Home Columnist SINCERELY SCOTTY: Faith




This is a true story of something that happened several years ago at the University of Southern California.  There was a professor of philosophy there who was a deeply committed atheist.  His primary goal for one required class was to spend the entire semester attempting to prove that God couldn’t exist.

His students were always afraid to argue with him because of his impeccable logic.  For 20 years, he had taught this class and no one had ever had the courage to go against him.  Sure, some had argued in class at times, but no one had ever really gone against him (later, you’ll see why).  Nobody would go against him because he had a reputation.

At the end of every semester on the last day, he would say to his class of 300 students, “If there is anyone who still believes in Jesus, stand up!”  In twenty years, no one ever stood up.  They knew what he was going to do next.  He would say, “Because anyone who believes in God is a fool.  If God existed, he could stop this piece of chalk from hitting the ground and breaking.  Such a simple task to prove that He is God, and yet He can’t do it.”  And every year, he would drop the chalk onto the tile floor of the classroom and it would shatter into a hundred pieces.  All of the students could do nothing but stop and stare.    

Most of the students were convinced that God couldn’t exist.  Certainly, a number of Christians had slipped through, but for 20 years, they had been too afraid to stand up.  Well, a few years ago, there was a freshman that happened to get enrolled in the class.  He was a Christian, and had heard the stories about his professor.  He had to take the class because it was one of the required classes for his major and he was afraid.  But for 3 months that semester, he prayed every morning that he would have the courage to stand up no matter what the professor said or what the class thought.  Nothing they said could ever shatter his faith, he hoped.  Finally the day came.  The professor said, “If there is anyone here who still believes in God, stand up!”  The professor and the class of 300 people looked at him, shocked, as he stood up at the back of the classroom.  The professor shouted, “YOU FOOL!!”  If God existed he could keep this piece of chalk from breaking when it hits the ground!”

He proceeded to drop the chalk, but as he did, it slipped from his fingers, off his shirt cuff, on to the pleats of his pants, down his leg, and off his shoe.  As it hit the floor, it simply rolled away unbroken.  The professor’s jaw dropped as he stared at the chalk.  He looked up at the young man and then ran out of the lecture hall.  The young man who had stood up proceeded to walk to the front of the classroom and shared his faith with the 300 students who stayed and listened for the next half hour.

What is faith? We can’t see, hear or touch it, yet many, if not all, of us profess to have faith of some kind.  There are many types of faith – faith in the laws of physics, and our personal faith (in God as well as our fellow man), are, but two examples.

Let’s take the easy one first – faith in the laws of physics.  Gravity comes to mind as the best example.  We all have faith that when we drop an object, it will fall to the floor or ground as opposed to “falling” up to the ceiling or sky.  We can’t really define gravity, but we accept that it always behaves the same every time.  We can’t see gravity, but we know it exists and can see its effect.

What about faith in God or our fellow man?  This one is somewhat more difficult.  We like to believe that a person who says he’ll do something will actually do it.  But sometimes it is a long way between saying and doing.  We tend to talk a good game, but not put it into action.  This is also true in our faith in God.  All too often we hear about it preached from the pulpit and we sing about it in hymns, but it ends there.  Faith is a way of living, a life-style you must live from day-to-day and not just on Sunday.

Many church congregations repeat a creed and there are many that are used.  Probably the “Apostle’s Creed” is the most widely used, and while it is very well written and eloquent in its wording, it means very little in itself.

But only when these truths, these words of wisdom, are wrapped into living persons who live it every day, do our creeds, and yes, our very faith become meaningful.