Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Does the Bible teach that faith is opposed to logic and evidence?

Probably the biggest misconception that I encounter when defending the faith is the mistaken notion of what faith is. Today we are going to get to the bottom of what the Bible says faith is, once and for all. This post will be useful to Christians and atheists, alike.

What is faith according to the Bible?

I am going to reference this article from apologist Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason in my explanation.

Koukl cites three Biblical examples to support the idea that faith is not blind leap-of-faith wishing, but is based on evidence.

  1. Moses went out into the wilderness and he had that first encounter with the burning bush, and God gave him the directive to go back to Egypt and let his people go. Moses said, Yeah, right. What’s going to happen when they say, why should we believe you, Moses?God said, See that staff? Throw it down.Moses threw it down and it turned into a serpent.God said, See that serpent? Pick it up.And he picked it up and it turned back into a staff.

    God said, Now you take that and do that before the Jewish people and you do that before Pharaoh. And you do this number with the hail, and the frogs, and turning the Nile River into blood. You put the sun out. You do a bunch of other tricks to get their attention.

    And then comes this phrase: “So that they might know that there is a God in Israel.”

  2. [I]n Mark 2 you see Jesus preaching in a house, and you know the story where they take the roof off and let the paralytic down through the roof. Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.” And people get bugged because how can anyone forgive sins but God alone?Jesus understood what they were thinking and He said this: What’s harder to say, your sins are forgiven, or to rise, take up your pallet and go home?

    Now, I’ll tell you what would be harder for me to say : Arise, take up your pallet and go home. I can walk into any Bible study and say your sins are forgiven and nobody is going to know if I know what I am talking about or not. But if I lay hands on somebody in a wheelchair and I say, Take up your wheelchair and go home, and they sit there, I look pretty dumb because everyone knows nothing happened.

    But Jesus adds this. He says, “In order that you may know that the Son of Man has the power and authority to forgive sins, I say to you, arise, take up your pallet and go home.” And he got up and he got out. Notice the phrase “In order that you may know”.  Same message, right?

  3. Move over to the Book of Acts. First sermon after Pentecost. Peter was up in front of this massive crowd. He was talking about the resurrection to which he was an eyewitness. He talked about fulfilled prophecy. He talked about the miraculous tongues and the miraculous manifestation of being able to speak in a language you don’t know. Do you think this is physical evidence to those people? I think so. Pretty powerful.Peter tells them, These men are not drunk as it seems, but rather this is a fulfillment of prophecy. David spoke of this. Jesus got out of the grave, and we saw him, and we proclaim this to you.

    Do you know how he ends his sermon? It’s really great. Acts 2:36. I’ve been a Christian 20 years and I didn’t see this until about a year ago. This is for all of those who think that if you can know it for sure, you can’t exercise faith in it. Here is what Peter said. Acts 2:36, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” There it is again. “Know for certain.”

What is faith according to Bible-based theologians?

I am going to reference this article from theologian C. Michael Patton of Parchment and Pen in my explanation.

Patton explains that according to Reformation (conservative, Bible-based) theologians, faith has 3 parts:

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

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

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

How do beliefs form, according to Christian philosophers?

I am going to reference a portion of chapter 3 of J.P. Moreland’s “Love Your God With All Your Mind” (i.e. – LYGWYM).

J.P. Moreland explains how beliefs form and how you can change them.

  1. Today, people are inclined to think that the sincerity and fervency of one’s beliefs are more important than the content… Nothing could be further from the truth… As far as reality is concerned, what matters is not whether I like a belief or how sincere I am in believing it but whether or not the belief is true. I am responsible for what I believe and, I might add, for what I refuse to believe because the content of what I do or do not believe makes a tremendous difference to what I become and how I act.
  2. A belief’s strength is the degree to which you are convinced the belief is true. As you gain ,evidence and support for a belief, its strength grows for you… The more certain you are of a belief… the more you rely on it as a basis for action.

But the most important point of the article is that your beliefs are not under the control of your will.

…Scripture holds us responsible for our beliefs since it commands us to embrace certain beliefs and warns us of the consequences of accepting other beliefs. On the other hand, experience teaches us that we cannot choose or change our beliefs by direct effort.

For example, if someone offered you $10,000 to believe right now that a pink elephant was sitting next to you, you could not really choose to believe this… If I want to change my beliefs about something, I can embark on a course of study in which I choose to think regularly about certain things, read certain pieces of evidence and argument, and try to find problems with evidence raised against the belief in question.

…by choosing to undertake a course of study… I can put myself in a position to undergo a change in… my beliefs… And… my character and behavior… will be transformed by these belief changes.

The article goes on to make some very informative comments on the relationship between apologetics and belief.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

9 Responses

  1. ultraguy says:

    Nicely laid-out, WK. My conception of this advanced dramatically when it was pointed out to me that the word most often translated as ‘faith’ in the Bible is more connotative of ‘accumulated trust in the character of a person’ (pistis) than the typical way most people think of it (e.g., as Easter-bunny, Tooth-fairy, Santa Claus down-the-chimney deliberate suspension of disbelief — fiction acted out as if it were true, but which is never *acknowledged internally* as being true.)

    And trust in a person is, as you say, built up (or torn down) based on facts, over time. If I ask my buddy to meet me at 6:00AM to go running and every time, rain, snow, dark or cold, he’s there at 5:59, I’m more likely to trust him more for other things (around my kids and my wife, with my money, for advice, etc.) If, on the other hand, he’s erratic or blows me off entirely without a phone call, the relationship deteriorates.

    Thankfully, Jesus is the kind of guy who always shows up on time. And when he doesn’t *appear* to, it’s always the case (I discover, later) that it’s because I’ve made the wrong kind of request of Him — something out of line with His will.

  2. ToddF says:

    How do you interpret Romans 12:3, where Paul talks about the measure of faith that God gives us? He goes on talking about specific gifts, which leads me to believe the greater context of the passage is in regards to individuals, rather than humanity as a whole (individual measures of faith, rather than an equal portion for everyone).

    My opinion is that God gives us a seed of faith, which is all we need, but we are required to grow that seed through the renewing of our minds.

    I’m something of a rebel in my local church. I believe that apologetics is an important discipline for every Christian — especially parents. Most Christians tend to isolate themselves from knowledge, because we’ve been beaten up so badly in intellectual circles.

    We pretty much deserve that beating when we support people who say T-Rex was a vegetarian, because he lived before the fall of man. It’s not nice to call people heretics, so we avoid the discussion and rely on feelings and intuition.

    Still, I think the concept of faith starts with God reaching down to man, and develops from there.

    • ToddF, I agree with everything you said in your comment.

      I am not saying that everyone has to get 2 Ph.Ds. What I am saying is that you need to know enough to be able to respond to the questions of your neighbor in order to show that Christianity is true. If your neighbor is asking chemistry questions, you need to know chemistry. If your neighbor is asking philosophy of religion questions, you need to know philosophy of religion.

      If you love God, you will care about what your neighbor thinks of him. If you’re neighbors needs Ph.D answers in order to be convinced, then get a Ph.D. Quid quid requiritur.

      And I have been trying to make that point about religions pluralism clearly in my last few posts on postmodernism. The reason we gave up orthodoxy is because we wanted to be liked by others and we did not want to do any work that would detract from ur normal secular lives of home renovations, barbecues, drinking beer and playing hockey.

      We were faced with competing claims and questions about things like the problem of evil and the reality of Hell. We had two choices: 1) study to find the answer or 2) claim that orthodox beliefs were only true for us. 2) makes you more popular with non-Christians and is less work for you, because we have busy lives and no time for apologetics. But 1) is more Christ-like: disagree and take your lumps. That’s what Jesus would do.

  3. [...] Feminized-postmodern-relativist-universalist Christians need to understand what actually works to change people’s minds: arguments and evidence. Converting a person to Christianity can only be done by establishing the truth of Christianity. Any appeal to emotions and felt needs, parental authority, tradition and convention, or threats of eternal damnation do not result in authentic faith. [...]

  4. Julia says:

    I’m struggling with this dilemma:

    if you need to believe in the bible before you believe in God, but need to believe in God to believe in the bible…how do you believe at all?

    • You don’t need to believe in the Bible in order to believe in God as Creator and Deisgner. Just look at physics, specifically the kalam argument and the fine-tuning arguments. Are you familiar with those? I can explain them.

  5. Jose lacen says:

    Can you send me this articles in spanish

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