A Faithable Reason


In the discussion between Christians and non-believers the diametrical line is often drawn in the sand between “Faith” and “Reason.” Non-believers regularly make the claim that Christian’s beliefs are based upon a completely unfounded concept of “Faith” which has no basis in logic, reason or observation. The term “Blind Faith” is bantered about.

Christians counter with the claim that to be a Non-believer requires just as much “Faith” as being a believer. As if each side is weighed down with the troublesome notion of “Faith” and the non-believer is ignoring it, while the believer is embracing it.

The question I have for Christians: If you have faith, why do you care about reason at all? Why do you even feel the necessity to argue the viability of various positions within Christianity?


“Faith” has a history of being difficult to define. It is common to see it confused with “trust.” Not the same.

How many of us have heard the example of “You have faith every day, just crossing a bridge.” Sorry. That is not faith. That is trust, based upon repeated observation. I have crossed 1000’s of bridges, and they have not fallen down, thrown me, or collapsed. I have worked with the material that builds bridges—stone, steel and cement, and have first-hand knowledge as to their strength and cohesiveness. I have seen the forces necessary to cause damage to bridges, including cranes, or hurricanes, or earthquakes.

Based upon my life experiences and observations, the likelihood of bridge failure to occur while I am crossing it is so remote that it is statistically insignificant. This is not Faith. It is trust that things will continue as they have in the past.

Which raises a first, questioning eyebrow. How much faith was required to be healed by Jesus? Here we have a person performing miracles repeatedly. The Book of Matthew records that multitudes brought their lame, blind, mute and maimed, and Jesus healed them. Matt. 15:30-31. When John the Baptist questioned as to whether Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus used the observable data—pointing out that the lame walk, the blind see, and the dead are raised up.

Yet when the blind man asked to be healed, Jesus tells him, “Your faith has made you whole.” Mark 10:52; Luke 18:42. This was a man who obviously knew who Jesus was, who knew his capabilities and trusted on repeated observation. Was that faith? The Centurion, coming to Jesus because of his healing ability, asks for healing for his servant and receives it. Jesus commends his faith and heals the servant. Matt. 8:10. The Centurion noted that he was well-aware, because of his position, how authority works, and that speaking a word can make an action come about. Again, trust on repeated observation.

Imagine you have a broken arm. You stand in a long line of broken arms. A doctor is walking along this line, handing a blue pill to each person. You watch a young girl take the pill—and her arm is healed. You watch an older gentleman take the pill—his arm is healed. After observing person after person being healed the doctor approaches you with the blue pill. Now, having had Biology 101, and a course or two in First Aid, you are very aware of the fact that bones need to be set, and take time to knit together. However, you are also aware that medicine advances. Is it possible that a company has developed a pill that causes bones to re-align and join? Seems unlikely—yet you have just observed it.

How much of taking that Blue pill is trust and how much is faith? Are you part of some elaborate con, or a game show? Is it a placebo test? How much of your brain is utilizing reason, and how much is faith?

I use that illustration to point out how difficult it is to easily define “Faith.” How much observable data is necessary to cross over from “Faith” to just “Trust”?

Another example oft-used is the claim that adherence to a scientific hypothesis is “Faith.” That belief in the viability of the “Big Bang” theory, (as it was not observed) is as much “Faith” as belief in the resurrection (which was also not observed, according to the canonical Gospels.) Again, this is not quite an accurate picture of “Faith.”

In its most simplistic form, scientists observe data, and based upon that data derive a possible explanation of how that data came into existence. New data will either support or disagree with that explanation. If it disagrees, then a new theory would need to be proposed in order to explain that data.

Of course, due to our lack of complete information, it is very possible that two disagreeing explanations account for the data we currently have.

Is that really the type of “Faith” that a Christian is referring to? Is that the comparison they desire to make? Is the Christian willing to modify their belief, based upon new data? The explanation that the facts of the Canonical Gospels were developing myth, also account for the data. Does the Christian agree that a Jesus of partial myth is equally viable?

Once more, this does not seem to be an accurate depiction of “Faith.”

Obviously, the most cited verse as to a definition of faith is Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Is that a claim that Faith is based on lack of evidence? That cannot be the sole definition—those healed by Jesus at least had some evidence.

And when does Faith become Hope? For example, I can have faith that tomorrow a client will enter my door, bringing in One Million Dollars of business. I can also have faith that the President of the United States will enter my door. But are those really of equal faith?

Clients do walk through my door. While most do not bring in that sum of money, it is not out of the realm of possibilities. Further there are numerous such possible clients. There is only one President of the United States. He is very unlikely to do something he finds unnecessary, and there is little reason he would find walking into my office necessary. Possible? Yes. Likely? Not even remotely.

Is one of those two possibilities faith? Hope? Delusion? At what point does faith utilize evidence, and at what point can it abandon it?

My Webster’s New World dictionary defines “Faith” as “an unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence.” This is horribly inaccurate when describing what a Christian means by “Faith.” I see Christians questioning their faith all the time—not blind adherence to a position. (Admittedly, I see few that are willing to change—but at least they do question!) Further, Christians rely upon a book they claim is evidence; rely upon other books and other persons’ claims as evidence.

It is not as if Christian claims are based on nothing whatsoever. There is evidence involved.

So what is “Faith”? Clearly it is not what common usage has reduced to dictionary definitions.

Regardless of its stoic definition, behind what Christians claim as Faith is an essence of Power. An action. It is not a mere belief, but rather a belief with observable results. As James points out, acknowledgement of a belief is not enough. Within “Faith” is something more that necessarily results in works. James 2:17-20.

Tremendous, monumental works. Jesus uses the hyperbole that with just a grain of faith, one can move a mountain (Matt. 17:20; Mark 11:23) or uproot a tree and plant it in the bottom of the ocean (Luke 17:6.) I understand that this is a statement of exaggeration. Jesus was not demanding a display of geological or botanical translocation. But Christians usually stop there. Saying “this is hyperbole” without grasping the essence of what Jesus is claiming.

With faith, nothing is impossible. While perhaps moving a mountain is a bit much, the Christian, with their faith, can do greater wonders than Jesus himself did! John 14:12. Whatever a Christians asks, in this thing called “Faith” God will do. Jesus is saying with the smallest portion of Faith, one can do such grand, miraculous things, the equivalent of moving a mountain!

Because of “Faith” a Christian need never worry about finances. Matt. 6:30. Faith allows a Christian to calm weather (Matt. 8:26) or cause a tree to whither (Mark 11:21-22). Faith Heals. Mark 2:5-11; 5:34. Interestingly, it is not necessarily the faith of the person healed, but rather the person doing the healing. Luke 17:19.

Which makes sense, because with faith one can raise the dead, and how much faith can a dead person have? Matt. 10:8. If the faithful pray, the sick are healed. James 5:15.

As we debate back and forth, it seems to me that the Christian advocate relies primarily on reason and logic. We hear philosophical arguments for God. Demands that science provide answers, and if unable that there must be a God. We read historical arguments for the viability of the Bible. Logic and Reason. Reason and Logic.

And, inevitably, a hole or conflict appears, at which time the Christian uses “Faith” as putty to patch over the hole. That they just choose to believe it, even if they cannot confirm it, or it appears to conflict with what we see.

Why are Christians using plastic explosive as putty? This stuff is supposed to be dynamite! Please stop holding me in suspense—when is the strongest argument coming out? Would Paul chide the current crop of Christian apologists that their faith is not in the power of God, but in the wisdom of the world? 1 Cor. 2:5.

Contrary to what may be seen on T.V., in a courtroom we present our strongest argument first. And present it again. And present it last. Over and over we say, “This is where the proposition rises and falls. This is where we win on every point.” Why are Christians utilizing reason or logic at all, when they have this thing called “Faith”? It should be blowing us away!

I respect people on both sides who spend the time, effort and concentration to prepare for a formal debate. I appreciate the academic surroundings and formal system implemented. But why are we discussing there?

Look, Christians, you want to win the debate? Every time? The format is simple. The place is easily determined. Offer to hold the debate at the City Morgue. Allow the non-believer to go first. Who cares what the topic is—who cares what the non-believer says? It is all foolishness in comparison to what is about to occur. (1 Cor. 1:18-20) After the non-believer has run out of babble, your path is clear. Whip open a door (any one will do), peer at the dead body, and say a simple prayer “Let these people know that you are God. Arise and walk.” (1 Kings 18:36-37)

You have faith, right? Nothing is impossible? If you truly believed, you could literally move mountains. Nuts, you even have some evidence, since you believe the dead have come back to life in more than one instance. It is not as if you claim this is the first (or second or third or fourth) occurrence, right?

When that person comes back to life—you have won the debate. I have never seen any atheist, agnostic or naturalist that would be able to respond to this decisive demonstration of the plausibility of your belief. We simply have no answer for this tactic.

So why don’t you use it? Why are we on-line arguing over who wrote what Gospel first, when you can so easily prevail? Quit your employment—use faith that God will provide. Start ordering weather about to preserve life. Heal the sick. Make the Blind see. Raise the dead. Come ON! Eagerly we wait, wondering why we are discussing such petty questions as how did Judas die, when you hold back this awesome power of “Faith.”

Or…is it possible? Can it be that the Faith as described in the Bible does not exist? Is it possible, that just like every other human proposition Christians are reduced to argumentation, observable data, and persuasion, rather than demonstrative capability?

I find, in discussions, that “Faith” is notoriously hard to precisely define. That’s O.K. Because when I read what Christians propose, at the least this Faith produces incredible, unbelievable and miraculous events to occur. When I see Christians use Faith as an excuse, rather than the potent, unbeatable argument described in their own belief system, it does cause me to wonder—why do they constantly refrain from utilizing their greatest proposition?

(Final note. Obviously, the problem is that each author of the various books treats “Faith” as something differently. Only when attempting to align the differing concepts does the problem arise. Yes, I know “Scripture interprets Scripture.” I traditionally see the hard scriptures are simply ignored, in order to concentrate on the more modest scriptures on faith.)

34 comments:

Aaron Kinney said...

Somewhat unrelated, but it does have to do with faith.

I have created an open challenge for al Abrahamic theists (Xtian, Muslim, Jew), and I think its a great litmus test to see how faithful they really are. You should take a look. I call it the "Abrahamic Test

Bruce said...

How many of us have heard the example of “You have faith every day, just crossing a bridge.”

Another one I hear quite often is "You have faith that the sun will rise every morning."

No, we know the sun will rise every morning unless some natural phenomenon happens to cause the earth to stop rotating on its axis or causes the sun to disappear. Now, if they mean that we have "faith" that the sun will rise because some god has the power to keep it from rising and chooses not to exercise such power, then that is not faith about the sun rising but rather faith about a god. And if that is "faith", then any natural phenomenon in our universe is based on faith and we might as well throw all of our scientific knowledge out the window because it is basically worthless.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Let me begin by stating that I'm not an evangelical. I usually put myself in the ill-defined category, liberal Protestant.

I start from the assumption that one truth is compatible with another. If the Bible contains truth, its truth (rightly interpreted) must be compatible with the truth of other disciplines.

(Again, to be clear, I don't claim that the Bible is inerrant.)

My approach to faith is dialectical. Insofar as faith and science are in tension with one another, I think the tension has the potential to be constructive. Of course, there is always the possibility that evidence against Christianity will mount to the point where faith ceases to be tenable. If that happens, I for one will abandon faith and embrace the idea of a purely naturalistic, mechanistic cosmos.

And, of course, some people think we've already reached that point. Which brings me to the other question you raise.

There are mysteries which science cannot explain. Atheists tend to assume that one day science will explain all the mysteries, and completely eliminate any need for (or space for) a Creator.

"Yes, life is so complex that — right now — we can only speculate as to how it came about through evolution … but one day science will demonstrate how it was done."

Maybe. But to me, such an attitude simply makes scientists into priests, able to plumb all mysteries. In a word, such an attitude reduces to faith: a naturalist faith that competes with the claims of Christian faith.

DagoodS said...

Thank you, Q for your thoughtful comment. I enjoy talking to liberal theists, so you are more than welcome.

I was a bit surprised you referred to tension between faith and science. Within naturalism, there is no tension. At best faith is the belief in something with no evidence. Upon receiving new information, the belief is modified or even abandoned. Hence no tension.

I would think there should be no tension for the Christian between faith and science. Some Faith believes certain events occurred, despite what science states. Faith trumps science. Hence no tension.

The only way I see tension is for the Christian if they are bothered by the fact that science points to some things contrary to their belief. How to resolve which one to believe? As you aptly point out, truths are compatible with each other. I could see tension for a believer who holds, on faith, that the Bible is true, and observes, on the other hand, how the Bible is inaccurate in the field of cosmology, astronomy, geology, biology, and history. Yes, there is some tension.

Or perhaps there is tension between my naturalism and a Christian’s faith. However, those tensions are easy to resolve. The point of my blog entry. Raise the Dead. Make the Blind See. Provide healing and new limbs for amputees.

It seems to me that any problem with tension is solely the Christian’s problem, and equally the Christian’s ability to resolve—start performing the acts of faith as indicated in the Book that is claimed to hold truth.

Why would you say that atheists tend to assume that one day science will explain all mysteries? I have never heard a naturalist, nor an atheist ever make such a ridiculous claim. We are limited by our ability to travel, as well as our ability to observe, and our lifespan.

Further, science is ill-equipped, nor designed to explain all mysteries. It cannot answer whether I should take my wife out for Italian or Chinese, or how many children I should have, or what type of pet to get, or even what TV show to watch. (And if there IS some atheist or naturalist that believes we will explain all mysteries—that remote that has been missing in my house for about 4 years—can you tell me where it is? Thanks.)

Q, you have been lied to. We do most assuredly NOT hold that science will even come close to remotely solving most mysteries, let alone “all.”

It is time to put this pernicious quote to rest. Can you point out a single atheist or naturalist that made such a claim? Or even one close to it? That would be very helpful.

RubySera Martin said...

dagoods said:

"Further, science is ill-equipped, nor designed to explain all mysteries. It cannot answer whether I should take my wife out for Italian or Chinese, or how many children I should have, or what type of pet to get, or even what TV show to watch."

Perhaps you should take a look at the social sciences. They provide a lot of clues on answering these questions. Psychology is probably the best guide for what treatment of others results in what consequences i.e. how to treat your wife, and what TV show is best suited to which family member. Re type of pet best suited to your home, take a look at anthropology (what do humans in your situation normally do?) and the health sciences (what allergies, if any, do you or family members deal with? and what risks/benefits do various animals present to your home?). You get the idea. Science looks at these questions very seriously.

Bruce said...

Q, you have been lied to. We do most assuredly NOT hold that science will even come close to remotely solving most mysteries, let alone “all.”

Thanks for burning down Q's strawman.

There are no guarantees that science will answer all of our questions. I'm OK with that. I don't necessarily need the answer to "How did the Universe come into existence" in order to live a meaningful life.

I would add that while science cannot at this time, and may not ever be able to answer all of our questions, it is really the only method we have that could possibly answer any of those questions in the long run. Until God decides to let us in on his little secret, science is the only hope we have.

Jarrod said...

I think the idea of a dialectical tension between faith and science is a good one. Faith seems to get into trouble when science starts explaining away faith-based beliefs (i.e. "God did it" is replaced by "In light of natural laws and the situation's conditions, it was perfectly expected"). Science seems to get into trouble when it runs into irreducible things, like what it means to be human (however much biological, deterministic factors may account for human experience, such an analysis would seem to miss an important point somewhere: everything it means to us "to be").

Faith and science seem to be describing two parts of the same thing, which in this case is the world. To remove faith - whatever it is - from the world would subtract a good deal of life's richness. Faith is already part of the world as we know it.

That's vague and maybe entirely unhelpful, but what I want to at least maintain is that there are unexplainable yet important aspects of life, aspects that are either unaccessible to science or else would be destroyed by science as it tried to figure out what those aspects are. I don't know if faith in a God is an acceptable extension of these unexplainable aspects of life, but I think life contains facts that do indeed fall outside the realm of science - and it seems to me that everything outside of science could be called "faith".

John W. Loftus said...

RubySera_Martin, Are you disagreeing with DagoodS here?

dagoods said:

"Further, science is ill-equipped, nor designed to explain all mysteries. It cannot answer whether I should take my wife out for Italian or Chinese, or how many children I should have, or what type of pet to get, or even what TV show to watch."

Are you disagreeing with him or not? Take the first sentence. Yes or No? He's speaking about the physical sciences. Yes or No?

The second sentence offers some examples. Your response refers to the social sciences, or what seems reasonable to do in our relationships with people. How does this actually address what DagoodS said? He probably doesn't disagree with you here at all.

It would be like me saying that math cannot help us explain all mysteries, and for you to respond by arguing that psychology can help us deal with people. So? He's talking about apples. You're talking about oranges.

I don't say this too often to people, but I have found you to lack in some basic skills of understanding. You need to take a critical thinking class, and I'm serious.

Stephen said...

Q here again — I'm in the process of switching blogs, so I've logged in under a different persona.

• Jarrod:
I'm glad you found my comment helpful.

• Bruce:
Thanks for burning down Q's straw man.

First, it wasn't a straw man. Second, it hasn't been burned down. Third, you should make an attempt to understand what other people are saying before you lightly dismiss their point of view.

My comment wasn't hostile; why the defensive reaction?

• dagoods:
At best faith is the belief in something with no evidence. Upon receiving new information, the belief is modified or even abandoned.

No, faith is not belief with no evidence to support it. In my view, the evidence rarely takes us 100% of the way to any conclusion. We follow the hard data as far as it leads. After that, we all have to take a bit of a leap into the void — atheists and theists alike.

In science, all conclusions are provisional — just as you said. Scientists believe in a certain theory only until it is disproven by further evidence, and/or replaced with a better theory.

But this is tantamount to saying that all conclusions rest, to a degree, on faith. We have followed the evidence that is available to us as far as it leads. In our judgement, it is reasonable to come to this conclusion based on the evidence. But it's a bit of a step of faith, because today's "assured result of scientific research" may be proven false tomorrow. It has happened many times!

Why would you say that atheists tend to assume that one day science will explain all mysteries? … Can you point out a single atheist or naturalist that made such a claim?

I didn't express myself very clearly on this point. It would help if I gave you a specific example, just as you requested.

I'm currently reading a book by A.G. Cairns-Smith, "Seven Clues to the Origin of Life". He writes,

"Much of this book is devoted to seeking out, and making as stark as possible, the difficulties in the case of the origin of life on the Earth."

"Far from there being a million ways in detail in which evolution could have got under way, there seems now to have been no obvious way at all. The singular feature is in the gap between the simplest conceivable version of organisms as we know them, and components that the Earth might reasonably have been able to generate. This gap … is enormous."

Nonetheless, Cairns-Smith remains a naturalist:

"My verdict on this inquest you can take, at least at this stage, to be no more than pragmatic opinion: it is that life originated on this Earth some 3 or 4 billion years ago from natural causes."

In other words, Cairns-Smith follows the evidence as far as it leads, and (despite recognizing the enormity of the remaining gap) he takes the rest on faith.

Putting the same point another way: Cairns-Smith believes that, one day, science will be able to answer the question. He believes that he himself can point us toward a solution by his analysis of the "seven clues" to the origin of life. (The book is written for a popular audience, using the figure of a Sherlock Holmes case.)

Of course he believes that. If he really thought science had no answer — not even a clue — as to the origin of life on Earth, he would abandon his naturalism and embrace theism. At least, I presume he would.

So I overstated my position in my first comment. But my point is still valid. Naturalists recognize that there are still gaps, even enormous gaps, in the scientific account of existence. But they have faith that science will continue to fill in those gaps, just as it has filled in earlier gaps in our knowledge. Even the origin of life itself will one day be explained scientifically, with no need to hypothesize a Creator.

That's faith. Not that there is no evidence for the provisional conclusion; but that the conclusion goes far beyond the existing evidence.

DagoodS said...

Jarrod,

I appreciate your description of faith. Tricky little word to define, eh? *smile*

I see two concerns with defining it as “everything outside of science.” In order for that to be helpful, we have to determine what is in science, true? But science (or, as I prefer to be more encompassing: “naturalism”) is the observation and attempted explanation of the world about us. If “faith” is that which is not included within that world, then faith is completely without evidence. None at all.

We cannot use the universe to make a determination about a supernatural realm, since we would then be using naturalism or science. Faith must be “outside” of it, based on this definition. In essence, this leaves us with “Faith” only making a statement about something we know nothing about. Yet knowing nothing about it, makes the statement meaningless.

Let me try a poor example. “Science” has not discovered the contents of the 17th dimension. Can we now use “faith” to describe those contents, as this is “outside science”? But without observation, any claim I make about the 17th dimension cannot be verified, and is groundless assertion. I can claim there are 12-toed purple slugs. You can claim there are not. We are on equal footing, with neither of us having even a remote chance to prevail.

The second concern is which defers to what? If faith is something “outside science” then what happens when science expands and intrudes into the area of faith? What happens when science is able to view or speculate about the contents of the 17th dimension? Does my faith in purple slugs capitulate to science’s findings?

This definition is an excellent example of exactly what Christians have done with the definition of “faith.” (I do not know whether you are a Christian or not, so I don’t know whether it applies to you.)

Over the course of time, they have diluted and watered-down it’s meaning to the point of “belief in things in which we have no evidence.” It is a mealy-mouthed statement, forever bowing to the advancing knowledge presented with science. Simply put—it has lost its backbone.

Yet when I look at the Bible, an item the Christian believes comes from a God (based on faith) it describes a whole different “faith.” One with power. One with demonstrable results. Something so overwhelming, that reason and logic are not even in the running when compared to it. Where is THAT faith? Where is THAT definition?

As I point out, the Bible does not treat “faith” as a mere belief. Something that is a “possibility” due to complete lack of evidence. The Bible treats faith as something that can metaphorically move mountains. It can heal. It can make the blind see. It raises the dead. It controls weather. It can make an amputee grow a limb.

What happened? Where are the Christians demonstrating THAT faith? What I see is blind continuing to be blind, unless helped by science. Dead remaining dead, unless science intervenes. Weather only minimally controlled and barely predicted. By science.

Because Christianity, too, sees that the “Faith” of the Bible is non-existent in the world, the only way to support the structure is to re-define “faith.” Make it into just a belief without evidence. Make it something tantalizing out of reach, and without power. Make it something to be reasoned out and logical.

In other words—make it out to be the very thing Paul considered worthless and foolish. Take out its teeth.

DagoodS said...

Stephen/Q,

To clarify—can you tell me the difference between the scientific method trusting the successes of its past use of facts to determine conclusions, and whether it is faith to do so?

See, it seems to me (and I could be wrong) you are confusing the difference between “trust” (based upon previous experience) and “faith.” The scientific method is based upon the fact that in the past, conclusions were drawn from data, in which subsequent data provided confirmation for that conclusion. Further, the scientific method recognizes within that conclusion the possibility of modification upon new data. It is not dogmatic adherence to a conclusion.

The difference (I tend to see) is that science is willing to modify upon new facts. “Faith” is not. Faith demands the new facts conform to its belief, not vice versa.

And yes, previous conclusions have been proven false. Science changes. Is “faith” so willing to do so? As I keep pointing out (and it seems to remain unaddressed) “Faith” as recorded in the Bible results in healings, dead rising, blind seeing and weather changes. It can move mountains. Do you see that? Can you point out the amputees that have grown limbs by “faith”? Has “faith,” like science, now changed, and no longer holds the power it once did? Is James wrong, and “faith without works” is now alive?

Thank you for the example regarding abiogenesis. Abiogenesis is only one, very minute mystery when compared to the vastness of the universe. We will always have gaps. Why do those gaps have to be filled with God?

Further, as science has been able to explain some questions in the past, it is reasonable to assume it will explain other questions in the future. As of this moment, the cure for cancer remains one of those mysteries. I certainly hope within a short period of time science is able to explain this mystery. (Certainly does no good waiting for Christians and their “healing faith,” eh? Sorry—poor humor and a cheap shot. *wink*)

And it is possible science will explain abiogenesis. Or not.

Since everything else we see is of natural cause/effect—it fits the evidence and is a valid conclusion to state that abiogenesis happened naturally. It is trust on past experience.

You want to state differently? GREAT! Show us the evidence. Show us how a supernatural being started abiogenesis. But you can’t, because you only know this on “faith.” In other words, where science has gaps, you fill it in with “faith.” And as those gaps grow smaller, does your faith equally shrink? This was the point of my blog entry--this is not the faith described in the Bible. “Faith” is not the putty to fill the holes!

As you point out science has filled in gaps in our knowledge in the past. Based upon this past experience, we anticipate it will do so in the future. Is this “trust” or “faith.”? Further, is this the “faith” as discussed in the Bible?

Bruce said...

See, it seems to me (and I could be wrong) you are confusing the difference between “trust” (based upon previous experience) and “faith.”

Great distinction. It is the same thing as saying you have "faith" that a friend will follow through on a promise. That type of "faith" is not based on superstitious wishful thinking but rather on real-world past experience.

You know, I never quite understood how to interpret the argument that "atheism is as much a faith as religion." Is this supposed to be a compliment or an insult?

Anonymous said...

No, we know the sun will rise every morning unless some natural phenomenon happens to cause the earth to stop rotating on its axis or causes the sun to disappear. Now, if they mean that we have "faith" that the sun will rise because some god has the power to keep it from rising and chooses not to exercise such power, then that is not faith about the sun rising but rather faith about a god. And if that is "faith", then any natural phenomenon in our universe is based on faith and we might as well throw all of our scientific knowledge out the window because it is basically worthless.

You don't know that the sun will rise tomorrow; that's just an assumption that you take -- by faith -- and then provide pragmatic reasons for holding your belief, i.e. you have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow. The problem of induction is very serious in its implications and too many people just dismiss it because it seems so obvious that tomorrow will be like today. This is only one example of an atheistic tenet of faith; there are many more.

It seems to me that the atheist simply wants to say that their 'faith' is more reasonable than that of the theist's faith. The Christian idea of faith is not a blind faith however -- that is a caricature of our faith that many atheists seem intent on implying. The Christian faith is the foundation for all reasoning and unlike a fideist, it is not a blind, wishful, baseless faith.

Jarrod said...

Thanks for the comments, DagoodS. I'll have another go; maybe I'll be a bit more clear this time.

I think I jumped the gun a little bit by saying everything outside of science could be called faith. So, I'd to retract that suggested definition for the moment - though I'm not even sure I'll be coming back to it.

"Naturalism" - I think it works better than "science" anyway - is the "observation and attempted explanation of the world around us." Now, this world that naturalism observes - does it include nonphysical phenomena? I usually think of naturalism as concerning a purely physical world, a world which comprises, among other things, natural laws and incredibly big and small physical bodies and events.

But I don't think that the world, as we know it, is purely physical. Physical processes may underlie a good deal of what I'm calling nonphysical, but those physical processes aren't able to fully account for the nonphysical. I suppose I'm thinking primarily of the arts, and the experience of beauty. To detail the physical processes of an experience of beauty is to actually say nothing of the experience itself. Relationships with other people might also be something nonphysical. And of course, consciousness. In all these cases, physical processes may certainly be involved, but they can't quite account for everything that goes on. It's the notion of "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
(I wonder if the concept of "meaning" - particularly as it is used personally - is a completely nonphysical broad idea.)

I'd say there's at least two aspects to life as we know it. There's the scientific, the rational, the logical, the methodological. Then there's the creative, the irrational, the aesthetic, the qualitative, the irreducible. These two realms can't really interact too much with each other; to do so would ruin the nature of each.

If naturalism includes the nonphysical, then I have nothing to say - unless naturalism would deny the nonphysical, in which case I'd disagree with that claim. I feel that the existence of the nonphysical comes straight from experience; to deny the nonphysical is as outlandish as claiming to know, without proof, the existence of purple slugs in the 17th dimension.

Now to try and bring faith back into it. "Faith" insofar as meaning "trust" works, I think, for naturalistic matters. But if there's another sense of "faith," I think it could be concerned with the nonphysical. Perhaps "faith" could mean "understanding" - that is, a grasp of something, with the something having to do with those irreducible aspects of life. Assuming the existence of the nonphysical, I could see faith as being a part of that nonphysical set. Since the nonphysical opposes the physical, faith would then seem to oppose science.

I have no idea if that's the sense of "faith" of the Bible, yet I could see "faith," as it's used in the Bible, to refer to a certain grasping, a certain understanding, of the supernatural, i.e. God (who would fall under the nonphysical). The form of this grasping might not at all be directly observable or describable, but that's OK, because we already know of other indescribable things that we experience in life. This faith may be mysterious, but that would make it no less legitimate or real: music, for instance, when I'm sitting through a concert, seems the same way.

Bruce said...

The Christian faith is the foundation for all reasoning and unlike a fideist, it is not a blind, wishful, baseless faith.

I don't blame you for posting anonymously. I would too if my posts were so ridiculously uninformed.

Anonymous said...

I don't blame you for posting anonymously. I would too if my posts were so ridiculously uninformed.

I post anonymously because I don't have a blog to sign in with. My discussion boards are located here:

www.christiandiscussionboards.org

and you are welcome to post there and discuss the problem of induction that you seemed to have snipped from my orginal reply. Thanks!

Bruce said...

I post anonymously because I don't have a blog to sign in with

Select "Other" and then input name and web page when posting.

You don't know that the sun will rise tomorrow; that's just an assumption that you take -- by faith

You're right, aliens might destroy it with their deathstar tonight. So yes, there is a very tiny chance that the sun won't rise tomorrow, but believing that this will not happen is in no way tantamount to religious faith.

When I said that the belief that the sun will rise tomorrow was not faith, I meant that it is not like religious faith. This is how it usually works:

Atheist: "Religion is based on faith, not facts."
Theist: "Atheism is faith too. You have faith that the sun will rise every morning."

The atheist is using faith in the religious sense, as in religion is based on things that cannot be proven by any methods we have here on earth and is thus accepted without valid proof. So the theist, in an attempt to knock the atheist down a peg or two, argues that atheism is just as irrational because it ultimately is based on faith as well, the same type of irrational faith as religion. I was merely arguing that the belief that the sun will rise every morning is not a religious type of faith. This is explained by DagoodS in the original post, I was just reiterating it because I have heard the sun rising argument so often.

Drawing conclusions based on logical induction is nowhere near the same thing as having religious faith. The fact that scientific knowledge is provisional does not make religious faith its equal. These are two different types of "faith". But I can understand how it is to the theist's advantage to keep the differences hidden and confused.

As I said previously, if the scientific method is based on faith (the religious type), then we might as well throw all of our scientific knowledge out the window because it is basically worthless.

DagoodS said...

Jarrod,

Yes, as a naturalist, I recognize such things as consciousness, beauty, music and art appreciation exist. I am uncertain as to how they are “non-physical.” Nor am I clear as to how physical processes could not fully account for their existence.

We know where such things exist—the brain. If my spleen, kidney, appendix or even my heart is removed (and hopefully replaced in the case of the heart) my consciousness, appreciation for art, beauty, etc, does not change.

If, however, we start messing around in the brain, those things most certainly CAN change. We have even started to somewhat map the brain, as to what parts account for some of our functions. Including personality, and taste.

What we know is that it is within the brain that a person maintains these items. How, then, are they “non-physical”? Can you explain that more fully? Is there some essence, some spirit that is more fully included? And since we know that it is the brain that is the impetus for art appreciation, is this spirit somehow “connected” to the brain? And wouldn’t that require some sort of physical connection?

Think about it. A surgeon, using a very physical scalpel, cuts a very physical brain. Yet the person’s ability to appreciate art is modified. How did the physical scalpel manage to “cross the plane” and cut the non-physical essence?

Further, the same scalpel can affect the person’s ability to reason and think logically. Why is “reason and logic” physical, yet “appreciation of beauty” non-physical?

(And you raise an interesting problem with including faith within this “non-physical.” Female mallard ducks appreciate beauty. It is why the male is brightly colored—to attract the female. Outside my window, on a summer night, I hear crickets and frogs singing their particular tunes with abandonment. I take my Labrador out for a walk, who is extremely conscious of her surroundings, with the nose sniffing, the tale wagging, and the eyes brightly lit. Does a duck, a dog, a cricket and a frog have faith?)

I thought it interesting you included God in the “non-physical.” Why? Upon what basis can we demonstrate that? As near as humans can tell, it requires synapses (electrical connections in a brain) in order to think. To choose. To contemplate. If God has no physical being, he has no synapses. How does he think?

In other words, Jarrod, in order to define faith, we have to create an entity that we have to have faith does things we have to have faith can be done, because we have no evidence of doing things like an entity we have no evidence for, in order to have faith. It is a definition propped up by pleasant strings of words, yet in the end, has no basis.

Again, don’t feel that I am blasting at you, please. I think few people realize how difficult “faith” is to define, and even more difficult to place within the context of the Bible. As we dig, we see that simple definitions become more complex, and more convoluted in order to maintain this thing called, “faith.”

Finally, you say “faith may be mysterious.” The faith of the Bible is clear—it raises the dead, causes blind to see, and heals the sick. It produces obvious works. Are you disagreeing with the Biblical definition of faith?

Thanks for your discussion.

DagoodS said...

Anonymous,

What is the difference between “trust” and “faith”? Why do we not see the faith that is described in the Bible?

Let’s talk about the sun rising. As of today, I have seen over 14,700 sun risings in my life time. Like clockwork (cute, eh?) every 24 hours (give or take the position of the earth in relation to the sun.) Assuming a minimalist YEC position, there have been over 2.1 Million sun risings that have transpired over the past 6000 years. And, again, every 24 hours (‘cept one, of course.)

Taking the actual age of the earth, we are looking at least 1.27 Trillion sun rises. Again, about every 24 hours.

Having had it happen 1.27 Trillion times, is it so out of the realm of possibility that it might happen once more?

As Bruce correctly pointed out—it is possible a wayward shot from an unknown intergalactic alien battle is flying toward the sun even as I type this, to snuff it out in a few moments. Possible—but extremely unlikely.

I am surprised (stunned even) that you are equating that type of belief with “faith.” It seems to trivialize it to the point of complete insignificance.

Are you saying that if I claim there is a 1 in a 1.27 Trillion chance the sun will not rise tomorrow because of an unknown Alien Rebel Force, that is the same as a Christian’s faith?

When Christ said, “Nothing is impossible with faith” (Matt. 17:20) I have always read that as a claim that faith is a powerful tool by which great things can be accomplished. This idea that Christian faith is the same as naturalist reliance on repeated events seems to take this to a different meaning. As if we should reverse it and remove the double negative and read it “As long as anything is possible, you can have faith.”

Is that really the extent of your faith? That “anything is possible” and therefore reliance on past events, no matter how many times they have occurred, means the next moment anything can happen?

Further, doesn’t a sense of plausibility come in? Where the odds are reduced from a 50/50 or yes/no prospect? Sure, the sun could be snuffed out by an alien Gamma Ray Machine Gun. But after 1.27 Trillion no-shows, can we safely reduce the odds from being, “But it is equally certain to happen or not tomorrow”?

I agree (and state in my entry) that Christians do not have a “blind faith.” However, the faith they have is supposed to be powerful, evident, and produce mighty works. Where is that faith? It seems the definition has become so diminished to avoid the problem that these mighty works are not happening. That the “faith” of the Bible is non-existent.

Jarrod said...

DagoodS,

I think there's a difference between the brain being the same thing as the mind, and the brain causing the mind. I do see all the advances in neurobiology, and I imagine one day it'll get to the point either where the mind is totally accounted for or the mind is recognized to be beyond science. We need to just build someone's brain, turn it on, and see what happens... As of now, it seems considerations of the brain-mind relationship are mostly speculations (not baseless speculations, mind you).

I'd say a scalpel "crossing the plane" doesn't, in fact, cross the brain-mind plane. I'd say the scalpel affects the physical foundation (the brain) that the nonphysical (the mind) depends on, and thus the nonphysical changes as the physical changes. But it's an indirect effect. (There is evidence that the mind can affect the brain - but since I don't know the sources of that info, it might not be worth mentioning.)

It's interesting that psychology, despite all these biological advances going on, maintains perspectives that view personality as a nonphysical phenomenon. Holding personality to be nonphysical still permits personality to be grounded in the physical, such that bodily manipulation affects personality. Physical factors may produce personality - but, and here I think I disagree with you, physical factors are not personality. Personality, whatever its physical ties, is essentially, when pressed, a nonphysical phenomenon and must be treated as such. Thus, psychoanalytic ideas survive: clients can't just be treated with medicine, because drugs do not always properly address mental issues (not yet). Sure, the mind is tied to the brain, but the mind is nevertheless something distinct, and it can be approached as such. The "mental," although derived from the physical, has its own character that has nothing to do with the physical; in fact, the most thorough analysis of the physical can never completely describe the character of the mental. I could get angry at someone; every single process that went on in my brain could be explained to me; yet that would not at all touch on what it means to me to be angry. This character of the mental, which arises from the brain while remaining distinct from the brain, is an example of the nonphysical relating to the physical.

And I think I would include reason and logic as nonphysical, but I thought it was easier not to.

God would exist in the physical realm too, but I'm just considering the nonphysical - and I'm saying that God could exist in the nonphysical, not that he does. Whether God would need a physical body somewhere in order to exist nonphysically is an interesting question: it seems we only know of the nonphysical coming from the physical. I suppose he'd be the exception to that rule?

I wouldn't think that animals and humans experience beauty in the same way. So, although a duck responds to the beauty of another duck, the duck's response is very different from somebody being moved to tears by music (the effect of the music having nothing to do with memories). As for proof of this, I'm not qualified to give anything hard and fast - but I would assume it's the same of the inverse claim, that animals and humans experience in the same way.

It seems like there's an assumption either way. Those who assume the existence of the nonphysical deny naturalism; those that assume the nonexistence of the nonphysical deny human self-reports.

Some things, when pressed, seem to defy explanation. It's why poetry might get at more truth than analytic philosophy: some things cannot be subject to analysis. Plato gives an interesting example of this between the Symposium and the Phaedrus. Symposium was written earlier and gives a very coolly reasoned dissection of the nature of love. Phaedrus, written after the Symposium, describes love in metaphor, leaving hazy passion and imagery in the account of love. It's been said that Plato had a change of opinion from one work to the next: the most accurate way to describe love was actually to leave it unclear.

I don't see how naturalism explains the "fuzzy" things of life, such as beauty in music, self-identify, and love for another, without reducing those things to things they are not. Some things are reducible; others are not.

So faith - what exactly is it? The instances from the Bible seem to show what faith can do, but those acts of faith don't seem to be what faith is. Results of faith are clear; faith itself is mysterious. And I'm saying we do have evidence of the mysterious in daily life (although I'd be interested in a naturalistic account of them). Just because faith is mysterious doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

A lack of works produced by faith doesn't mean faith doesn't exist. It may just mean that faith is not properly had by most.

DagoodS said...

Jarrod,

Thanks for the conversation. I am enjoying it very much. If you will recall, my original blog entry was discussing faith and how—whatever it was—it produced great works such as raising the dead, changing weather and even moving metaphorical mountains.

Further, part of my complaint has been the diminution, the reduction and withdrawing of the definition of “faith” to avoid the difficulties presented in the Bible.

If I am following you correctly, “faith” is some mysterious concept, of a non-physical nature. As it is of a non-physical nature, it opposes the physical nature, yet it depends on the physical nature. Curiously, you originally you indicated a dichotomy between scientific, rational, logical, methodical and creative, irrational, aesthetic, qualitative, irreducible.

Now you would include reason and logic in the non-physical. We seem to be jumping around quite a bit, trying to get the right pieces to land in the right spots for the moment, and then later re-arranging the pieces, because of new problems that evolve. (I told you it was a tricky word to define!)

This is what I see here. We now have placed “faith” into the non-physical. By definition this takes it out of observation. If I can observe it, it cannot be “faith,” as we know that “faith” is non-physical. You indicate faith (as a non-physical) is dependent on the physical, yet that dependence is also unverifiable, and unknown. Finally, we round off with the claim that just because faith is “mysterious” doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

Do you see how little is left?

A thing that can raise the dead (!) yet the best defense is, “it is possible that it does exist.” A thing that can make a storm stop (!) and we have “it is unobservable, and unknown as to how it is dependent on the physical.”

And even with this new description, yet again we are faced with the problem that, the only way for God to work is to have Him be (yet another) exception to the rule. Yet it is this God in whom one has to have faith. The very thing we are trying to determine, is based upon an exception to the thing we are trying to determine!

Yes, I am well-aware that animals view beauty differently than humans. I was not the one (if you remember) that used appreciation of beauty as an example of “non-physical.” Are we now saying that “appreciation of beauty only as a human appreciates beauty” is evidence for the non-physical?

Why are humans the exception to the rule? Or is that, too, mysterious?

Don’t you see what they have done, Jarrod? And how you have bought into it? Imagine I told you I had a box. And in that box was the answer to your question. But if you open the box, it destroys the paper with the answer on it. Tantalizing it is forever out of reach. I can always assure you that the answer is there. You can’t verify by the terms of my box.

Over and over Christians have assured me that there is an answer. Unfortunately it is always mysterious, or I (like all humans) am too stupid to understand it, or some day it will come, or it is on another plane, or it is a paradox, or whatever excuse comes readily to mind.

It is partly why I wrote this blog entry. I KNOW “faith” is tough to define. I understand why it is so much easier to toss it into the “We don’t know, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist” yet regardless of what it is, the Bible demands that this thing have results. Results I do not see. Results that are excused away by creating nebulous definitions that, within their own terms, make “faith” unreachable.

Jesus said “Oh, you of little faith.” (Matt. 6:30, 8:26, 14:31, 16:8) Does that make sense in light of what we are talking about? Compare it to the other items listed as “non-physical.”

“Oh, you of little personality.”
“Oh, you of little mind.”
”Oh, you of little appreciation for music.”
“Oh, you of little poetry.”

Seriously, Jarrod, do any of those things sound similar to faith? As if one could gain more personality, or mind or appreciation for music?

I have had comparable conversations with Christians on other topics. I list my verses (as you can see.) I show my sources. I point out exactly what the Bible says. I am careful to keep it in context (despite what my detractors may claim.) And in response I rarely get Bible verses. I often get “I think that ‘faith’ {or whatever else I am discussing} means…”

If you guys don’t buy the Bible as being an accurate depiction of theology, should I?

You say that “mind” is different than “brain.” O.K. What processes, what concepts are included in “mind” that do not include the brain? Without the brain, how do we activate, or touch these processes? Where, absent the brain, can we find them?

I understand the poetic nature of words such as “mind” or “heart.” But in the end, it is all mental process. We may choose, as humans, to designate certain of those processes as of higher value, or place them in categories, but they are still synapses within the brain. Can you point out a single non-physical item that can occur without those synapses?

And yes, I know it is not very romantic. I understand we want to be more than a biological entity. Yet without demonstration of how those items could possible exist, it is what we are. Otherwise, all we have done is create a box, claim there is an answer within, but then deny all access to the box.

You ask a good question. One that deserves a response: “How does naturalism account for the mysterious?” I presume you are talking about personality, mind, appreciation of music, self-awareness, the “non-physical,” correct?

(First of all, I would note that since I do not have the “non-physical” I do not have to account for them. That is really more of a non-physicalist, than a naturalist problem. *wink* But I understand what you are getting at.)

Remember we are evolved creatures. It is good to look at our past. As I have pointed out, other creatures appreciate beauty, and song. Humans are not so rare in that regard. While I am uncertain as to whether creatures are self-aware to the extent of humans, they are certain aware of who they are, have a fear of death, exhibit personality, as well as problem-solving.

Secondly, we are biological (not pure mechanical) so each of our make-up is different. We were not stamped out on an assembly line. And considering the complexity of the human mind (let alone the human body) the possibilities of combinations to make up our personality, reasoning process, appreciations, feelings, etc, would approach infinity.

And even then, we are interacting with out biologics that affect our own processes. We like similar music to what we were raised with. Indian music does not appeal to me, which is not surprising, given my upbringing. Native American music appeals to my children, which is also not surprising, given their upbringing.

Same with art, personality, reasoning process, etc.

Simply put, Jarrod, we have more than enough to work with within our physical realm, that we don’t need to create “non-physical” items.

Finally, you indicate that a lack of works as a result of faith does not mean it doesn’t exist. Just that it is not properly had by “most.” Fair enough. Give me one. One person that has faith. Show me one moved mountain. One limb growing for an amputee. One raised dead. Remember, it is not dependent on the receiver’s faith, but on the giver. Where is this person (let alone many) that is raising the dead?

Not some story. Not some unverified tale of darkest Africa. Peter had so much faith, his freakin’ shadow healed people! Where is that person? Where is that faith?

stephen said...

Dagoods:
Science is willing to modify upon new facts. "Faith" is not. Faith demands the new facts conform to its belief, not vice versa.

That's a tendentious definition of faith. Of course you can make faith look risible if you define it any old way to suit your purposes.

Christianity has existed for 2,000 years, and each generation has adapted the faith to fit the knowledge available to it. It is not a static entity … despite the effort of fundamentalists to make it such.

In other words, your definition of faith is simply wrong — it's a caricature.

It seems to me (and I could be wrong) you are confusing the difference between "trust" (based upon previous experience) and "faith."

And here you offer a tendentious account of science. Do you have previous experience of non-living things coming to life? Because that's the example we were discussing.

The naturalist cannot call upon experience to validate his or her position … the naturalist must exercise faith that life arose "naturally".

James said...

What is the difference between “trust” and “faith”? Why do we not see the faith that is described in the Bible?

The faith that is described in the Bible can be found in Hebrews 11:1:

"Now faith is being certain of what hope for and certain of what we do not see."

You have faith in certain aspects of the world and so does the Christian. The faith that an atheist has is not grounded in some rational basis that surmounts the Christian's faith in God as our Creator and Redeemer. We all have faith; we just differ in where we place our faith. So you can use the word "trust" if it makes you feel better, but it doesn't change the faith commitments that you maintain.


Let’s talk about the sun rising. As of today, I have seen over 14,700 sun risings in my life time. Like clockwork (cute, eh?) every 24 hours (give or take the position of the earth in relation to the sun.) Assuming a minimalist YEC position, there have been over 2.1 Million sun risings that have transpired over the past 6000 years. And, again, every 24 hours (‘cept one, of course.)

Taking the actual age of the earth, we are looking at least 1.27 Trillion sun rises. Again, about every 24 hours.

Having had it happen 1.27 Trillion times, is it so out of the realm of possibility that it might happen once more?

As Bruce correctly pointed out—it is possible a wayward shot from an unknown intergalactic alien battle is flying toward the sun even as I type this, to snuff it out in a few moments. Possible—but extremely unlikely.


You (as well as Bruce) have missed my point. You are providing pragmatic reasons why the sun will probably rise tomorrow (all of which I agree with), but your conclusion is based on fallacious reasoning. You are begging the question; a fallacy know as Petitio Principii.

Your reasoning goes thusly, "Today was like yesterday, and yesterday was like the day before and so and on and so on, therefore, probably, tomorrow will be like today."

You have no rational grounds for assuming the uniformity of nature and this poses a huge problem for the naturalistic worldview.

I am surprised (stunned even) that you are equating that type of belief with “faith.” It seems to trivialize it to the point of complete insignificance.

On the contrary, it is you (and Bruce) who have trivialized the issue that we have before us. Induction is a serious philosophical problem that has plagued philosophers since Hume brought it to light in the 18th century. You may wish for induction to be a given because it seems so obvious, but much like the deductive problem of evil that has been discussed on this blog lately, I don't think you are understanding the full implications of the philosophical problem that I am using against your worldview.

Are you saying that if I claim there is a 1 in a 1.27 Trillion chance the sun will not rise tomorrow because of an unknown Alien Rebel Force, that is the same as a Christian’s faith?

No, your faith is nowhere near being as reasonable as the Christians. The point is simply that we all have faith, so the issue of attacking a Christian's faith is a bullet in your own foot.

When Christ said, “Nothing is impossible with faith” (Matt. 17:20) I have always read that as a claim that faith is a powerful tool by which great things can be accomplished. This idea that Christian faith is the same as naturalist reliance on repeated events seems to take this to a different meaning. As if we should reverse it and remove the double negative and read it “As long as anything is possible, you can have faith.”

My faith is based on an epistemology and metaphysic which lends itself to rational thought, a foundation which is consistent with what I see in the world (relationships, humanness, sin, right, wrong, thoughts, laws, order, origins, etc.) and hence my faith as described in Hebrews is the basis for all rationality. This is far and apart from the caricature that I see represented of the Christian faith.

Your faith on the other hand, is not based on repeated events of the past; it is based more fundamentally on the flawed notion that because today was like yesterday, and the day before that tomorrow we will see like events. The reasoning that is going on at a deeper level is fallacious though it pragmatically makes sense to you.

Is that really the extent of your faith? That “anything is possible” and therefore reliance on past events, no matter how many times they have occurred, means the next moment anything can happen?

No, but that should be the extent of your faith because you have no rational grounds for assuming induction.

James said...

You're right, aliens might destroy it with their deathstar tonight. So yes, there is a very tiny chance that the sun won't rise tomorrow, but believing that this will not happen is in no way tantamount to religious faith.

Let me put this another way. without begging the question (which is fallacious most of the time), how do you know that the sun will rise tomorrow?

When I said that the belief that the sun will rise tomorrow was not faith, I meant that it is not like religious faith. This is how it usually works:

Atheist: "Religion is based on faith, not facts."
Theist: "Atheism is faith too. You have faith that the sun will rise every morning."


Your "facts" amount to begging the question. Do you think it is rational and reasonable to beg the question in our reasoning process? If so, then what's wrong with my faith? If not, then why are you begging the question and acting like your conclusion is based on facts?

The atheist is using faith in the religious sense, as in religion is based on things that cannot be proved by any methods we have here on earth and is thus accepted without valid proof. So the theist, in an attempt to knock the atheist down a peg or two, argues that atheism is just as irrational because it ultimately is based on faith as well, the same type of irrational faith as religion.

I don't know of many theistic thinkers that argue that atheism is "just as irrational". I think that Christianity is rational and that the atheist has no rational grounds to maintain atheism as a philosophical and worldview outlook.

I was merely arguing that the belief that the sun will rise every morning is not a religious type of faith. This is explained by DagoodS in the original post, I was just reiterating it because I have heard the sun rising argument so often.

It's not a religious faith because it lacks belief in God, not because it is a faith based on facts.

Drawing conclusions based on logical induction is nowhere near the same thing as having religious faith.

That's right; you beg the question. And that's not very "logical"

The fact that scientific knowledge is provisional does not make religious faith its equal. These are two different types of "faith". But I can understand how it is to the theist's advantage to keep the differences hidden and confused.

I am not sure what you mean by this. I am certainly not trying to say that your faith is the same as mine. My faith is the basis for rational thought, yours is based on the flawed notion that tomorrow will be like today because that's the way it has been in the past. Strictly speaking, this is a philosophically weak way of reasoning because it begs the question and provides no basis to assume induction.

Kiwi Dave said...

Yes, inductive logic has problems, but it can be used to make publically verifiable predictions such as the sun rising tomorrow, if I move my hand and fingers I can pick up that piece of paper and so on.

What faith-based publically verifiable predictions can religion make?

James said...

Yes, inductive logic has problems,


There is nothing wrong with inductive logic. A strong inductive argument that is cogent is probably true. We make inferences every day in our thinking and reasoning process that are mostly inductive in their structure.

The problem that I am bringing to light is that the naturalist has no rational basis with which to ground their assumption of induction. We all assume induction for the very reason that you state; it works quite well. But that's not the problem.


The orginal poster asked the question:

"If you have faith, why do you care about reason at all? Why do you even feel the necessity to argue the viability of various positions within Christianity?"

OK, fine. Then my question is:

Why are you using induction to argue the viability of various positions (for example the sun rising tomorrow) within naturalism when your position is faith-based as well?

Why oh why Mr. Naturalist/Atheist/Skeptic do you care about reason at all when your position is faith-based?

Dollar said...

As far as the Bible is concerned, faith has to do with trusting Christ to cleanse you from sin. The word pistos (GR), has a specified meaning in the context of NT (especially) theology. It is not blind trust in the EXISTENCE of a God, but rather a coming to Him and trusting for help.

This being the case, a Christian is more than free to use reason as much as anybody else as far as deducing the origin and purpose of the existing universe. Faith is not a hinderence to reason, but rather gives direction to it.

Jarrod said...

DagoodS,

Hey, I'm enjoying this too. Thanks for staying interested despite my "jumping around." Trying to get clearer and more precise each time around - maybe make my posts more like yours.

I really don't think I'm withdrawing the definition of faith as presented in the Bible. Rather, I'm trying to provide what's only a part of a complete account of faith. I'm trying to hone in on a significant definition of faith in the Bible that can be denied or accepted - with equal grounds for doing either.

A note: sorry about the confusion in including "logical" on one side of my dichotomy and then later saying that reason and logic belong to the other side. I had seemed to describe the nonphysical as "creative, irrational, aesthetic, qualitative, irreducible" and the physical as "scientific, rational, logical, methodological," making it a point to oppose those two. This is most likely muddled thinking on my part, as I'm not quite prepared to make that claim that the nonphysical and the physical correspond to their descriptive respective lists. Rather, I'd just like to oppose the nonphysical to the physical, and, separately, to oppose the "creative, irrational, aesthetic, qualitative, irreducible" to the "scientific, rational, logical, methodological." Now, I should probably go ahead and take "logical" out of that last list to avoid confusion with "logic," but, in my head, I did not consider "logical" to mean the same thing as "logic." By "logical" I meant "ordered causation": an event leads to another event which leads to another, in a very observable, predictable manner. Science concerns itself with studying these orderly caused processes. I meant "logical" to directly oppose "creative," "creative" referring to the spontaneous, unpredictable, "unfollowable." Hope that's better.

Also: I'd said that the nonphysical is separate from the physical, yet that the nonphysical depends entirely on the physical. Here, my metaphysics may just be bad. I don't really want to retract my statement, but, honestly, I just don't know, at this time, if I should. In response to your question "Can you point out a single non-physical item that can occur without those synapses," I wanted to say that it shouldn't matter, but I'm not sure anymore if that's acceptable. I can't really offer anything of strength on this point. My apologies! I'll still maintain, though, that two distinct things must not necessarily have to be able to exist apart from each other, because that's important to my argument.

So, now on to what I want to say.

I think faith has a legitimate use for the Christian and non-Christian in the natural, physical world insofar as meaning "trust based on evidence." I don't think there's any discrepancy between us on this. People have faith that the sun will rise tomorrow because they've seen it happen many times. People would've had this same faith that Peter could heal a person if they had previously seen him heal people.

Leaving, a little bit, the physical world-"trust based on evidence" faith, there's a difference between what faith is and what faith does/the effects of faith. I would say that "what faith is" is mysterious and part of the creative, irrational, aesthetic, etc set. I would also say that "what faith does" is another matter entirely.

Moving mountains, raising dead, walking on water - those are all instances of "what faith does." You say that clear cases of "what faith does" proves the presence of "what faith is." I say not necessarily.

It may be that the nature of faith does not stipulate the appearance of extraordinary results. I've insisted on the mysterious nature of "what faith is." I do that primarily from personal experience - I also insisted on the mysteriousness of the experience of beauty - but a corollary is that it becomes difficult, to an external observer, to specify what is faith and what is not. It's the same with beauty and consciousness. Moving mountains might very well indicate faith - but I don't see it as necessarily indicating faith. Not moving mountains might very well indicate a lack of faith - but I don't see it as necessarily indicating a lack of faith. This is not a cop out! I'll finish this paragraph by saying that the seeming lack of extraordinary modern examples of "what faith does" could very well indicate in Christians a very real general want of faith that's even as big as a mustard seed. I don't know - I must defer here to theologians, which I am not.

However, a general lack of a certain amount of faith is not a general complete lack of faith. Now, I have made faith out to be something mysterious that merely exists. I do that not because I think faith is merely something that exists, but, rather, to bring the discussion to a point where it is seen that an assumption is made on both sides. The naturalist, or physicalist (I probably did blur them together somewhere), would do two things. First, he would not accept things of a mysterious, inexplicable nature; second, if only for arguments sake, if he did accept things of a mysterious nature, he would not go anywhere with such things. Things of a mysterious nature would be worthless as any sort of useful knowledge, as their existence is only tenuously granted and doesn't conform to his expectations for things that are usefully knowable. The non-naturalist, or the Christian, would accept things of a mysterious nature and would grant that such things are worthwhile as useful knowledge. Merely existing, mysterious faith would be, to the Christian, a rich, fertile, useful phenomenon, in spite of being mysterious.

I like the box analogy: it might serve to make matters clearer. You said that is this box is "the answer to your question. But if you open the box, it destroys the paper with the answer on it." I'm trying to say that, to get inside the box, there is another way of opening it, a way that would not destroy the paper inside the box. But this other way entails a different approach to the box - an approach so different that the original question might disappear altogether.

You brought up some interesting stuff in your last post that I know I did not get to. Thank you, though, for the physicalist account of the mysterious - that did help. My claim this time around is that the physicalist and the Christian account of the mysterious, insofar as how they accept an irreducible yet meaningful nature of the mysterious, are epistemically equal. Which view is chosen has profound consequence for how faith, both "what it is" and "what it does," is approached.

Bruce said...

I don't know of many theistic thinkers that argue that atheism is "just as irrational". I think that Christianity is rational and that the atheist has no rational grounds to maintain atheism as a philosophical and worldview outlook.

Oh, come on now James, you can't be serious. Most Christians I know have no problem admitting they believe in God solely because they have faith. In fact, they consider their faith to be the most important part of their religion. They are proud of the fact that they continue to have faith in God despite absolutely no credible evidence to support such belief (and a lot of evidence to the contrary). This is the very definition of irrationality.

You are begging the question; a fallacy know as Petitio Principii.

Wrong. Here is an example of begging the question:

"We know the Bible is the word of God because it was inspired by God."

On the other hand, understanding how the laws of physics and planetary motion work is a perfectly rational justification for the knowledge that the sun will rise in the morning.

Let me put this another way. without begging the question (which is fallacious most of the time), how do you know that the sun will rise tomorrow?

First, I never claimed to know with 100% certainty that the sun will rise tomorrow (go back and reread my first post in this thread). We understand that there are some things that could happen which would cause the sun not to rise (the earth being thrown off its orbit, the sun being destroyed by aliens). We have no problem admitting that the sun rising is not a 100% guarantee (it is so close to 100% though that it doesn't keep us up at night).

But we would never say that we have "faith" that the sun will rise in the morning. Arguing that we have "faith" that the sun will rise is a strawman imposed upon us by theists in order to bring scientific rationality down to the level of irrational faith. Rather, we would say that the sun will rise tomorrow based on the principles of physics and planetary motion unless some astronomically unlikely event in the natural world happens that would cause it not to rise. This is pure science and probability, no faith involved whatsoever.

DagoodS said...

Stephen/Q,

I apologize if you find my observation of faith, as practiced as “tendentious.”

As I wrote my blog entry, as you can see, I pointed out various verses in the Bible, some descriptions of faith, and some possible problems with those descriptions. But on thing that struck me was the power that was also associated with this Faith (regardless of the technical definition) and I wondered two aspects:

1) What, exactly, is the definition of “faith” and if it is not blind faith, how much evidence is required to not be faith, and how much to be faith; and
2) Where is this grand evidence of “Faith” that would smash all non-believer’s arguments?

More on this in a moment.

Perhaps, if I was a better blogger, I would have consistently insisted on people adhering to the parameters I listed in my blog entry. Perhaps I should have refused discussing with any person that dared veer from the course I carefully laid out.

But I like discussing with people. I like having my thoughts challenged, and questions presented. I like presenting my ideas and concepts to see how well they persuade (or do not) people that hold opposing positions.

Which, unfortunately, means I can get caught up in rabbit trails, and can deviate from the original course of the discussion. When I tried to mold a new definition of faith, I was doing it from your description, not mine. If it was tendentious, I am sorry. Just trying to “nail down your position” as it were.

Apparently you DO agree that faith changes. O.K. When did faith change from this thing that could raise the dead, heal the sick and change the weather? Why did the change come into being? And, if in the Bible “Faith” is described as such, but has now changed, what else has changed. Has grace? Salvation? Love? Redemption? Predestination? This opens up a whole new cadre of interesting prospects.

(See? There I go. More interested in the discussion than becoming a “Blog Master” and insisting we stay on topic. But, on the other hand, it is my blog entry. “It’s my blog entry and I can tangent if I want to. Tangent if I want to. Tangent if I want to. You would tangent too, if it happened to you.”)

So here is my question to you, Stephen. If you agree that faith has changed, do you hold that faith no longer has the power to raise the dead and heal the sick? If so—why the change?





As to abiogenesis, no—I have obviously NOT seen non-living converted to living. What I have seen are claims that god(s) have done and perform certain actions that turn out, upon better information, to be purely natural. I have watched, over the course of history, “God” shrink.

And I have seen natural causes postulated, scoffed at by theists, and eventually both proven and embraced by the theists. (Hint: heliocentric theory.) I have seen natural explanations (evolution) that account for observed items (fossil record) even though it is acknowledged that the actual process of evolution cannot generally be observed, due to the length of time.

And most absolutely positively, I do not accept the premise that “We cannot explain something naturally right now” automatically equates to “A God must have done it.”

I avoid dichotomies.






James/Anonymous


I am aware of the definition of faith, found in Hebrews 11:1. Even mentioned it in my blog entry! *smile*

The problem with Hebrews 11:1, read solely as a stand alone verse, is that it would make “faith” equal to “blind faith.” I recognize, that there are other verses that deal with faith that would make faith more than blind. Rahab had seen what YHWH had done for the Jews in the desert, which is evidence. Abraham had seen God work, which is evidence.

The faith chapter, while starting off with a simplistic device of “lack of evidence + Belief = faith” goes on to describe something different.

So I try to be a little more complete and understanding, in my definition, rather than limit it to one author’s statement in one verse. It is far more complex (as this discussion demonstrates) than that.

As to the sun rising, I did not realize that I would need to explain it further. Observation of the effect is only one part of the evidence. We can observe other suns, in their various stages, and see other planets that also have the effect of sunrise. We can see suns that exploded, and lost the ability to sunrise. We see that same possibility for ours.

We see suns that have become black holes. Using our human minds we can extrapolate that the sun must have not exploded over the past 3.5 Billion years, or else we would not be here. That the sun did not turn into a black hole because we can fire stuff away from the sun.

It is far more than just, “we have seen it happen every day for millions of years.” But that is my fault for not providing more evidence.

And yes, inductive argument IS pragmatically helpful. Otherwise we would probably go insane. How would we know that our alarm clock would work? Or we turn the level and shower water comes on? Or toast comes out of the toaster? Or the engine starts when we turn the key? Or the road leads in the same direction?

Yes, we ALL recognize that alarm clocks break, that plumbing malfunctions, cars run out of gas, toasters fizzle, and road work can screw up our day. But the FIRST thing we do is follow the premise that what yesterday was like, today will repeat.

Are you claiming that is the same as Christian faith? Seriously, do you look at a dead person and say, “Oh, we raise those all the time. Believing s/he will come back is simply a matter of faith.” Or “Sickness? Easily cured by a bit of faith-prayer.”

We use Tylenol because it relieves our headache. If you say that is the exact same as Christian faith, you should be praying, not taking Tylenol, to relieve your headache.

On the use of the word “trust.”

Over the course of time, languages put together a string of sounds or marks that correspond to a certain concept. When I use the word “trust” I am not trying to trick a Christian into a different meaning, or worship a dictionary instead of a Bible, trying hold a person to a certain meaning upon a certain presentation of symbols.

The word “faith” is an English presentation of a Christian concept. I am trying to ascertain what exactly that concept IS, and how it is different from other concepts. (Such as what we call “trust.”) For example, if we say a person has remained “faithful” to their spouse, it means they have not had sex with anyone else. But saying “You have remained faithful to God” most certainly does NOT mean you have only had sex with God!

Simply saying the English word “Faith” therefore does not necessarily correspond to what the Bible means as “Faith.” What I am doing, in pointing out the difference, is questioning as to whether what the Bible means as “Faith” really is more of what we now call “Trust.” Which brings back the issue of how much evidence one needs to still have “faith.”




Stephen & James,

Let me cover a few points that can be addressed to both of you.

I started this blog, really looking for a response as to why Christian faith no longer acts the way described in the Bible. I listed some of the descriptions of faith as listed in the Bible.

Regardless of the definition of faith, I wanted to see the pragmatic effects of that faith, as demonstrated in a Christian life. What I have seen is argument about:

1) Non-believer faith = believer faith
2) Believers use reason, too, in their faith.

Let’s assume that my belief the sun will rise tomorrow is the same exact kind of belief that a Christian has. That we have both gathered some basic observed information as the groundwork of our position, but once that information ran out took a step of faith as to the conclusion.

In reviewing the evidence available, I hold that the sun will rise tomorrow, the Christian holds to the Christian belief.

What is the pragmatic effect of my belief? I set my alarm clock, save my money, fill my car with gas, kiss my wife, make plans with my children—all based upon the belief that tomorrow the sun will come out.

What is supposed to be the pragmatic effect of your belief? According to what I read in what you believe in (a divinely inspired written document) the effect should be people raised from the dead, sick healed, and weather controlled. We should be seeing metaphorical mountains moved.

How many times have I said this? How many times has it been ignored?

People who have entered this thread have wanted to discuss how atheists have faith, too. Fine. Lovely discussion. Interesting, even.

But in the end, the reason we say Christianity does NOT follow reason as naturalism, is that we act as our beliefs pragmatically dictate. According to the Bible, Christians do not.

Let me end with a great quote and my response:

James: Why oh why Mr. Naturalist/Atheist/Skeptic do you care about reason at all when your position is faith-based?

Because “faith” for a naturalist/skeptic is the last resort. It is what we use when all other evidence has run out. And upon learning new evidence, we are more than willing to resurrect our “faith” position and re-evaluate, modify, and reject it, because we recognize it for what it is—blind, no-evidence, guess.

But this is NOT what the Bible describes as a Christian’s faith. It is their first, their best their mightiest weapon in the argument over theism.

I will say it again: We have no response to the dead rising again over a few words spoken. None.

The reason it baffles me as to why Christians do not use “Faith” to prove their point, is that it is a deal-killer, and argument-winner, a debate-smasher. It will trump, trounce and annihilate all non-believers in their path. Bring a person back to life. Debate ends. Right there. Right now.

Why do we care about reason? Because it is our strongest argument. Which brings us back to full-circle. Are you saying that reason and logic and not faith is YOUR strongest argument?

How come the Bible describes it so differently, then?

DagoodS said...

Jarrod.

Stop it! Do not denigrate yourself with such statements as “defer to theologians” or “bad metaphysics.” You are articulate, thought-out and understandable. The reason that faith has become a tangled mess has nothing to do with you claiming an inability to understand—it has to do with those alleged theologians and philosopher’s inability to explain.

It is their fault, not yours. They have now even convinced you that somehow they are so much smarter, or so much more studied, that if you do not comprehend what they are saying “faith” comprises of, it is because you are too stupid. Well—Stop it! I don’t buy it.

Look, I am not a neurosurgeon. Rest assured, if I perform brain surgery, the patient will die. But if I am having brain surgery, no matter how smart that neurosurgeon is, no matter how many letters are behind their name, they should be able to describe in layman’s terms what will be happening in this surgery.

Too long theologians and Christian philosophers (and, sadly, non-believers equally as well) have hid behind long words, and muddled explanations. Time for simple explanations for simple truths.

I will get off my soapbox, now. Sorry.

Have you seen what is happening in this comment section, Jarrod? In my blog entry, I have pointed out various verses. What the Bible says faith consists of. Faith does move mountains, according to the Bible. James says that faith without works is dead. Kaput.

I know Christians would like to only focus on a definition of faith. Belief with little or no evidence. But the Bible specifically states that such a belief will absolutely, positively produce results. The reason that I, as an unbeliever, know there is such a thing as faith, is not by some definition, or comparison—but because I see the results.

Now—have you seen anyone state, “Hey, you read those verses incorrectly”? Or has anyone pointed out a verse I missed, some passage that would clarify that results are not a necessary ingredient in faith? Nope.

While I appreciate your attempting to defend the notion of faith as an element just as mysterious as appreciation of music, something non-physical, in the back of my mind I continue to wonder how one gets around the clear direction of the Bible.

I will say it again and again and again. The Bible says faith raises the dead. The Christians argue here that faith is believing the sun will rise for the 1,270,000,000,001 time. Why are Christians so afraid of the Biblical definition?

I am curious why you hold that creative process is spontaneous, unpredictable and unfollowable. Writing prose follows a definitive format. Deliberate avoidance of a format even has its own form. One does not write in iambic pentameter and call it “free-style.”

Music is most certainly NOT unpredictable and unfollowable. Even a chorus of frogs has a rhythm and synchronicity. We do not appear at a concert for Beethoven’s Fifth, and wonder what we will hear. Would you call Beethoven’s music not creative? Of course not.

Numerous creative endeavors follow formats. Architecture, writing, painting, sculpture, graphic layouts, etc. Yes, they can deviate from the format. Think about that. If there WAS no format, we wouldn’t know what a deviation is, true?

Jarrod, as you can see, there is no bright line distinction between physical and non-physical. Creativity can use logical processes as well.

What is the legitimate use of faith for a Christian? You indicate people would believe that Peter could heal, because they saw him heal. Is that it? Once we see it, we can believe it? That is simply observable information. Have you seen God raise the dead? Without seeing, do you believe God can raise the dead? If that is faith, it must not be dependent on seeing.

It is a far cry from seeing the sun come up again.

YOU may not say what faith does proves what faith is. But your Bible says differently. How do you get around the Book of James? How do you get around Jesus directly tying faith into an action? At some point the Bible can no longer be ignored, and should be addressed.

Let you in on a secret. A naturalist most certainly would accept things of a mysterious nature. We just want some evidence of it. And when we ask, we are informed that by definition, there is no evidence. Fair enough.

But then the Christian refuses to accept other people’s claims of items of a mysterious nature. When we ask, “Why?” we are told there is no evidence of it. Wait a minute. I use your same methodology (requiring evidence of things mysterious) yet I am not to apply your methodology to your belief?

Worse, I look at what a Christian claims is within this mysterious nature. And within it, is a claim that by utilizing faith people are healed. There are pragmatic results of this belief.

Where are those results? What do Christians say is so rich and fertile and useful about faith, Jerrod? What does the Bible say is so rich and fertile and useful about faith?

If the Christian disagrees with the Bible, shouldn’t I?

Jarrod said...

DagoodS,

Always worried about just rehashing what I've already said and not moving it towards your points - I hope that's not the case here.

The trouble with simple Christian truths is that the truths are in reference to something who, it is said, is beyond our comprehension. Theology begins knowing that its subject of study will never be fully grasped. Theology proceeds hoping only to approach truth (truth being God and the supernatural world), to understand only a part of the whole that there is to understand. Theology always ends in wonder; when all the best studies are done, the mystery that remains must be accepted. Since the subject is God, mystery does always remain: the truth is not capable of being fully known. So while apparently correct simple Christian truths are in common circulation (such as "God is love") if these apparently correct simple Christian truths are pressed a bit more, they become less simple (such as reconciling love with justness). The nature of God himself would lie behind this complicating. In fact, it seems that apparently simple occurrences in nature often become more complicated when matters are pressed (such as reconciling the law of gravity with flying airplanes). (Concentrating on God or on the natural world is a significant difference, though.) Maybe some complex phenomenon can, indeed, be expressed simply; its full explanation, however, will be complicated. I wonder, in the analogy of brain surgery, if we've moved beyond the simple, acceptable terms of brain surgery that are given to patients and if we want the technical and precise account of brain surgery that is given to doctors. I guess I never expected a totally simple account of faith, not for what you're after. And I assume that theologians are the ones to engage the technical features of Christianity. If I defer to theologians, it's because they delve into technical Christianity, with its complications. They're the doctors, I'm a patient, though I might have some idea of how brain surgery works.

I'm trying to steer clear of faith as meaning trust, because "faith" as the Christian means it is obviously something a bit more unique. It's the difference between faith and trust, whether the difference makes faith a special kind of trust or something other than trust, that we're after. I think faith is best thought of as a certain kind of trust - trust in a certain way.

Faith is how the Christian has a relationship with God. That is faith's purpose: with faith a natural being approaches the supernatural. I mentioned in an earlier comment, I think, that faith could be a grasping of something - in the case of the Christian, a grasping of the divine. Such a true grasping includes a realization of the state of God and of the state of the grasper, and it includes an active acceptance (rather than a detached belief - it's why faith is better construed as a type of trust than a type of belief); salvation, then, would be an accompanier of faith. The belief that God could raise the dead would also accompany faith; to realize the state of God is to realize that he could, in fact, raise the dead. Faith is the means by which a finite creature enjoys a relationship with an infinite one. And if there is one thing the Bible consistently puts forth throughout the whole book, it is that there is nothing, simply, better (e.g. rich, fertile, useful, etc.) than relating properly with and to God.

As another point, if miracles accompany faith, than prayer certainly does - if faith is connected to miracles, would there be any faith at all in prayer? I feel a true prayer would have to involve true faith - but then prayer would be an instance of genuine faith lacking a visible indicator.

What do you think of a parallel between faith and "miracles" - what you're original blog was on - and faith/works and salvation? I've been maintaining that faith and miracles are not necessarily bound together, and your most recent comment brought up again the Bible verses that seem to indicate that they are. You made the point that nobody has accused you of a faulty interpretation of those verses. Now, maybe the relationship between faith and works as they apply to salvation is important for us. Verses supporting salvation by faith alone (Romans) and verses supporting salvation by works (James) are both in the Bible, and none are denied correctness. But the greater truth, as generally accepted by Protestants, is that salvation comes by faith alone. Perhaps it is the same with faith and miracles: the greater truth concerning faith in the Bible is that faith is necessarily and sufficiently that certain relational grasping of God I talked about, with miracles a nice by-product. The possibility remains that the lack of mountains moved by faith indicates a lack of a certain quality of faith in Christians, and that's a hard thought, one that would have to be discussed among Christians. However, I see the Bible as supporting the notion that faith exists just whenever faith is present - nothing else required.

About creativity as being spontaneous, etc. I actually meant the creative process, or even more specifically, the creative germ that begins a creative process. As a non-physicalist/romantic, I wonder where art comes from - and while the idea that art somehow incredibly arises from an artist's pure soul is too much even for me, I think there might be something inexplicable that produces art, even after synthesizing all possible motivational factors. This inexplicable thing that births artwork, I'm calling creativity. Logic, of course, would be a tool; creativity would be the initiator, the handler of the tool.

Ghost said...

Interesting discussion about faith, though I have not read all of the comments.
You say:
"Raise the Dead. Make the Blind See. Provide healing and new limbs for amputees."
and then the discussion will be over. I highly doubt it. There will always be some explanation such as the man was not really dead or blind to begin with, nor sick, or there was some trick with the amputee who has a twin brother with all his limbs etc. The parable of the rich man asking for Lazarus to warn his brothers of his torment comes to mind. The truth is that there are very plain evidences to the existence of God that no man is without excuse. Yes I am paraphrasing scripture but that is because I hold it as my primary authority. It hasn't let me down so far.

And faith I believe does not by definition have to be blind. It is quite unreasonable to have a faith that has zero evidence AND zero rationality associated with it. For instance it would be absurd of me to have faith that purple cephalapod-like aliens will one day extricate me from my mundane existence and set me up as ruler over my own planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse. It is simply something I just made up and there is no evidence that these aliens exist, or that I am somehow special enough to warrant such attention. This would be (if I desired it to be so) simply wishful thinking. Our faith (as Christians) is much more than that. It is reasonable, tenable and has the veracity to stand up to rational scrutiny, and many Crhsitians would argue, the most appropriate explanation for the nature of the world around us.

Let me raise an example of what one might call faith. There is something in the universe that cannot be seen. We have never sensed this thing with any of our five senses or even with highly sensitive scientific instruments. There is no evidence that it exists whatsoever except in the minds of many people who believe it is the answer to one of the biggest problems in the universe. Proving that this thing exists in some tangible way would make these people feel very happy and justify their zeal and perseverence and vindicate their cause. Does this sound like your idea of Christians believing in God? No, what I am referring to is dark matter, which many scientists believe in with a persistent and perhaps stubborn kind of faith that is contrary to every piece of evidence that has ever been discovered (or lack thereof). I find that more than a little amusing.
Now dark matter may exist, but there is literally no evidence so far that it does.

Christian faith however is in the authority of the revelation from a rational God that fits reasonably and completely into the world we live in and observe. Atheists have faith in the ability of man to one day vindicate their rejection of God by slowly forcing Him out by closing the gaps of knowledge to show that He is not necessary. Atheists have faith not because they believe the Sun will rise tomorrow, but because they believe that the Son never rose 2000 years ago. It is a kind of anti-faith in which they have faith in. It is a belief in non-belief, yet provides no replacement for the chasm in place of what they deny.

Rich said...

After reading this great discussion, and probably too late to enter, I had a thought to add here. I think the Faith that Daggods is trying to find, the bible faith, is more a question of where faith is placed. If you have faith in the sun rising, it won't help you heal the sick. Onthe other hand faith in Christ will help you heal the sick. Just a simple belief that God exsists apparently isn't even enough to be considered a mustard seed amount of faith becasue there are plenty of people who have faith that God exists, but I see no mountains moving. The apostles saw Jesus perform miracles so they would have more faith that someone can be raised from the dead becaused they witnessed christ perform that particular miracle. The kind of faith that you are lookng for Dagoods sin't lost, it's more like we aren't exercising the faith we have to make it grow to the proportion necessary to perform such miracles. I don't know if you have access to the book of mormon but The book of Alma chapter 32 is about faith, another resource besides the bible, I think someone mentioned that somewhere is this thread.