And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
I wonder if the older English translations of the passage are better, saying that one must believe that God “is” rather than God “exists.” I think the former may mean that he is here with us or for us. It is a statement of God’s presence rather than a philosophical claim about his existence.
I think it is right and good to affirm that God exists. But the Bible seems to take this for granted rather than to argue the point. The one exception seems to be Hebrews 11.6. Faith, rather than being trust in God’s character and power and promises, becomes a confidence that God exists.
But if faith is a confidence that God exists, then what is that faith based on? This seems problematic. Faith becomes a form of knowledge acquisition that is distinguished from other processes (“reason”). But why even call such a thing “faith,” “trust,” or “belief,” when it is not related to personal trust?
It seems to me that the author of Hebrews could easily be alluding to God’s covenant name (Exodus 3.13, 14). The point God was making to Moses was that “I am” or “I will be” with you. That promises is explicitly made when God gives his name as YHWH. So here the author of Hebrew God must say that those who approach God must believe that he is available to them, with them, for them. The point is not the intellectual question, “Does God exist?” but rather, “Can we trust God?”
Making faith the key to the first question is confusing and requires us to redefine “faith” as a way of knowing. But the second question makes faith simply what it is: trust in the character and ability of the true God.