Tuesday, September 25, 2007

What is faith?

I saw this on another website:

"Christians [can] never genuinely value and utilize logic and critical thinking because their faith prohibits them from basing their beliefs on rational considerations. Therefore, logic and critical thinking are at odds with the Christian conception of faith (particularly the believer’s acceptance of the Bible as a divine revelation)."1

This would be true if the popular conception of faith was consistent with biblical faith. Fortunately it's not.

Faith: two views

The average man on the street (and, unfortunately, Christian in the pew) would define faith as belief in the absence of evidence or even in the face of contrary evidence. If you think of this as faith, you can't blame the skeptic for picturing the believer as a child with his fingers in his ears chanting "I can't hear you I can't hear you" as the skeptic patiently tries to educate him about the flaws and fallacies of the Christian faith.

The biblical model of faith, however, is quite different. Christian faith is trust based on evidence. Specifically, faith is saying, "I will trust God for the future because of what He has done in the past."

Abraham saw God's faithfulness (
Gen 12:17, 14:19-20) before he received God's promise (Gen 15:4-6) and he saw more signs of God's faithfulness (Gen 15:12-21, 21:1-5) before he received God's greatest test (Gen 22).

The generation of the exodus saw the signs before being asked to believe God. The following generations heard the evidence of that generation before being asked to believe God. The apostles saw Christ's miracles before they were sent out, and they saw the resurrected Christ before they were commissioned. The subsequent generations received the evidence of their testimony, and it is on that evidence that we base our trust.

The obvious objection

Some will no doubt say that believing their testimony (which is the New Testament) doesn't count as believing evidence but as blind faith. Malarky! While some are more accepting than others, there exists a mountain of works from throughout the generations that endevours to show that the testimony of the apostles is sound and reliably transmitted. If Christian faith was a blind faith, there would be no such body of literature. You may not accept our arguments that the NT is believable, but that does not change the fact that we try to build our faith on the facts of the past.

An example of evidence-based faith

If my lovely wife says she's going out for a night with the girls, I have to trust that she's actually going to meet the girls and not some muscular guy named Biff. If she tends to be flirtatious, if she talks about other guys all the time, and if she's dressed like she's going on a date, trusting her fidelity might be considered blind faith.

If she rebuffs other guys, if she seems to have eyes only for me, and if she's wearing clothes that hide her figure, I would be silly and paranoid to doubt her.

Christianity is built on the testimony of people who had no reason to claim Jesus was the risen Christ and every reason to say He wasn't.2 Their testimony includes the kind of details that lend credibility to their accounts. These accounts were passed down imperfectly but prolifically so that we can be confident that we have a reasonably reliable record. Trusting in this is not blind faith; it's making a decision based on the best evidence available.

(1) You may want to check out the original post on
the life of the mind.

(2) For more info see my piece
the Resurrection: a story no one would make up.

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