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.)