Berean cogitations

Friday, September 02, 2005

Rational faith

Atheists and other Christian-bashers often dismiss Christians as being irrational. They frequently claim that Christians simply turn their brains off and accepting their beliefs on blind, unreasoning faith. They often say that faith is, by its very nature, irrational. Conversely, they pat themselves on the back and congratulate themselves for being (ahem) "rational."

This simply proves that they haven't put much thought into their own claims. In reality, atheistic and Christian-bashing claims are often a horrible mishmash of illogic and self-contradition.

Sadly (and amazingly!), many Christians are quick to accept atheist accusations. I've often heard Christians insist that they don't need to study the scientific or historical basis for Christianity; after all, they have "faith"! I've often heard Christians criticize those believers who study such evidence, insisting that "Faith with evidence isn't faith at all!"

Balderdash. There is nothing mutually exclusive about faith and evidence. If my best friend has proven himself to be trustworthy and reliable, then I can put my faith in his steadfastness... and why? Because of the evidence. Because he has shown himself to be worthy of faith. Similarly, I have faith that my mother would lay down her life for me, even though she has never proven this. Why? Because of the evidence..

No, faith is not belief without evidence. Rather, faith is belief without proof -- without absolute proof. Faith is believing in something, while knowing full well that this belief has not been proven to be true. In other words, faith need not be blind faith.

Now, this is where critics frequently backpedal. They'll say things like, "Oh, but your friend HAS proven himself. Therefore, your belief in him isn't really faith." Or they'll say, "Well, I think your mother has proven that she'd die for you. So that's not faith your talking about." Again, balderdash. My friend has proven no such thing; in fact, it's entirely possible that he'll turn around someday and stab me in the back. It is also possible that my mother would choose to save her own life rather than put herself at risk for me. They have provided evidence of their steadfastness, but not absolute proof. Ergo, my belief in them is rooted in evidence, and it most certainly require faith.

Just look at the New Testament writers. Did they ever tell their audience, "Ya just gotta believe! Don't get hung up on logic. Ya just gotta take that leap of faith, because I'm telling you the truth!" No, they didn't. Instead, they appealed to evidence--evidence such as fulfilled prophecies, the Resurrection, and Paul's own transformed life. Ultimately, a measure of faith was still required, but they asked the people to consider the evidence as they formed their faith.

Contrary to what the skeptics--and many Christians--would say, faith does not have to be blind. In fact, true Biblical faith, as modelled by the Apostles, should not be blind at all.