googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Why must “faith” mean “blind faith”?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Why must “faith” mean “blind faith”?

While doing research the other day – I like to call surfing the net, “research” – I came across a blog titled, Counter Apologist. One post on the blog was, Faith is Belief without Good Evidence. In the opening paragraph, the author states he is critiquing the Christian definition of faith by Tom Gilson. Unfortunately, the author did not link to Gilson's definition nor even attempt to summarize it so I have no way of knowing how good his criticism is. For that matter, I can't even say how good Gilson's definition of faith is. I found some of Gilson's writing online but I still can't be sure which article the Counter Apologist is addressing. Oh, well.

Anyway, the two definitions of faith offered by the Counter Apologist are:
  1. Belief without good evidence.
  2. Pretending to know what you don't know.
One atheist, while commenting on Jerry Coyne's Blog, actually said,[E]vidence by definition cannot support faith. That is the definition of faith... [I]f you need evidence to support your religious beliefs it is not faith. Period.”.

So we have several examples of atheists attempting to redefine faith in such a way as to mean having no evidence for what we believe. They even go so far as to say if we have evidence, we can't have faith.


It's typical for critics of Christianity to want to define words in their favor but they usually limit it to more technical terms like science or evolution. Faith, however, is a word they otherwise seek to separate from science. If scientists have the right to define evolution (actually they don't have the right but they think they do), then the correct meaning of faith should be determined by the religious community, right? No. Skeptics of faith also think they have the right to define our terms as well.

On Webster-Dictionary.org, we find these definitions of faith:
  1. Belief; the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, resting solely and implicitly on his authority and veracity; reliance on testimony.
  2. The assent of the mind to the statement or proposition of another, on the ground of the manifest truth of what he utters; firm and earnest belief, on probable evidence of any kind, especially in regard to important moral truth.
So, one definition of faith is to believe something declared by another based on his authority and veracity. One thing that strikes me about that definition is that it describes a lot of people who believe in evolution. Most people aren't biologists or paleontologists or geologists or scientist of any kind. They have not seen the alleged evidence for evolution. Instead, they rely on the authority and veracity of the scientists who have studied the evidence. Their belief in evolution is nothing more than their faith in the opinions of people who they think should know. Mind you, too, that most of them have faith in people who they have never even met. Do you know who writes the science textbooks used in the schools in your neighborhood? What's his name? Where does he live? Where does he work? Where did his get his degree? The students – even the teachers – don't know either. Kids read a science textbook and believe in evolution because... well... it's in the science textbook!

Some of the critics reading this right now are seething. They're ready to tell me how the material in the textbooks isn't just the opinions of some random nobody who snagged a book deal. It's the end result of decades of research, conducted by countless scientists, and compiled by experts in the field. Never mind that the errors it contains will have to be corrected in the next edition – the current edition is cutting edge! My point in raising this is that it's not necessarily wrong to have confidence in a book authored by someone you've never even met. Faith doesn't necessarily mean blind faith. It's also having confidence in the testimony of another based on his authority and veracity.

I believe that Moses witnessed the plagues on Egypt. I believe he saw the Egyptian army drowned in the Red Sea. I believe he ate the manna that God provided for His people daily. I believe he heard the voice of God in the burning bush. And I believe the accounts of the creation and the flood that were revealed to him.

I believe the apostles knew Jesus; that they saw Him turn water into wine, heal lepers, give sight to the blind, walk on water, calm the storm, and raise the dead. I believe His words they recorded: that He is the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. I believe they saw Him die and saw Him alive again!

I believe the Bible for many of the same reasons skeptics believe in evolution; I have been convinced of the truth of it. It's not unreasonable. It's not blind faith. I will not let some tortured definition of faith shame me in questioning my faith nor trick me into trusting only “scientific” evidence.


For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then FAITH cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:11-17).

6 comments:

Steven J. said...

Actually, I learned very little about evolution in high school, and picked up nearly all of what I do know from personal reading for personal pleasure. But I take your point; I wasn't there, side-by-side with Donald Prothero as he gathered and examined fossils for decades, and have to go on trust that such-and-such a fossil has been correctly depicted and described in his book Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why it Matters). I've never actually performed the tests to confirm the existence and sequence of the human GULO pseudogene. And so forth and on.

And I agree with you; Jerry Coyne is wrong to suppose that faith cannot be supported by evidence. I think that John Loftus' definition is far better: faith is confidence in a proposition disproportionate to the evidence (not his exact words). Once, when I was in my early teens, the church youth magazine carried an article encouraging us to have "open minds," by which it meant a moderate skepticism and willingness to investigate the possibility that our views on various subjects were wrong. The article ended with a note that we were not to extend such skepticism or willingness to revise our beliefs to the Christian faith. That is what faith means: ignore, disbelieve, or "interpret" away contrary evidence. Have absolute confidence in propositions for which, at most, the evidence supports only the judgment that they are somewhat more likely to be true than false. Every creationist organization has a statement of faith promising to do this.

I will not revise my views on evolution merely because some creationist doesn't understand it, or offers a fallacious critique of some aspect of it, or does not believe that, e.g. fossils of Homo erectus or Anchiornis or Rodhocetus exist. But in the face of actual evidence (and it is worth noting that the actual "PhD scientists" who work for creationist organizations do not deny the existence of the evidence that convinced me that common descent and an ancient Earth were real), I would change my views, not try to change the evidence or the rules of reasoning.

Are there people who accept evolution merely because their teachers said it did, with no understanding of what evidence is cited for it or why such evidence would support the theory? I am sure there are. But that is not quite the problem you face; the question is not why so many people who don't know anything about geology and biology accept evolution, but why virtually everyone who knows a great deal about these subjects accept it -- and why every one of the 1% or so who dissent admittedly do so, not on the basis of evidence, but on the basis of faith in the Bible (and their own interpretation of it). Are biologists really such a collection of lust-driven, greedy, lying, arrogant reprobates, compared to, say, dentists or lawyers?

Kenny Strawn said...

Surprised you forgot to mention loss in translation: "πίστει" can mean either "faith" or, more importantly, "trust" in Greek. The modern meaning of the word "faith" seems to have lost this second attribute: trusting someone (or something) requires that him, her, or it be trustworthy, "blind" faith does not.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

You said, “Are there people who accept evolution merely because their teachers said it did, with no understanding of what evidence is cited for it or why such evidence would support the theory? I am sure there are. But that is not quite the problem you face; the question is not why so many people who don't know anything about geology and biology accept evolution, but why virtually everyone who knows a great deal about these subjects accept it -- and why every one of the 1% or so who dissent admittedly do so, not on the basis of evidence, but on the basis of faith in the Bible (and their own interpretation of it). Are biologists really such a collection of lust-driven, greedy, lying, arrogant reprobates, compared to, say, dentists or lawyers?”

Actually, you're not that far off. Romans 3:4 says, “let God be true, but every man a liar.” I'm not particularly interested in what the majority thinks; I'm far more interested in what is true. And when we compare the opinions of lying, corrupt, sinful men to the infallible word of the Creator, I'll trust God over the men. Especially so when those men unequivocally approach science with the a priori assumption they will only seek natural explanations for our origins.

Science was once flush with godly men like Newton, Pasteur, Mendel, and Kepler. Then along came a couple of theophobes, like Charles Lyell, who were very successful in promoting the idea that we must keep faith and science separate. The result is that we've ended up with the theory of evolution – the most useless scientific theory we've ever seen yet still the most cherished. It's really rather bizarre that such a lopsided majority of scientists in relevant fields believe in a theory that makes absolutely no contribution to society. Oh well, as long as there are still enough people engaging in real science, I'm happy.

Thank you for your comments. God bless!!

RKBentley

RKBentley said...

Kenny,

Thanks for visiting my blog and for your comments.

I had thought about exploring the Greek words we translate as “faith” and “believe” but I thought the end result would be that I would have competing points in my post which would diminish my argument overall.

The Greek noun pistis (Strong's word # 4102) is usually translated as “faith.” What's interesting is that the cognate verb, pisteuo (Strong's word # 4100), is usually translated as “believe.” Both words have the same root. It's similar to, say, “drive” and “driver” in English, where the noun and verb are derived from the same word.

In the Greek text, there is really no difference between believing something and having faith. By inventing absurd definitions of faith, folks like Dawkins seek to equate faith with delusion. It's rather shameful.

Thank you again for your comments. Please keep visiting and commenting!!

God bless!!

RKBentley

Steven J. said...

Science was once flush with godly men like Newton, Pasteur, Mendel, and Kepler. Then along came a couple of theophobes, like Charles Lyell,

Newton denied the deity of Christ. Mendel accepted the idea that the Earth was immensely older than a plain reading of Genesis indicated. Lyell, like Mendel, has strong doubts, influenced by his religious views, about evolution. Pasteur, for his part, seems to have been something of a fence-sitter on the question of common descent with modification, neither endorsing nor denying it. A century before Newton, godly men, rejecting the wisdom of men in favor of the plain sense of the Bible, accepted that the Earth stood still and the sun orbited around it.

I do not think your vision of some epidemic of ungodly pride seizing the entire life sciences and geological communities is terribly plausible. You might as well just flat-out reject the very idea of science, rather than pretend to accept it and then dismiss it as the delusions of fallible men whenever you have problems reconciling its findings with your interpretation of your scriptures.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

You Said, “I do not think your vision of some epidemic of ungodly pride seizing the entire life sciences and geological communities is terribly plausible. You might as well just flat-out reject the very idea of science, rather than pretend to accept it and then dismiss it as the delusions of fallible men whenever you have problems reconciling its findings with your interpretation of your scriptures.”

For the record, everyone is a corrupt, fallible sinner but you seemed to have glossed over a key point. You asked why most scientists believe evolution? I've pointed out that these are people who proudly boast that they only ever seek for natural explanations. If people buy into the false premise that science is only a search for natural explanations, it's no wonder that more of them don't find a supernatural explanation for our origins.

God bless!!

RKBentley