In October of 2008 Jesse Kilgore shot himself in the head some time after reading Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion. Apparently, this formerly strong advocate for Christianity became extremely disillusioned with his faith after a college professor suggested he read this book. A relative stated that Jesse’s “professors and the book had presented him information he found to be irrefutable.” This family member, in trying to help Jesse regain his faith, told him of their own struggles with faith and said, “It was my relationship with God, not my knowledge of Him that brought me back to my faith. No one convinced me with facts. . . . it was a matter of the heart.” It did not stop him. Jesse Kilgore was twenty two years old.
[This series will offer a detailed response to a recent article in Relevant Magazine titled Christianity's New F-Word, in which the author, Sungyak Kim, insinuates that Christian apologetics has opposed "faith." He says, "It really is no big secret that the way mainstream apologists today answer every “prate and twaddle” that comes their way—line for line—is proving to be ineffective and brings some very negative consequences." In addition to the fact that he presents no evidence for this claim, Kim also fails to substantiate the main point of his article: "But 'faith,' unfortunately, is becoming Christianity’s new F-word. More and more, apologists are succumbing to cultural norms. They trade 'the mystery that has been hidden' (1 Corinthians 2:7) with 'human traditions and the elemental spiritual forces of this world' (Colossians 2:8)." This is a serious charge and can not be taken lightly. First, no evidence was given that apologists think negatively of faith. Second, he doesn't define faith. This may be where the real misunderstanding lies. Ratio Christi has pointed out in a previous article, Using the F-Word, that the definition of faith is extremely important. This series of articles, The F-Files, will explore this topic in greater detail.]
Was Jesse’s relative right? Was a subjective faith apart from fact the better approach that could have steered Jesse away from impending suicide? Or did this well intentioned person simply drive the divide deeper between Jesse’s faith and his cognitive life? It would seem that the relative is correct, because Jesus stated to the skeptical disciple, Thomas, “Blessed are they who did not see [this evidence], and yet believe” (John 20:29 [NASB]).
The Gospel of John seems like a good starting place to examine the nature of Christian belief. John, more than any other New Testament author, uses some form of pisteuō (Greek for believe) ninety eight times in eighty five verses. This series is a summary of the use of believe in John’s Gospel with a focus on the nature of the association between belief and facts. In light of the tragic story above, it is important to examine the nature of faith’s relationship to fact (that is, whether or not faith is meant to be separated from evidence).
Semantic Notes on Belief
Some observations from semantic authorities will be helpful in an initial understanding of belief. Pisteuō is a verb (used frequently in John), whereas pistis is the noun form (meaning, trust in others, or faith) and is never used by John in his Gospel. A popular level resource by Kenneth Wuest indicates that pisteuō meant “to believe, trust, trust in, put faith in, rely upon a person or thing” in the classical Greek. He also says that “when these words refer to the faith which a lost sinner must place in the Lord Jesus in order to be saved, they include the following ideas: the act of placing confidence in His ability to do just what He says He will do, [and] the act of entrusting the salvation of his soul into the hands of the Lord . . . “ He notes that three elements are included in the New Testament understanding of faith: 1) “a fully convinced [emphasis mine] acknowledgement” of the message, 2) a “self-surrendering” adherence, and 3) a “fully assured . . . trust.” It is important to note that belief (i.e., faith) include “an acknowledgement that a certain statement is true” as well as a “commitment of one’s soul into the keeping of another.”
Next, a respected and more scholarly lexicon notes that pisteuō means “to believe something to be true and, hence, worthy of being trusted—‘be believe, to think to be true, to regard as trustworthy.’” Again, the inherent concept of something’s truthfulness precedes the action of entrustment. Furthermore, Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich’s lexicon (BDAG) concurs. Considering a range of exact meanings depending on the contextual usage, BDAG lists two prominent categories of meaning: 1) “to consider something to be true and therefore [emphasis mine] worthy of one’s trust. . . be convinced of something. . . ,” (e.g., John 8:24; 11:27, 42; 13:19; 14:10; 16:27, 30; 17:8, 21; 20:31a,) and 2) “to entrust oneself to an entity in complete confidence” (e.g., John 2:11; 3:16; 4:39; 6:30; 8:31; et. al.). Once more the idea that trust comes after the recognition that something is worthy of trust is expressed. While this does not hold the definition captive to particular types of evidence it is noteworthy that faith is nowhere described as trust in spite of the evidence.
The F-Files, Part 2 will investigate the biblical text of John's Gospel to see whether or not the previous lexical definitions find support.
 Kurt Aland, et al., The Greek New Testament, Fourth Revised Edition: Interlinear With Morphology (Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006), Logos Research Systems electronic ed.
 Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 28-30, Logos Research Systems electronic ed.
 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, 2nd ed. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), s.v. “πιστεύω,“ Logos Research Systems electronic ed.
 A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (BDAG), s.v. “πιστεύω.“