Fundamental Astuteness

The Essence of Astuteness: Non-Partisan Intellectual Honesty

On Faithful Skepticism and Rational Faith

with 5 comments

It is my observation that the mainstream media and academia stigmatize faith as something intellectually inferior and antithetical to both science and reason. This is not always true of every respected scientist. Some, like Michael Shermer (editor of Skeptic Magazine and the one to whom I also like to refer to as “my favorite skeptic”) have a less villifying take on faith in general, and the Christian Faith in particular. Still, atheists like George H. Smith boldy assert that “Christian theism must be rejected by any person with even a shred of respect for reason”. Websites too, like Importance of Philosophy make assertions such as “The result of using faith consistently is the complete inability to think.” Richard Dawkins is quoted as saying “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.”

I disagree.

To either replace their faith and justify their rejection of it, skeptics turn to other pinnicles on which to view truth and analyze the world. Some go all out in support of Science. Its all about science. What do emperical experiments tell us. What’s happening in the labratory. Others are all about reason. “This is rational.” “That is not.” “If God created everything, then God created evil. And since evil exists, and acording to the principle that our works define who we are, the we can assume God is evil.”

Media and acadamia potray these alternatives to faith (reason, science, etc) as exclusive to faith. “Science and Faith are not compatible” or “Reason and Faith cannot be reconciled”. The implication is that if you have faith, then you are not rational. You are not scientific. You wonder in the wastelands of stupidity and cluelessnes. Such implications are used, particuarly in our college campuses, as tools by which to destroy people’s religious faith.

And it works. The Christian Church doesn’t do very well educating its people on how to defend the faith. The de-conversion rate of college students is at an all time high. So when our young people go to college, who wants to be called “irrational” “stupid” “clueless” etc? And so people fall away from the faith or cower from the mighty intellecutals in fear because someone convinced them that faith is inherently exclusive to the other faculties of reason, science, and so on.

Part of the problem may be that we let our opponents define what faith is. And when that happens, they are more than happy to define it in the negative. “Faith is the opposite of reason” or “Faith is antithetical to science”.

But is faith merely a dictionary antonym for intellectual glory?

I think not.

I propose that we as Christians take our definition of faith from the 19th book of the New Testament, the Book of Hebrews, the 11th chapter, and the first verse, which says: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

In other words, strictly speaking, faith is merely the belief in something that we have not directly seen or experienced firsthand. That’s it.

If this is the case, then it has far reaching implications into whether or not faith should be stigmatized as something inherently irrational. Because if it is true that faith is merely belief in something not directly experienced, then everyone has faith.

I have not been to England. But I have strong faith that it exists. I haven’t seen it first hand, but Rick Steves has apparantly been there and made a movie about it. The name appears in my history books and all of them agree on the general size and location of the country on the map. Its a well grounded faith too, because there is good evidence for it.

Scientists have not actually seen macro-evolution happen. No one has gone to the zoo for a few million years and watched a monkey turn from ape to homo-sapien. Its a matter of faith because they’re believing in something that they have not actually seen.

In light of this, the argument in our culture ought not to be about whether faith is inherently dangerous or evil; everyone has faith; the argument ought to be over who has the best faith supported by experience, reason, science, and logic.

As a historical faith, Christianity has, in my experience, been able to meet the burden of proof to my satisfaction such that I am convinced that, while theism and christianity are not proveable with mathmatical certainty, the archeological, scientific, philosophical, and historical evidences make faith in God and the Bible a reasonable state of existence not outside the realms of science and rationality.

The evidence that makes this so will be explored on this blog as time goes on. But for now, remember: Faith is not irrational in and of itself. Everyone has to one varying degree or another in various fields of thought and persuasion. The debate ought to be over which faith is best supported by our deductions and observations.

I conclude as I often like to do with the great quote from the great Voddie Baucham:

“Is that your final answer? I hope its not. voddie-baucham.jpgLet me give you an answer to that question that I believe is better than ‘I was raised that way’ or its better than “Well I’m Southern Baptist and that’s the way we believe’ or its better than “I tried it, and it worked for me” Let me tell you why I choose to believe the Bible. I don’t believe the Bible because I was raised that way—because I wasn’t. I don’t choose to believe the Bible because I tried it and it worked for me. My mother’s Buddhism worked for her—that’s why she was a Buddhist! I need something more than just ‘because it works’. Here’s the answer—I’ll give it to you and unpack it for you:

I choose to believe the Bible because it is a reliable collection of historical documents written down by eyewitnesses during the lifetime of other eyewitnesses. They report [of] supernatural events that took place in fulfillment of specific prophecies and claimed that their writing are divine rather than human in origin.”




5 Responses

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  1. This is just great!! I hope you don’t mind that I link up to you and recognize your writing, as well as Voddie’s, in my blog.

    Enjoyer of the Journey

    September 11, 2008 at 2:57 pm

  2. Oh…sure thing! Thanks!
    I don’t see a url to your blog. I’d love to see it, so leave it here or in your name if you comment again.


    September 11, 2008 at 3:05 pm

  3. My blog is; thanks for swinging by!!

    Enjoyer of the Journey

    September 11, 2008 at 3:08 pm

  4. Nicely done Brother.

    I see you grew up watching Rick Steves as well!


    September 11, 2008 at 9:13 pm

  5. I think there is a reason for the trend “the higher the education, the less the religiosity” besides the idea of poor young christians not being able to make their beliefs stand up under closer scrutiny.

    I would argue that when you say there are some things scientists take on “faith”, like macro evolution, or the existence of England, you aren’t really talking about “faith.” It’s quite different from your “faith” that god exists.

    According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary (which last time I checked wasn’t controlled by atheists) faith is:

    1. allegiance to duty or a person

    2. firm belief in something for which there is no proof

    3. something that is believed especially with strong conviction

    #2 is what makes the difference between your “faith” and a scientist’s “faith.” The latter isn’t really faith at all, for it is an educated hypothosis based on evidence. Unlike the belief in god, I have evidence to suggest otherwise. Evidence that can be repeated over and over again. I have evidence that England exists. (I’ve been there twice to check it out, and have friends there) Evidence.

    Faith, like you said “merely the belief in something that we have not directly seen or experienced firsthand” is not intrinsically evil. However, applying this attitude to decisions that affect other people (like pushing religious views through the government) harms other people.

    Ask yourself this, would you apply the same attitude of faith to aspects of your life other than religion? Would you leave your money out on the sidewalk on faith that it would be there in an hour? Would you not pay your bills on faith that the utility company will do nothing? There is strong evidence based on observation that your money would be gone and the utility companies would shut off service, just like there is strong evidence that god did not create life, nor create the world in 7 days with dinosaurs and talking snakes.

    As for you friends quote on the bible, all I can say is read “Misquoting Jesus” or listen to Dr. Ehrman on youtube.

    Before you think he’s some atheist nut job, he’s not. He’s not even an atheist. (Sadly) He’s one of the world’s renown biblical scholars that has gone to several evangelical christian “schools” where he learned to read the original manuscripts from which the bible was composed, in their original languages. What he found is quite shocking. It’s not an atheist tirade, I promise, but I guarantee it’s worth your time watching.

    Best wishes for the new year.


    December 31, 2008 at 5:07 pm

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