leap of faith

I want to research something but it’s summer and I don’t want to waste my one warm weekend of the year in the library, so could those of you who are willing and have an opinion answer two questions for me?

1. What does a “leap of faith” mean to you?  What words or phrases come to mind?

2. Do you consider a “leap of faith” to be a good or bad thing?  Would you counsel others to try it?

There is no right answer (he said, cleverly concealing the right answer), but if you could share a couple of words or sentences it would benefit my research and give me more time at Lake Michigan’s beautiful, and for one afternoon, warm beaches.

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19 Responses to leap of faith

  1. Tertullian2009 says:

    The first thing that pops into my mind is Kierkegaard (and Barth’s reaction against him) and then Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

    I think of a “leap of faith” as commiting to a decision, person, or course of action with very little or no information or assurances. I would say it is “blind” or even “ignorant.” Still, I realize that in this life such leaps are sometimes necessary, but I don’t think they are good (although they can turn out good). I prefer a “step of faith” – trusting based on information, assurances, or a history that demonstrates the general trustworthiness of the individual, action, or decision to which you are commiting. Perhaps a better way to state it is to say that faith is about trust, and a leap of faith is an act of unmerited trust.

    I generally counsel against leaps of faith since, in my experience, a little patience and research will usually yield enough information to make a more informed decision. Again, I know it isn’t always possible, but I prefer to look and look again before I leap.

  2. Justin says:

    (I wrote this prior to reading Tertullian2009′s comment. I am pleased to see that, if I am wrong, I won’t be alone…and that there are other Indiana Jones fans out there!)

    1. What does a leap of faith mean to me?

    It means asking a question on a blog in the hopes that (1) other people will do your research for you, and (2) that the weather will cooperate as you visit Lake Michigan.

    It means posting an answer to a question on a blog in the hopes that it is right, knowing that a wrong answer may end up as an example in a popular professor’s third book.

    Seriously, the example I think of (that is often used in churches) is the scene from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” with Jones stepping out into seeming nothingness to find a cleverly concealed path for crossing a wide gorge. He had no rational basis for knowing that a path was there…he simply acted upon the hope that there was a path there.

    The “faith” spoken of in this phrase is not that of the Scriptures (being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see) and of Calvin (a firm a certain knowledge of God’s benevolence towards us) but an a-rational hoping. It lacks a rational, objective basis for the action.

    What words or phrases come to mind?
    -Whistling in the dark
    -Fideism

    2. Do I consider a leap of faith to be a good thing or a bad thing? Would I counsel others to try it?

    Generally, I understand it as a bad thing, but not always. It is a worthy leap trying a new restaurant, or going and seeming a movie as the case often is today. In such instances I would certainly encourage someone to “take a leap”.

    But I would ask that such language and ideas are kept out of the church, and out of the church’s evangelistic efforts. Let us trust in the firm knowledge and certain hope of God revealed in Christ, and the promises He gives in Holy Scripture.

    Hope this helps Dr. Wittmer. Enjoy a nice weekend at the lake!

  3. E. says:

    1. What does a “leap of faith” mean to you? What words or phrases come to mind?

    Honestly, the first thing that came to mind was the cover of the Steve Martin movie from the late ’80s/early ’90s–you know, the one where he’s in the purple, sparkly, sequined jacket? Words that come to mind are blind trust & beyond logic.

    2. Do you consider a “leap of faith” to be a good or bad thing? Would you counsel others to try it?

    This depends entirely upon the context (said the good postmodern gen-Xer). A smart leap of faith would be based on at least some knowledge of the situation at hand. The example above of Indiana Jones is a good one, though. He did have to step out in faith, but I think he had clues and reasoning behind it that made it more of a calculated risk instead of a stupid one.

  4. Adam Ellis says:

    I wrote a paper on Kierkegaard’s “truth as subjectivity” for a class in my M.T.S. program, where I dealt with that concept a bit. I’d be happy to email it to you if you think it might be helpful and/or amusing ;)
    AE

  5. Leap of faith has more of a negative connotation for me – obviously faith is a huge aspect of the Christian life, but there is a difference in acting in true FAITH (having absolute confidence in something unseen or untangeable) and taking a blind stab at something. If we’re acting on faith based on God’s revealed Word and/or his clear leading through the Spirit, there is no “leap” involved! We either trust Him or we don’t!

    Then from the flipside, sometimes stepping out in faith is a bit like leaping off of a cliff, knowing that God will catch us! :)

  6. Jonathan Shelley says:

    Mike:

    [I'm confused - why do you have to choose between research and the beach? Can't you just surf Wikipedia on your Blackberry, preferably while driving to the beach? That would be a leap of faith!]

  7. Steve Whicker says:

    I did a little research in iTunes to help you out. The closest thing I could find was an album from Kenny Loggins with the title “Leap of Faith”. It doesn’t technically fit the 80′s music genre (1991) but his look in the You Tube video may still qualify him.

    1. “Leap of faith” means whatever you want it to mean – from stepping off a cliff with a map in your hand that says there is an invisible bridge below to giving your paycheck to the evangelist who tells you God will multiply it. This is the kind of fuzzy God-talk that can lets me do what I want and sound spiritual doing it.

    2. I would encourage a leap of faith only when it is a step someone takes as they do the will of God. I have found John MacArthur’s little booklet “Found: God’s Will” to be a useful tool in helping others with this (I have a tough time getting them to read Kierkegaar or Barth). His counsel is to be saved, Spirit filled, sanctified, submissive and suffering, then do whatever you want – a “leap of faith.”

    I just read this to my wife and she suggested another song “Faith” by George Michael – 1987.

  8. Layman Speaks says:

    Mike,

    1. The first word that comes to mind is irrational. When I hear “leap of faith” my mind sees darkness, unknowing, blindness. A “leap of faith” is a step into the unknown based on we know not what. I see it as putting our faith in nothing and then jumping. It may even be a form of idolatry – making chance or some other “force” God.
    2. As a believer in Jesus Christ I try not to use the term “leap of faith”. In light of a growing relationship with Jesus Christ my faith in all regards is solidly placed in the God who has revealed Himself to us in many different ways, most importantly as savior and Lord. On that basis my faith in every area should flow out of that bottom line truth. It is on that basis I can say that while I may not know the outcomes for the steps I take, I know the God who is intimately aquainted with those outcomes.

    I can honestly say my faith is no leap but instead is a carefully considered choice to submit to the “coram deo” nature of reality and trust the God who not only holds matter itself together, but has demonstrated His love to us.

    Larry

  9. mikewittmer says:

    Thanks for your comments, they confirm my suspicions.

    Steve: thanks for your research on song titles, but I didn’t mention that I was working on a book idea, though if I were, I would already have a song title in mind. Rest assured that stupid song titles are my first order of business. I never pursue any idea unless I have a cheapening title already in place.

    Adam: does your paper rely on the book by C. Stephen Evans? I’d be interested in reading it if you have something more to contribute beyond his fine book. I’ll let you be the judge!

  10. I can’t really add to what the others said. My answer would be pretty much the same as Tertullian2009′s (he’s BACK??)

    “Leap of faith” to me seems to have the connotation of “just try it out.” I can’t say why it has that vibe for me; it just does. Like those damn bumper stickers that say, “Try Jesus. If you don’t like him, the devil will always take you back.” Aaaaand, here comes the stroke.

  11. Bill N. says:

    I also prefer the concept of a walk of faith in contrast to a leap of faith. The walk of faith concept is more consistent with what the book of Hebrews tells me.

    It is one thing to take a leap of faith where you know the consequence is limited; trying a new restaurant, going to see a particular movie. It is another thing where the potential consequence could be disaterous; throwing all your savings into lottery tickets, driving 120 MPH on the freeway in Detroit. Indiana Jones trusted the clue he had when he stepped “off the cliff”, and that, in an off hand way, does provide a sermon illustration of walking by faith in the promises and Word of God…

    Peace…

  12. Jonathan Shelley says:

    Mike:

    I’ve been chewing on the idea of “leap of faith” all weekend, and I keep circling back to the theme of Kevin DeYoung’s book Just Do Something. It seems to me that Kevin is, on some level, arguing for us to be willing to take a leap of faith every once in a while, to (sometimes) embrace the fact that we will not have assurances or all the information but we need to move forward or take action anyway. Maybe it is a generational thing, as Kevin seems to argue, that we regard a “leap of faith” as a bad thing and maybe it is a sign of our hyper-modern (to borrow a term from James KA Smith) culture that we feel this overwhelming need to have control in every situation. Perhaps we should consider the examples of some of the Old Testament heros – Abraham, Moses, David, and Esther – who all took leaps of faith and are commended for it. Personally, I’m with the general consensus on this post – a leap of faith feels like a bad thing to me. But perhaps that is more a result of my cultural emersion and sinful nature. After all, I saw a lot of myself in Kevin DeYoung’s book – paralyzed with fear of making the wrong decision, and maybe I need to be more willing to take a leap of faith, provided that leap is grounded in the Scriptures and the Spirit’s leading as argued for in Kevin’s book.

  13. Adam Ellis says:

    I haven’t read Evans’ book (but I think I’ll pick it up, now that you’ve mentioned it). I’m very interested to see what you are doing with all this. I’ll send you the paper if I can locate an email address. If you skim it a little and think its interesting, feel free to read it. If not…that’s what the “recycle bin” is for.
    It is interesting to me how different the connotations people attach to the phrase “leap of faith” are from the Kierkegaardian concept. From what you said about the comments “confirming your suspicions”, I’m betting you find it interesting too ;)
    AE

  14. mikewittmer says:

    Adam: you can send it to mwittmer@cornerstone.edu. Thanks!

    Jonathan: always the contrarian! I think you highlight an important distinction, which Bill mentioned. It’s one thing to take a flyer on something that isn’t terribly important or about which there is no way to know for sure (e.g., the character of the person you are marrying), but is it appropriate to speak of a “leap” when it comes to our faith in God?

  15. Jonathan Shelley says:

    Mike:

    I think one of the points Kevin was trying to make in his book (at least one point I came away with) is that, with God, it is never a leap if we are following Scripture (seek first the kingdom) and the Spirit. And I think that goes back to the trust issue that has already been raised – we know we can trust God. Granted, sometimes it requires more faith to strike out on a new venture or make a decision, but if Scripture is our lamp and the Spirit is our guide, is it really a leap or is it trust? I’m particularly thinking of Esther right now – she didn’t know what would happen to her when she went before the king, but she knew it was what she needed to do. In one sense, that’s a leap of faith, but I think it might be more accurate to describe it as an act of trust in God to work His will through her actions. What assurances did David have when he faced Goliath, or what was the basis for Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac? These actions all seem to fit the definition of “leap of faith” that we’ve been using, but maybe that’s a misnomer. I think these actions are examples of the “walk of faith” that Bill mentions, or the “just do something” attitude that Kevin lays out. I tend to think of it as trust – they didn’t know exactly what the outcome would be but they did know that they were to be the instruments of God’s will. (I would also avoid boiling this down to some vague notion of “providence” as well, which I hope is clear from my reliance on Kevin’s explanations in Just Do Something.)

  16. Derek says:

    1. What does a “leap of faith” mean to you? What words or phrases come to mind?

    How in the world did I get myself up in this tree and how am I going to get down?

    The ropes course at Hume Lake

    2. Do you consider a “leap of faith” to be a good or bad thing? Would you counsel others to try it?

    Good thing – Yes.
    Counsel others – Get um in the tree and tell um there’s only one way down. It’s a leap of faith

  17. A leap of faith means something very definite to me, and is something I have done on numerous ocassions. Almost 30 years ago, someone asked whether I was prepared to hand my life and heart over to Jesus Christ. I answered, “Yes. No. Yes. No.” and them mumbled something inane about not being ready. The Holy Spirit made me feel as though this was my last chance, so I blurted out another ‘YES’ but with more conviction. I felt as though I were standing on the edge of a precipice, ready to leap but terrified, nevertheless. I jumped. I took a leap of faith and my LIFE began in earnest. Christ healed and renewed and restored, over a period of many years, because my fear and guilt and terrible self-image were so deeply ingrained, due to years of severe abuse.

    When I was 45, my husband and I relocated and I began attending a Baptist church nearby. I made friends with one of the women and she invited me to a morning prayer meeting. Someone had propped up a list of prayer requests on a large board at the front of the church hall. One request kept needling me! Apparently, a young man – whose name no one knew – had become involved in satanism and his family were desperate. I was so moved to pray for him that all the other requests flew out of my spiritual window. During my silent prayer, I distinctly heard God saying, “It is done! Now tell them!” My heart sank into my shoes. I only knew one person in the group, very slightly. I knew they would all think I was some sort of nutcase because I was an artist and had moved from a major city.

    I prayed, “Lord, please don’t make me do this! I can’t!” My face was red, my hands were sweating and my heart was pounding. God just kept on repeating the same instruction, at least 5 more times. My desire to obey eventually became stronger than my fear of rejection so I stood up and told them what God had said. You could have heard a pin drop. I crawled back to my seat and suffered in silence until the meeting was over. My friend didn’t say a word about it either, but this only made me feel even worse. Even so, I continued to pray for the young man.

    A year later, my friend phoned to ask if I remembered that first prayer meeting.

    “Oh no!” I thought, “Here comes the church discipline bit – or something even worse!”

    “Well”, she continued, “The young man gave his life to Christ and is now studying for fulltime ministry.”

    I actually dropped the phone, fell to my knees and wept for a long time. I still feel tearful recording the incident.

    Not too long after this, John, my husband’s best friend, was admitted into a frail care facility about 100 kms from our home. He was only in his 50s but he had such advanced diabetes that his kidneys and liver were failing. We were the only one’s who cared. His wife had left him and his children were all living overseas. I sensed that God wanted me to share the Gospel with him, but I argued (once again) that I’d done so on many occasions and he wasn’t interested. But God kept on nudging me.

    We drove down to visit John that weekend. Nurses popped in and out of his room. He was taken away to have his dressings changed. The phone in his room kept ringing. There was no time to speak to him but I told my husband to leave me there because God said I HAD to talk to John.

    “How will you get home?” he asked.

    “Don’t worry, I’ll phone the nearest Baptist Church to explain. I know they’ll help.”

    John asked my non-Christian husband if he would mind buying a few things for him from a nearby supermarket. After he left, I was alone with John at last. I shared the Good News in as short a version as possible and John simply broke down and said, “I want Jesus!” He prayed the sinner’s prayer a few minutes before my husband got back. He took one look at John and his face registered utter astonishment. He told me later that John’s face was literally glowing! I couldn’t see it but God was at work in more than one life.

    A week later, a matron at the frail care facility phoned to say that John had gone into a deep coma and was in hospital. I prayed for hours. At a very specific time (I happened to glance at the clock), I asked God whether He would take John home, because he was now His child and he had suffered so much. About five minutes later, the phone rang. John had died at the precise time that I had glanced at the clock.

    There have been more great leaps of faith but the greatest was believing that God would save my husband. I prayed without doubting for 29 years. He gave his life to Christ 2 months ago. But that is another wonderful story …

    In conclusion, a leap of faith is believing (trusting, having faith) in what God says in His Word and verbally and then obeying and living according to His promise or instruction, regardless of what others think. A leap of faith is not a blind belief, but a trust in the One whom we worship.

    Cherry

  18. Yooper says:

    A “leap of faith” imho has the connotation of being blind and not taking into account the cost.

  19. Hillary says:

    And yet the phrase is a “leap of FAITH,” not a “leap of ignorance”. Does that mean something? Perhaps it’s getting at the fact that sometimes – as other posters have said – faith requires action. Possibly “leap” is overkill and, as others have said, a step would do as well to emphasize that faith often requires, and then should result in, action. As James says, “I will show you my faith by what I do” (2:18). Maybe the leap is the evidence of faith, i.e., you wouldn’t have leaped if you hadn’t had faith.

    I think some of the connotations of this phrase may be muddied with the phrase “blind faith,” which is not how I usually perceive this one. Since you asked our opinions and reactions, I mean.

    And yes, I’d counsel others to try acting in faith. Seems to work pretty well, most days. (The phrase “paralyzed by fear” comes to mind in counterpoint here. I haven’t yet read Just Do Something, so I apologize if I’m stealing thunder.)

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