Is the Bible’s definition of faith opposed to logic and evidence?

I had been planning for some time now to craft a post on this topic, and now I don’t have to.  This is a ‘copy & paste’ summary, you should read the entire post:

(Wintery Knight) — What is faith according to the Bible?

[T]hree Biblical examples to support the idea that faith is not blind leap-of-faith wishing, but is based on evidence.

  1. Moses went out into the wilderness and he had that first encounter with the burning bush, and God gave him the directive to go back to Egypt and let his people go. Moses said, Yeah, right. What’s going to happen when they say, why should we believe you, Moses?God said, See that staff? Throw it down.Moses threw it down and it turned into a serpent.God said, See that serpent? Pick it up.And he picked it up and it turned back into a staff.God said, Now you take that and do that before the Jewish people and you do that before Pharaoh. And you do this number with the hail, and the frogs, and turning the Nile River into blood. You put the sun out. You do a bunch of other tricks to get their attention.And then comes this phrase: “So that they might know that there is a God in Israel.”
  2. [I]n Mark 2 you see Jesus preaching in a house, and you know the story where they take the roof off and let the paralytic down through the roof. Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.” And people get bugged because how can anyone forgive sins but God alone?Jesus understood what they were thinking and He said this: What’s harder to say, your sins are forgiven, or to rise, take up your pallet and go home?Now, I’ll tell you what would be harder for me to say : Arise, take up your pallet and go home. I can walk into any Bible study and say your sins are forgiven and nobody is going to know if I know what I am talking about or not. But if I lay hands on somebody in a wheelchair and I say, Take up your wheelchair and go home, and they sit there, I look pretty dumb because everyone knows nothing happened.But Jesus adds this. He says, “In order that you may know that the Son of Man has the power and authority to forgive sins, I say to you, arise, take up your pallet and go home.” And he got up and he got out. Notice the phrase “In order that you may know”. Same message, right?
  3. Move over to the Book of Acts. First sermon after Pentecost. Peter was up in front of this massive crowd. He was talking about the resurrection to which he was an eyewitness. He talked about fulfilled prophecy. He talked about the miraculous tongues and the miraculous manifestation of being able to speak in a language you don’t know. Do you think this is physical evidence to those people? I think so. Pretty powerful.Peter tells them, These men are not drunk as it seems, but rather this is a fulfillment of prophecy. David spoke of this. Jesus got out of the grave, and we saw him, and we proclaim this to you.Do you know how he ends his sermon? It’s really great. Acts 2:36. I’ve been a Christian 20 years and I didn’t see this until about a year ago. This is for all of those who think that if you can know it for sure, you can’t exercise faith in it. Here is what Peter said. Acts 2:36, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” There it is again. “Know for certain.”

What is faith according to Bible-based theologians?

  1. notitia – This is the basic informational foundation of our faith. It is best expressed by the word content. Faith, according to the Reformers must have content. You cannot have faith in nothing. There must be some referential propositional truth to which the faith points. The proposition “Christ rose from the grave,” for example, is a necessary information base that Christians must have.
  2. assensus – This is the assent or confidence that we have that thenotitia is correct… This involves evidence which leads to the conviction of the truthfulness of the proposition… This involves intellectual assent and persuasion based upon critical thought…assensus… says, “I am persuaded to believe that Christ rose from the grave.”
  3. fiducia – This is the “resting” in the information based upon a conviction of its truthfulness. Fiducia is best expressed by the English word “trust.”… Fiducia is the personal subjective act of the will to take the final step. It is important to note that while fiduciagoes beyond or transcends the intellect, it is built upon its foundation.

So, Biblical faith is really trust. Trust(3) can only occur after intellectual assent(2), based on evidence and thought. Intellectual assent(2) can only occur after the propositional information(1) is known.

The church today accepts 1 and 3, but denies 2. I call this “fideism” or “blind faith”. Ironically, activist atheists, (the New Atheists), also believe that faith is blind. The postmodern “emergent church” denies 1 and 2. A person could accept 1 and 2 but deny 3 by not re-prioritizing their life based on what they know to be true.

What “faith” actually entails is something persistently contested by skeptics and the religious.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  First, there are many Christians who portray faith as a blind leap.  Often times it seems that they believe that if they have true faith, it has to be something which cannot be supported by evidence.  These kinds of Christians oppose the disciplines of apologetic defenses of their convictions.  Secondly, and I think more prevalent, it’s beneficial to paint religious faith as empty and void of any intellectual substance as possible.  It ends the discussion before it even has a chance to begin.

I find it difficult to discuss the topic of faith with skeptics for exactly this reason.  I also find it a tad hypocritical that the skeptics who insist on the empty working definition of faith, and who refuse to be corrected with the explanation in the above article, also protest when someone challenges the definition of “Atheist“.  It seems that they believe it’s wholly appropriate to stick to their caricatured image of faith, but object when someone insists on a true philosophical definition of their chosen label.

Comments

  1. John,

    You make “faith” practically indistinguishable from “knowledge”. Why use two different words when you can use only one?
    Faith is not neccesarily knowledge nor neccesarily blind leap.

    I think faith is 1 and 3.
    If you don’t use evidence nor critical thinking or go against them, then it’s also a blind leap.
    If you use evidence and critical thinking but they aren’t enough to assure the truthfullness, then it’s merely faith.
    If you use evidence and critical thinking and they are enough assure the truthfullness, then it’s also knowledge.

  2. Precisely, miracles are evidence. That’s is included in point 2.
    I see no difference between what you call “faith” and “knowledge”.

  3. I made a similar argument, but not as scholarly as yours, in this post:
    http://americancreed.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/faith-without-evidence-is-dead/

    Faith is not believing despite the evidence. Faith is believing that the evidence is true even when your feelings are telling you otherwise. It’s like this: faith is revealed in the act of sitting down in a chair expecting it to hold you up. Faith is not sitting down on air believing a chair will be there. That’s stupidity.

    If you go to dictionary.com and type in the word “faith” you get this as the first definition: “confidence or trust in a person or thing.” When you type in “belief” you get this: “something believed; an opinion or conviction.”

    The problem with the Church today is that some Christians think they have faith when they merely have beliefs. Then skeptics and mockers (completely oblivious to their own blind faith) ridicule Christianity altogether because of the irrational blind faith of some Christians.

  4. To me, faith is belief in God based on spiritual apprehension, or understanding. You needn’t read the Bible or be introduced to God by man in order to have faith that He exists. The Bible itself tells us that God has revealed Himself to people through nature also, which answers the question some Christians have about various tribes people the world over who, through no fault of their own, have not heard the message of Jesus Christ.

  5. John,

    One more thing.

    Some of your atheist pals may assert that atheism is the absence of faith. I don’t believe it is. As a former atheist, it takes faith to believe that all of this happened by accident and that life has no meaning.

    I think evidence for God exists mostly within ourselves. There is no reason, according to evolution, that we should be moral beings. There is no reason we should sacrifice ourselves for another human being, but if there is, then surely there is no reason we should risk our lives for beings of another species. How many stories do we hear of people doing heroic things, risking their own lives, to save a dog or a dolphin or something? Why do we do these things? Why do we risk our own hide to save another being? And of another species, no less? There is no evolutionary justification for this whatsoever. In fact, it oftentimes flies in the face of evolutionary logic.

    There is only justification if you believe in God.

  6. You make the claim that faith is based on evidence, yet the evidence is sorely lacking for the supernatural claims in the Bible. You can’t prove something by definition by *claiming* it is based on evidence, but the evidence just isn’t there.

    • Daniel

      There’s evidence. It might not be the kind of evidence that you would need to move from your skepticism, but there’s evidence. Don’t confuse evidence with strength of evidence.

  7. In my experience, all of the evidence is hearsay: anecdotes and claims of personal revelations. The bible is basically full of such anecdotal stories and claims of personal revelations. Hearsay is not admissible in courts of law for a good reason – it’s unsubstantial. It’s not good evidence.

    The word “faith” has several different meanings, and I think this is the crux of the confusion. Some meanings are: “Religious belief”, “A belief unsupported by evidence”, “Knowledge”, “A non-physical substance measured out to people regarding hope and unseen things”.

    In the end, Christianity uses the same tired, unsubstantiated types of evidence that every other religion uses. Look, Elijah had this figured out with his burning altar test – we can settle this once and for all. We set up an experiment, predict a result, and let reality do the telling. It’s been done a thousand times: the only places where gods ever turn up is in stories from ancient books and friendly people.

    If I’m wrong, educate me!

    • Monkeytree

      Are you suggesting that in order for something to be reliable it must pass modern day rules of evidence?

      Hearsay testimony as evidence may very well be inadmissible in a 21st century court. But the Gospel accounts were not written with the intent to pass muster in a modern court of law. As a genre, they are ancient biographies, not legal statements (by the way, all biographies are hearsay and that doesn’t make them untrue or unreliable sources of information about their subject). To anachronistically impose modern standards of documentary protocol upon these records is holding them to a standard they were never intended to be examined under by the authors. If we were to hold every piece of ancient documentation to the standard that it must pass modern legal protocol to be considered a reliable source of information, we would be forced to reject nearly everything we know about history. On what basis can you demand that the Gospel accounts be held to a higher standard than other records of history? They contain a religious message? So what. That’s rather arbitrary, and is thick with special pleading. Maybe it is because the accounts contain supernatural events.

      This is the second problem. Rejecting the Gospel accounts because they report supernatural events defeats the purpose of examination. We are looking to see whether we can take the Gospels as reliable records of the events surrounding the preaching, death and resurrection of Jesus. We cannot simply dismiss accounts which record supernatural events since we are trying investigate whether supernatural events occurred. You are essentially saying “Any document which records supernatural events is unreliable. The Gospels record supernatural events. Therefore we have no reliable accounts for the miracles and resurrection of Jesus.” The objection defines away the evidence, then claims there is none. If the only source for supernatural events is recorded in ancient written testimony, we cannot rightly say the only valid testimony is that which doesn’t contain a record of supernatural events. It doesn’t get any more intellectually dishonest than that.

      Just because something is hearsay doesnt make it unreliable, only that it wouldnt be admissable in a criminal court. Butr theres good reason for that. Someone’s liberty or life is at stake. However, hearsay is permitted in some circumstances in criminal court, and it is admissible in most civil courts. Are you saying that if hearsay testamony was admissible in criminal courts, you’d be a Christian?

  8. John,
    I make no distinction between supernatural or natural claims; only empirically supported and empirically unsupported claims. I put the biblical texts in the same category as other ancient texts – we can’t be certain any of them are accurate accounts. In this sense, every ancient text is vastly weaker evidence than, say, a repeatable scientific experiment.

    To bring it back to the original topic, the difference between faith and empirical inquiry is evidential support. I guess Socrates was a real person, but I can’t be certain – it’s not an article of faith for me because I’m placing an implicit probability on it, according to the evidence. When someone claims to know for *absolute certain* that Jesus of Nazareth was a real person, I can safely say that the historical evidence isn’t strong enough to know – it’s a faith statement.

  9. pixxieloves says:

    Reblogged this on pixxieloves.

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