Faith is About What You Feel, Not What You Know—or Is It?

The movie Gifted tells the story of an intelligent young girl named Mary and her uncle, Frank (Chris Evans of Captain America fame), who serves as her guardian after the death of her mother. The story examines the difficulties of family life, the pain of loss, and the challenges that go along with being a kid. Mary is exceptionally gifted at math and is curious about many things, including God. In this scene, Frank tries to answer some of her questions.

Faith Is Blind
First, Frank offers us a particular definition of faith: “Faith is about what you think, feel, not about what you know.” In other words, you might think there is a God, feel like there is a God, or wish that there is a God; but no one can really know that there is a God. And we shouldn’t try to convince anyone that we know God exists, because that is only our own subjective belief. For the writers of Gifted, faith in God is just like a fairy tale. It’s a nice and pleasant fiction, maybe even comforting. Faith is “a wonderful thing to have” as long as you don’t pretend like it’s actually true.

But is that biblical faith? Dr. Jeff Myers writes, “Biblical faith is based on knowledge, not blind obedience.”¹ Biblical faith is grounded in the truth of God’s revelation; but there are also good reasons to believe from the study of science, history, philosophy, and many other fields. Looking at the evidence, we can examine the merits of faith.

We should further note that what is important is not having faith, but what your faith is in.² This is exactly the point that Frank misses. Frank says that faith is “a wonderful thing to have;” but faith isn’t a wonderful thing to have unless the object of your faith is trustworthy. If there are no good reasons for your faith, it may be foolish, or even destructive.

Faith Is a Feeling
Secondly, Frank says at the end of the clip, “One thing is for sure, we all end up back together in the end.” Notice that he does not offer any justifiable reason for why this would be so. Since Mary is exceptionally intelligent, you would expect him to justify this assertion. Instead, he simply assumes it to be true, or feels it to be true. But what is that other than blind faith? Frank’s faith in this belief is exactly the sort of faith that he says is not really something we can know!

We ought to ask, “How does Frank know we all end up together in the end?” “What reasons does he have for believing this?” “What is his faith in?” Frank falls prey to his own objection to “faith.”

God Doesn’t Matter
Thirdly, Frank seems to be almost dismissive of Mary’s question. Frank subtly implies that whether God exists or not isn’t really something that is worth knowing. He seems to have faith that God’s existence doesn’t really matter. Is that faith justified? Our belief or disbelief in God is actually a foundational factor in how we see the world and how we live in it. Though God may or may not exist, it is surely false to assert that the question doesn’t matter.

Dismissing our questions is exactly the opposite of what we should do. As Dr. Myers encourages us, we need to think carefully about our doubts and search for answers.³ Just because we have hard questions does not mean there are no answers.

There’s one last thing we ought to make note of in this clip—Jesus. “Love that guy. Do what he says.” According to Frank, Jesus is a good moral teacher and we ought to follow his example. But is Jesus God? The Gospels at least suggest that Jesus believed he was (see John 5:18, Mark 14:61-62, Luke 5:20-21). According to Frank, we can’t know that God exists and we shouldn’t listen to anyone who claims to know (let alone claims to be) God. So maybe Frank would say we shouldn’t listen to Jesus after all.

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Ben Keiser

Ben Keiser is a writer, teacher, and student of theology, whose chief interests include biblical theology of heaven and earth, C. S. Lewis, and early Christianity in the first three centuries. Ben has a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Liberty University. He resides in Colorado where you can often find him hiking in the mountains.