One of the most under-appreciated aspects of Christian faith is the role of “perception.” We read in the Gospels that Jesus “perceived their thoughts” (Luke 5:22)–that is, He had inner knowledge of what people around Him were thinking. And in Mark 5:29 we find Him “perceiving that power had gone out of Him.”

Perception is crucial to faith. Perception is not logic that can be proven; it is inner knowledge that you just know–and know with as much absolute certainty as anything that can be quantified or proven by the scientific method. Perception is not illogical, either; rather, it is extra-logical, a reality beyond our ability to explain. Although perception is subjective rather than objective, it is not mere emotion. It is certain knowledge within ourselves.

You might perceive that you prefer one flavor of ice cream rather than the other–but how can you prove it? Merely eating a particular flavor might indicate your desire to please another person rather than to express your own preference.

We can believe in God because we perceive Him in our souls–His existence, His love, His grace, His power. And so we put our faith in an unseen Master. Not that we can prove God to anybody. All we can do is bear testimony to what we are experiencing, and then trust that God will use His Spirit within us to connect with the perceptions of someone else.

What then is the use of apologetics, archeology, and other methods of defending theistic faith? These methods are useful in explaining to a reasonable person why belief in the Bible, or belief in Jesus as a historical person, is more than mere emotion and is based upon reality. But as one philosopher has said, when believers logically defend their faith in God, it is like a young man in love trying to explain to his prospective father-in-law why he should be able to marry his daughter. The love-struck fellow didn’t “fall in love” through such logic–he just finds a logical argument useful, after the fact, to defend the reasonableness of his inner reality.

I believe that people will be saved or lost depending upon what they do with their perception of God’s gift of Jesus–an inner knowledge that the Bible indicates we all have, at least before it might be quenched by a stubborn heart (see Rom. 1:21 and John 1:9). It is unreasonable for anyone to demand scientific proof for whatever they already know from God’s inner revelation to them, but might not want to be willing to admit–perhaps because the cost is too great.

To summarize: Perception, although subjective, is something we know as surely as any other knowledge, even though it cannot be proven to anybody else. This enables us to experience the presence of Jesus by His Spirit within us and “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).