintelligent, or uninstructed, or foolish persons.”
Nobody likes to feel stupid, so, when respected people say it’s foolish to believe, those of us who do believe are tempted to be a little intimidated, to wonder if maybe we’re mistaken. Before you decide to dump your faith and enlist with the “enlightened,” consider this. The first quote above comes from Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion (2006). The second quote, however, is from the Greek philosopher Celsus from about 150 A.D. Making fun of Christians is not a new sport. It is a game that has been played for centuries. Modern skepticism is really all that modern.
Interestingly though, the centuries seem to support the believers, not the scoffers. In spite of the questions and doubts, most people, throughout known history, have believed in God and the supernatural in some way. In the early days of Christianity, when believers’ faith needed bolstering, the writer of Hebrews reminded them of that long history of faith.
He admitted that faith is about “what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). But that doesn’t keep us from “being sure” and “certain”. We all, including the scoffers, believe daily in things that we cannot see and cannot test in the lab. Things like love, for example. We can’t see it or hear it or experiment on it, but we believe it is real because we have experienced it, and we have enjoyed the results of it from other people.
In the same way, the Hebrews author points to a long line of people who, through the centuries believed in God. All of them – Abel, Noah, Abraham, and others – were long dead by the first century, but those early Christians, with their Jewish background were sure those unseen heroes were real, and sure of the various ways they had showed their faith to be real. Remembering them gave the early Christians strength to continue trusting in what they could not see.
Remembering them should do the same for us. “Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1), we can keep running the race, energized to see it through even if we can’t completely see the finish line.