Jesus on Faith – Part 2

In my previous post on this subject, I argued that the comments of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-33 concerning faith  show that Jesus did NOT think that faith means firmly believing something for which one  has no evidence (Bertrand Russell’s def. of “faith”) nor that faith means believing in the face of contrary evidence (A.C. Grayling’s def. of “faith”).  Thus, Russell and Grayling FAILED to capture the meaning of the word “faith” as used by Jesus, at least in the passage quoted from Chapter 6 of Matthew.
Here is another passage from Matthew where Jesus talks about faith (EMPHASIS added):
And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. 
And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 
They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, “He said that because we did not bring any bread.” 
But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little FAITH, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? 
Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? 
10 Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? 
11 How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 
12 Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
 Matthew 16:5-12 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
As in Chapter 6, Jesus tells his disciples that they have “little faith”.  Why does he say this?  Again, as in Chapter 6, his followers seem overly concerned about whether they will have enough food to eat.   In Chapter 6, Jesus taught that his followers ought not to worry about their basic needs being met, but should instead TRUST in God, trust that God would provide them with necessities like food, drink, and clothing.
There seems to be a similar situation here.  Jesus’ disciples seem to be anxious about whether they have enough bread to eat.  They seem not to have taken to heart the lesson that Jesus tried to teach back in Chapter 6.  But Jesus makes a second attempt to persuade his followers that they ought not to worry about whether they will have enough food to eat:
But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little FAITH, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? 
Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? 
10 Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? 
11 How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?
Once again, Jesus gives his disciples REASONS to trust that God will provide them with basic necessities like food:
1. When we had just a few loaves of bread, we were able to feed five thousand people without any problem.
2. When we had just a few loaves of bread, we were able to feed four thousand people without any problem.
3. If (1) and (2) are the case, then God can provide and has provided lots of bread when we needed it.
Therefore:
4. God can provide and has provided lots of bread when we needed it.
As a skeptic and an atheist, I don’t believe that Jesus and his disciples actually managed to feed thousands of people with just a few loaves of bread.  So I have serious doubts about the truth of the premises of this argument.
However, Jesus or the followers of Jesus might well have believed that such miracles of feeding actually happened.   It is also quite possible that these stories are merely legends, and that Jesus never actually attempted to feed thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and never believed that thousands of people were actually fed by a few loaves of bread.  The author of the Gospel of Matthew apparently believed these events happened, and most Christians who have read this Gospel believe that these miraculous events actually happened.
In any case, Jesus is presented in this passage as telling his disciples that they had “little faith” because they did not TRUST that God would be concerned enough about their well being to make sure they had enough food to eat, and Jesus gives them another ARGUMENT to show that they ought to TRUST that God would provide them with necessities like food and water.  Clearly, Jesus is presented as putting forward something that he believed to be a GOOD ARGUMENT.   Even if the argument is in fact a BAD one, this does not matter for the question at issue.  What matters is whether Jesus believed it to be a GOOD ARGUMENT (or that the Gospel of Matthew represents Jesus as providing something that he believed was a GOOD ARGUMENT).
If Jesus wanted to INCREASE the faith of his followers, and he certainly did, and if Jesus understood the word “faith” to imply belief in something for which one had no evidence (Russell’s def.) or belief in something in the face of contrary evidence (Grayling’s def.), then Jesus would NOT have provided an ARGUMENT in support of TRUSTING in God to provide believers with food.
Providing REASONS and ARGUMENTS for trusting in God would make it very difficult or even impossible for his disciples to believe without any evidence that God could and would provide them with food.   Providing them with REASONS and ARGUMENTS for believing that God would provide them with necessities would make it very difficult if not impossible for them to believe this in the face of contrary evidence.
Thus, we can reasonably infer that Jesus did NOT understand “faith” to mean a belief for which one has no evidence (Russell’s def.), and that Jesus did NOT understand “faith” to mean belief in the face of contrary evidence (Grayling’s def.).  Whatever Jesus meant by the word “faith”, he clearly did NOT mean what Russell thinks “faith” means, and he did NOT mean what Grayling thinks “faith” means.

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