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January 27, 2016 / BTM

20 b4 twenty: Does Faith Have to be Blind, Irrational and Opposed to Reason?

faith.

20 b4 twenty

This is the second of twenty points that I think every person should learn before they reach twenty.

One of the things that every young person should understand before they reach the age of twenty is that there is a war on the word ‘faith’. It is because of this war that faith is often viewed as the opposite of reason, intelligence, and the ‘scientific mind’.

Consider how ‘faith’ is defined in the dictionary.

For example, the online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘faith’ in the following way [1]:

  1. allegiance to duty or a person:  loyalty:  fidelity to one’s promises:  sincerity of intentions;
  2. belief and trust in and loyalty to God:  belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion:  firm belief in something for which there is no proof [emphasis added]:  complete trust;
  3. something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially:  a system of religious beliefs.

Notice that faith holds the connotation of believing in something for which there is no proof. Based on this definition of ‘faith’, it is perfectly reasonable for an atheist or skeptic to conclude that religion (‘faith’) is opposed to science (which is more interested in ‘facts’). And this is just what they have done.

“The whole point of faith is to believe regardless of the evidence, which is the very antithesis of science.” Michael Shermer

“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” Richard Dawkins

These are pretty heavy accusations against Christianity – or faith of any stripe. I also think the accusations are logical if we accept the definition of faith as described above.

But is the definition of ‘faith’ – belief in something for which there is no proof – really accurate for Christian faith, or for any use of the word ‘faith’ for that matter? When you say that you have faith in someone – God, your mother, the government, your doctor – is it because you have no proof of their reliability, or because of the proof of their reliability?

Examining ‘faith’

Say you are hiking in unknown territory with a good friend and experienced hiker named John. Perhaps your hike has taken you longer than you’d expected and dusk is descending all around you. Your friend John is leading you through the woods. Even though the light is fading quickly and you are still in unknown territory, consider what you would mean if the following thought flitted through your head: ‘I have faith that John will get us out.’ What do you actually mean by the word ‘faith’ in this instance?

Do you mean that you have no reason to trust John and that you are blindly following him knowing full well that he has no credentials to earn your trust?

Or, since I said that John is an experienced hiker, do you mean that you trust his ability to get you out of the wilderness alive because he’s got compasses and maps and knowledge and know-how in his arsenal?

Do you mean that you have faith in him based on proof of his trustworthiness or based on nothing?

I doubt anyone would silently and blindly follow John out of the wilderness without good reasons for trusting in him – i.e. proof of John’s trustworthiness. This would equally be true even if you and John were both Christians – or people used to acting on faith.

Christians don’t act on blind faith any more than anyone else does.

For some reason, Christians have come to value the idea of blind faith. Personally, I don’t think there is a person alive who actually practices blind faith – or not entirely blind faith anyway. Faith is always based on something. That ‘something’ might be an intangible relationship with God that is virtually impossible for an unbeliever to understand, but it is evidence nonetheless (although I suggest that it won’t be enough evidence to sustain your faith).

The point is: you just can’t sustain blind faith when there are no reasons for it. The conviction that leads to faith rests on evidence of some sort. Different people might come to different conclusions about the same evidence, but those who put their faith in it are basing that faith on the evidence.

Christians are not asked to have blind faith.

Christians are told to have faith in God, that faith can move mountains, and that without faith no one can please God. But what do we mean by the word ‘faith’?

Jesus Himself asked people to believe that He was God based on evidence: (John 10:25; 10:38; 14:29), and many did so because of the evidence (John 2:23.). In many other places in the Bible, evidence is given to spur on faith: (see, for example: Exodus 4:1-8; 1 Kings 18:36-39; Acts 2:22-43; Hebrews 2:3-4; 2 Corinthians 12:12).

When God says that without faith we cannot please Him, He is asking us to act on the convictions that we have about His existence and character based on the evidence that has He provided us with. Faith is acting on that evidence, rather than waffling in doubt. This is not blind faith, this is like the faith we had in hiker John – it’s putting our faith in someone whose credentials have earned it.

The study of Christian apologetics is a study of evidence in support of the Christian faith. Faith in the Christian God can and should be based on evidence, just like your faith in another person should be based on evidence, not wishful thinking.

The majority of this blog, and many of the 20 b4 twenty topics to come, will focus on evidence for the Christian faith. So, I will have a lot more to say on this topic.

The bottom line today is: it is not unbiblical to seek out evidence for God’s existence – in fact, I think it would be crazy to ignore it and try to sustain faith in God on as little evidence as possible!

Are you uncomfortable with the idea of looking for modern day ‘evidence’ to based your faith in God on? Why?

Do you think it’s impossible for there to be evidence for God’s existence? Why?

[1] http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/faith accessed January 27, 2016

 

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4 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Greg Taylor / Mar 6 2016 8:33 am

    Amazing, thank you for this blog. I am using it in my Sunday School class to teach 7-10 year olds.

    • BTM / Mar 6 2016 2:48 pm

      Thanks so much for letting me know, that’s wonderful!

  2. Andrew / Mar 11 2016 4:04 pm

    BTM, I agree with Greg. I think this is one of the best resources for parents online to help outline what key topics to cover with their kids as they are maturing. Kudos to you!

    • BTM / Mar 11 2016 5:00 pm

      Thanks so much!

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