for we walk by faith, not by sight.
-2 Corinthians 5:7
It is odd, “faith” — in a religious sense — applies commonly to the most vague sorts of opinions. Any sort of intuition, hope, hunch can constitute faith. When we use the word “believe”, we use it refer to those things of which are not sure — if we had been evidence we would “know”.
However such a vague, almost proposition free opinion has nothing to do with Christian faith. There are many who profess “belief” — but there are precious few who truly believe in the end. Faith which fetches salvation is not an opinion but an apprehension: “the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).
William Romaine notes that faith is something so certain that supersedes even sense:
“If the poor weak believer should say, I am convinced of this, and I should be glad to have my faith fixed upon such a foundation as changeth not; then let it rest upon the word of God, which is the only ground of believing, and is therefore called the word of faith, upon which faith is built, and by which it is nourished and grows up. It is the work of faith to believe what God hath spoken, and because he hath spoken it: for his word changeth not. It abideth the same for ever; therefore, what it truly reports, stands upon an immoveable rock. Sense and feeling may report things contrary to it, but the believer can silence them with, God hath spoken it; for his faith has evidence of things not seen, and does not form its judgment by the things which are seen, but by the things which are not seen. Generally speaking, faith judges the very contrary to what sense does, and will not believe what sense perceives. Abraham against hope believed in hope so do all his children.”
Now some would read this and say that to believe is obviously to deny reality. In fact language such as this would lead one to pit “science” against “faith”. Such a contrast would be faulty — faith does not deny either the physical universe or the regularity of God’s operation within the universe. What Romaine means is that faith can see the working of God in overcoming the Fall and reconciling human beings in love:
“They believe the pardon of sin, victory over sin, and the death of sin, the immortality of the body, though crumbled to dust and atoms, the second coming of Christ, and the eternal state of happiness or misery. Faith looks at God’s word, calling the things which be not, as though they were, and is commonly forced to contradict sense. Sense judges from what it sees—Faith from what God says. Sense is governed by what appears—Faith by what God says shall be. Sense looks inward—Faith looks outward. Faith can answer the seeming contradictions, which sense opposes to it, from the word of God which cannot be broken. And when sense is ready to despair, and all its fine frames and feelings are gone, then the believer can still trust in the Lord, and have a good hope because of the word of his grace.”
Romaine does not claim that “faith” denies the beating of his heart or the rising of the sun. Rather faith sees more than sight; it can see the work of God in salvation.
Romaine, who is not writing for skeptics but for believers, next moves onto the matter of joy and belief. Joy, he explains, flows from faith — it is a fruit, a benefit of faith:
“But perhaps thou art ready to say, it is written, that there is great joy and peace in believing, yea joy, unspeakable and full of glory. True these are what faith produces, and not what it is. These are the fruits of faith, which it brings forth in most abundance, when it is kept distinct from sense. The more simple faith is, the more it eyes Christ the object of faith, and the word the ground of faith, the more clear and distinct will its actings be, and consequently it will bring greater peace into the conscience, and more joy into the affections. But still these fruits are not faith; no more than the fruit is the tree. The fruits do not go before faith, but follow it, and grow from it. This is God’s order. He gives- us his word to be the ground of our believing, and by believing all things promised in the word are made ours, then we go on comfortably, and are happy; but when sense is put in the place of the word, then the consequence is, that weak believers have got a changeable rule to judge of themselves by, which hinders them from being established in believing, and from attaining the promised peace and joy.”
Romaine, William. “Treatise upon the life of faith.”