_Do you consider Genesis 1:1 an historical fact or an article of faith? In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.* For the Christian, it must be both. We must believe (faith) that it actually happened (fact). But can it be one or the other? Can it be an historical fact without being an article of faith? Yes, it can be true without someone believing it. Can it be an article of faith without being an historical fact? Yes, it can be believed without being actually true or demonstrable as true. In fact, many Christians believe Genesis 1:1 is true while only hoping that it is actually true, because they do not know how to demonstrate that it is true. We must ask, then, whether or not it should be an article of faith if it is not an historical fact? Should we claim and proclaim it as something believed and to be believed if we are unable to show that it is true? That is a pushback we get from our critics: "What gives you the right to tell us we should believe what you believe if you can't show us that what you believe is actually true?" And right here, a lot of Christians duck their heads and drop their witness, because they do not know the facts.
Many Christians stumble over the relationship between facts and faith. If we are concerned about facts, are we exercising faith? If we are exercising faith, should we be concerned about facts? A lot of us actually stumble over how Scripture defines faith: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 ESV) We don't want to displease God (Now without faith it is impossible to please God... Hebrews 11:6a) by insisting on knowing facts if He insists on us only exercising faith. So, how does God see the relationship between facts and faith? How has He set up that relationship for us?
God, in fact, bases faith in what we don't see (e.g. Christ is coming) on the facts of what we do see (e.g. Christ has already come). Look at the following Scriptures:
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible. (Hebrews 11:3) Do you see what he does here? The fact of what we do see leads us to the faith of understanding that it was all made by Someone we do not see, out of things we do not see.
Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6) We are to draw near to God to please Him in faith in the fact that He is there to seek and will reward us if we seek Him.
For we did not follow cleverly contrived myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; instead, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, a voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory: "This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him!" And we heard this voice when it came from heaven while we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word strongly confirmed. You will do well to pay attention to it, as to a lamp shining in a dismal place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:16–19) We aren't the first ones to face the accusation that we are believing and declaring religious myths. Peter and the other Apostles were hit with this, and Peter's claim is clear: "We aren't peddling myths, but proclaiming the facts of what we saw and heard with our own eyes and ears. We personally witnessed the prophetic word about the coming Messiah strongly confirmed in our Lord Jesus Christ."
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the Word of life— that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us — what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1 John 1:1–4) The Apostle John testifies to his readers that he and the other Apostles heard, saw, and touched the facts of Jesus' life and placed their faith in Him as the Word of eternal life from the Father to have fellowship with them. He wanted his readers to do the same.
Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed. (Luke 1:1–4) Luke was a physician who believed what he could prove, and having carefully investigated the facts of the events as told by the Apostles, he was convinced and wanted Theophilus to be just as certain as he was in his faith in Christ. He had more to say to Theophilus on this.
I wrote the first narrative, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach until the day He was taken up, after He had given orders through the Holy Spirit to the apostles He had chosen. After He had suffered, He also presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God. (Acts 1:1–3) Jesus confirmed the facts of His divine life by many convincing proofs, obviously to fortify them in their faith.
The fact is that all four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are narratives of the historical life of Jesus the Messiah - the facts of what He really did and really said in real time and space for sinners to put their faith in Him to be saved. Going back to Hebrews 11, the Faith Hall of Fame is illustrating faith in the historical facts of how those people of God exercised their faith in God. The facts of their lives should educate and inspire our faith we are to live out in our own lives as we walk with Jesus: Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:1–2)
Right faith is established on and educated by real facts. The facts undergird our faith to keep it from collapsing under doubt, deception, and diabolical attacks. The facts define our faith so that it isn't a matter of mere opinion in which we miss the truth that leads to eternal life. What actually has been gives us the assurance of what actually is and actually will be. We walk by faith on the road of life paved with the facts of God's works and Word. In fact, God is love. In faith, know that God loves you and will show you His love forever.
*Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations in this article are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, HCSB®, and Holman CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.