Ready to Answer - Lesson 1

By Jim Baird

What is Faith?

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. Students will begin to be excited about the rest of this series on Christian evidences.
  2. Students will realize that faith is connected to wisdom, and lack of faith is often connected to choosing evil.
  3. Students will recognize that everyone has faith in some sense.
  4. Students will remember the definition of faith in this lesson: Faith is a wise conviction about the unseen fundamentals of reality, and this conviction forms a steady basis for one’s whole way of life.


  1. It is important not just to read these notes to the class. Teacher should be very familiar with the outline and choose how to present the material, making notes in the margins as needed. Practicing the lesson a few times will allow the teacher to look at the students’ eyes while making the presentation.
  2. Some find it helpful to underline the key words that will spark their memory of what to say and do next.
  3. A teacher who is new to this subject would be wise to get copies of the resources listed at the bottom of this outline and study them as well.
  4. Blackboard should be provided, clean, with chalk and erasers.
  5. Students should have access to Bibles, or have overheads of all scriptures.
  6. If you are going to use the handouts associated with this lesson, give them out after the introduction. The underlined material in these notes appears in the handouts.


Faith is a wise conviction about the unseen fundamentals of reality, and this conviction forms a steady basis for one’s whole way of life.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Introduction: (about 10 minutes)

  1. Prayer
  2. Sell the series. Ask, “What are some of the most challenging questions to faith that you have ever heard?”
  3. Spend about 2 minutes getting ideas and putting a word or two for each on the blackboard.
  4. Read or have read I Peter 3:14-16. Point out the command in vs. 15 to be ready to answer those who ask about our faith. Help the students to see this course as part of their preparation to give answers to hard questions when they are asked.
  5. Here are main questions we will be asking each week of this series.
    1. What is Faith?
    2. Is There Good Evidence for My Faith?
    3. Who is God?
    4. What is God Like?
    5. Do People Exist?
    6. Does Science Conflict with Faith?
    7. Why Is the Universe So Friendly to Life?
    8. Where is God when I Hurt?
    9. Is Jesus More than a Great Moral Teacher?
    10. Is Jesus More than a Great Religious Leader?
    11. Is Jesus Really the Christ, the Son of God?
    12. Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part I
    13. Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part II
  6. Sell the lesson:
    1. Lead a brief discussion on the question: “What is the difference between knowing something and having faith in it?” [A: Bring out that faith is about what we don’t see. Its about what we don’t have direct sensory evidence for. I know the words that are coming out of your mouth, but I have faith that you aren’t lying.]
    2. Shift the discussion to the question: “What is the difference between knowing something in our heads and having real faith in it?” [A: Faith is about what is most important to us. I know my zip code, but I have faith in America.]
    3. For these reasons, there is a lot of confusion about faith, and it will help if we study just what faith is.

Learning Experiences: (about 45 minutes)

  1. Faith in God is wise, and the rejection of God is foolish.
    1. Use a discussion of Psalms 14:1-4 to show this. Q: “What are the characteristics of those who say there is no God?” A: they do evil; they have turned aside (i.e.chosen to become corrupt); they devour God’s people;t hey do not call upon God.
    2. Q: “If you want to live an evil life, how will that affect your view of the evidence for Christianity?” A:foolishness goes together with rejection of the evidence for God and with wickedness.
    3. [In a marked off section of the blackboard, write: “Faith is wise.”]
  2. Faith is a conviction about unseen realities, and especially the unseen realities which are fundamental to everything else.
    1. [By fundamental realities, I mean a person’s answers to faith questions like, “What is everything made of?”,“Where did everything come from?”, “Why are we here?”, “Where are we going?”, and “How should we live?”]
    2. Use a discussion of Hebrews 11:1-3 to show this.
  3. Q: “What are the unseen realities which are behind everything else in this passage?”
  4. A: God is the creator; He created out of nothing; he created the visible out of that which is unseen.
  5. Help the students to realize that because they are so limited, humans can’t help but have faith in this sense.
  6. We cannot see everything like God can, and so we have to live and act on the basis of unseen reality all the time.
  7. (How many of you believe your teacher - or the person sitting next to you - has a brain? Have you seen it?)
  8. Show that those who don’t have faith in God have faith in other unseen realities.
  9. Ask, “What are some other views about fundamental reality, for those who don’t believe in God?”
  10. You might share some of the following during the discussion.
  1. Many modern intellectuals would claim that subatomic particles and the laws of nature (neither of which can be seen) are the only fundamental realities, and that everything else derives from them.
  2. Others will say that the human spirit or artistic creativity is the fundamental reality, and that everything else is just what the human spirit calls into being to express itself.
  3. Hinduism says that an impersonal, omnipresent being called Brahman is the ultimate reality, while the world we see is basically illusion.
  4. Buddhism also sees the world as an illusion, and sees human beings as illusions as well.
  5. The ancient Babylonians believed that the world was built out of the corpse of a huge dragon, which had been killed in battle by their main god, Marduk.
  6. Conclude the discussion by asking, “How might our view of fundamental realities shape our everyday decisions?” [Some answers: If we think everything is just the random product of chance, we may decide nothing we do matters.If we think that when we die, we die and that is the end, we may live irresponsibly. Etc.]

[Write “Faith is conviction about unseen fundamentals.” on the blackboard.]

Faith is the basis for a whole way of life. It is not just head knowledge in some small area, but it is the ground for action.

  1. Briefly lead the class through some of the examples of faith in Hebrews 11. Help them notice the repeated pattern: By faith, so-and-so did such-and-such. Faith is the foundation for how we live, not just some feeling or thought between our ears. That is why the writer uses the phrase “living by faith” in Hebrews 11:13 to talk about these people.
  2. Help the class to see that everybody, whether a Christian or not, has a faith in this sense too. They have a picture of what the world is like, and they live their lives accordingly.
  3. The difference is that some non-Christians deny that they have a faith. Since they reject Christian faith, they think that they have rejected all faith.
  4. But since everyone has to have some beliefs about fundamental realities, to reject Christian beliefs is always to accept some other beliefs, whether one admits it or not. Part of our evangelistic technique as Christians is to help non-believers come to recognize their own faith, and see if it can stand up to rational investigation as well as Christianity can.
  5. [Write “Faith is the basis for a way of life.” on the blackboard.]

Strong faith makes us stable and reliable, not always changing our minds and behavior.

  1. Ask the class, “What is the connection between faith and faithfulness?”
    1. Have the class look at Mark 4:16-17, Ephesians 4:14& 6:16 Colossians 2:6-7.
    2. Lead the class to see that as faith grows, it makes us more and more steady and stable in our Christian way of life.
  2. [Write “Faith makes us stable.” on the blackboard.]

If we put these four elements together we come up with the following definition for faith.

[Write on blackboard, at top if possible.]

Faith is a wise conviction about the unseen fundamentals of reality, and this conviction forms a steady basis for one’s whole way of life.

Application: (No more than five minutes)

Invite in an adult (a good talker) to pretend to be someone who says faith is for weak-minded people, and that the truly educated don’t take anything on faith.

See if the class can dig until they find out the faith behind these claims. (Some questions that might help if they slowdown: Why does this person think that faith is for the weak minded? What evidence is there for this? Does it involve a conviction about fundamental reality? Similarly, what convictions about fundamental reality are built into the claim that truly educated people don’t take anything on faith?) Further Resources:Rubel Shelly Prepare to Answer: A Defense of the Christian Faith. 20th Century Christian, 1990. The Introduction and chapter 1.A. J. Hoover. The Case for Christian Theism. Baker Books,Chapters 1 & 3.

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