Fides Quaerens Intellectum (faith seeking understanding)
August 21, 2012 — 21:35

Faith and reason – what are they, and how do they relate to one another?

Faith is believing something you know ain’t true – Mark Twain

Is it? Twain’s statement reflects a very common view of faith as “believing without evidence.” This approach to religious belief is called fideism, according to which belief in God involves a “leap of faith” (a phrase invented by Kierkegaard). Some people go so far as to affirm that one can’t have evidence for faith, for “how can I have faith if I know it to be true?”

I would suggest that this understanding of faith is not only problematic, but simply mistaken. Why is it problematic? Because we ought to aim at having as many true beliefs and as few false beliefs as we can. This is why in epistemology (a branch of philosophy which studies knowledge), beliefs are evaluated in terms of justification. A belief is justified for a person only if that person has some good reason to think that it’s true. If one doesn’t have any reason for accepting a belief, then it’s not justified. Now, it follows from this that according to fideism, religious beliefs by definition cannot be justified, because they are believed without evidence. So understood, faith and reason are incompatible. This is a big problem, because if faith implies unjustified belief, then there is no reason why anyone should have faith.

Thankfully, there is no good reason to accept a fideistic approach to religious belief. Which is to say, there is no reason to define faith as “believing without evidence.” Why do people adopt fideism, then? Many Christians are under the impression that the Bible teaches it. It says, for instance, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). But nowhere does it say to believe without reason. According to John, Jesus even says “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (7:17, my emphasis), which implies that one does not simply believe without justification – rather, one will have a reason to do so.

But if faith does not mean “believing without evidence [or reason],” then how is faith different from any other belief? The difference is that the biblical term “believe” does not just mean accept as true. It also has a component of trust. Paul Moser explains:

The kind of faith ascribed to Abram in Genesis 15 is no mere intellectual or psychological matter. It involves the central purpose and direction of Abram’s life relative to God’s promise to call to him. The best language for such faith is “entrusting oneself to God” (The Evidence for God, 91).

Hence, faith is not just believing that God exists; it also means believing in God, putting one’s trust in God and aligning one’s will and purpose with his. Moreover, one can (in principle) have good reasons to trust God in this way, just as one can have good reasons to trust a friend or a parent. This is the difference between faith and blind faith.

Comments:
  • Impossible to please God wiuohtt faith for The Work of God is to believe in The One who was Sent and Sanctified for Justification comes by grace and faith as fruits of The Spirit Poured out on all peoples everywhere.For those who bear these fruits in the ingathering sharings,there is no justification by law’ of lesser of the darkness that rules’ the night’. No confidence is to found in the flesh is Paul, for one was not to eat the flesh of certain animals as the food for My Words are Spirit and Truth.Bread of idolness is written and do nothing’ Egypt as worth less’.For how will you’ believe if you’ do nothing’ to gain honor and love with God but receive the praise and acceptance of each other for those who receive You receive Me? For those that are for Me are not against Me, God With Us. Therefore, Blessed are you when peoples say falsely for My sake for Great is the reward as with Solomon whose wisdom and love was placed in the testings with all sorts of difficult questions. Easier for the Camel to be bathed by The Prophet and for the Locusts Honey to be eaten in Prophecy, than for the rich, for to whom much was given, much more will be required in the next set of classes and tests.These swallow the camels for others is written in straining the plagues of Moses.

    November 11, 2012 — 10:56
    • b4283 英文也會有類似的問題 I know evolution torehy, however, I don’t believe in it.然而 知識論談的 知道 是後面會接that子句的知道 這差別在英文裡比較明顯 例如 I know that evolution is true.這種知道就會蘊含信念了

      June 5, 2013 — 4:02
      • It seems to be me you are defensive and emtalonoily invested in your beliefs, and projecting this onto other people. I’m a Zen Buddhist. I don’t have beliefs. It’s a practice, not a belief system. I don’t believe in God. I don’t believe the Buddha was God. I don’t believe in heaven. I don’t believe in reincarnation. I don’t believe Jesus died for our sins. For that matter, I don’t believe in sins. So exactly what is it that I am emtalonoily invested in and defending?I will defend others’ belief in those things as long as they’re not forcing them on others. I am very much opposed to forcing religious belief on others.I’m not “avowedly with” anyone. Yes, I had bad experiences in my religious upbringing but if there was ever a time when I hated religion, I’m past it. People have a right to believe what they like, as long as their actions don’t harm anyone else. (A *big* problem with religion.) I accept that people can’t be forced away from religion all you can do is educate them, expose them to other ideas, and hope that they will learn to think for themselves.You’re assuming that all religious people are intellectual zombies who need to be rescued from their delusions. That’s one sided. Some are, some aren’t.Someone once asked Richard Dawkins if he was preaching to the choir with his books about atheism. He replied that there are many people who would like to join the choir but afraid to come out of the closet as atheists, and he hoped that his book would give them the courage to do so. Believers often don’t have any idea how uncomfortable or even dangerous it can be to be openly atheist. Try being a Buddhist in the Bible Belt. Try being anything but Born Again in the Bible Belt, for that matter. I remember when I was in first grade a teacher led the class in the Lord’s Prayer (this was ca. 1956) and I was the only trespasser in the class; everyone else was a debtor. At recess some kids accused me of being Catholic (Lutheran, actually) and shoved me around, which is upsetting for a six-year-old. I could go on and on with other things done to me or I’ve seen done to other people in the name of religion that was damn hostile. I also stopped saying the Pledge of Allegiance some time during my college years, partly because I objected to the under God thing and partly as a protest against the Vietnam War. I still won’t say it. I’ll stand quietly while other people are saying it, but I don’t say it myself until they take out under God. Maybe not even then.I will defend atheism with the same energy with which I defend religion. . maybe not so much in New York but certainly in Phoenix, where I live, and most of the US for that matter. When you are constantly bombarded with the soundbites, rituals and images of the dominant religion, and told that you are evil, stupid and satanic for not conforming, any book which stands up for atheism can be a lifeline.I don’t doubt that Dawkins and Hitchens resonate with you on a deep level. However, if their aim was to talk religious people out of being religious, they’re missing by a mile. Their punches are not striking religion as much as just annoying it. They aren’t hitting religious people where religious people might really feel it. That’s because they don’t know religion well enough to address it in a way that actually means something to the religious.There are a lot of atheists out there who are calmly and dispassionately analyzing religion, the good and the bad, and how it originated. Not surprisingly, only the “bomb throwers” get any press.And it’s only the bomb throwers I criticize. I don’t like lies and misrepresentation, which is why I have a major problem with Hitchens and almost as big a problem with Dawkins. Dawkins is more often factual than Hitchens, but he still swings and misses because he doesn’t see clearly what he is aiming at. But there ARE atheists that believers can learn something interesting from. Read Hector Avalos on religion as a scarce resource, or Alan Cromer on how the brain may be hard-wired for religious thinking rather than scientific thinking.I’ve read some of Cromer, although it didn’t stick. I remember thinking I could make a better case than he was making about the brain being hard-wired for religious thinking. I don’t believe in anything supernatural; all religious phenomena, I say, have a natural cause. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true or valid. You just have to understand what it is true or valid of.Read about how religions evolved and borrowed from each other.Believe me, I have. Religious history is a deep interest of mine. I probably know more about what a bastard religion Christianity is than you do. Yet I defend it, because I understand it. I don’t believe it, but I understand it. That’s seeing it for what it is, without judgment, aversion, or approval. Good and bad. Above all, take your own advice: take a deep breath and don’t be so caught up in the rightness of your position and the wrongness of everyone else. My position is that whatever is rattling around in someone else’s head is none of my business as long as they aren’t bothering me with it. I hate people who assume only they are right and everyone else must be wrong. That’s why the fanatical atheists really bother me, and why I think that fanatical atheism is not helping any of us. I’m trying to find a middle ground here; I’ll stand with anyone telling the truth, atheist or religious.

        September 29, 2014 — 0:17
  • Congratulations for posting such a useful blog. Your blog isn’t only informative but also extremely artistic too. There usually are extremely couple of individuals who can write not so easy articles that creatively. Keep up the good writing !!

    October 15, 2013 — 6:03
    • ” please sir/madam , may I tialntevtey put forward the notion that there may not in fact be a god…… ?would they then be allowed to the table ? … I certainly doubt it ….. may as well be raucous.Lucy have you not picked up on the fact that I don’t believe in God, either? By a strict definition of the word, I’m an atheist myself.This is not about proving which side of the atheist/theist divide is right. It’s about being able to tolerate each other and talk to each other.You and Mr. Nice Guy suffer from what I call avowedly with them syndrome. Avowedly with them is a phrase from one of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches, in which he said that the slaveowners of the South were not appeased by promises that the federal government would do nothing to end slavery in the South. Before the U.S. civil war the slave-owning South was not satisfied by compromise on the slave issue or promises to leave slavery alone. Either the federal government pledged its undying support and approval of slavery, or they would leave the Union. Which they did, when Lincoln was elected President in 1860. And then we fought a civil war over it, which you may have heard about.Lincoln said of the slaveowners that it did no good to promise to leave them and their slave owning alone. They demanded that everyone be avowedly with them. Anyway, avowedly with them syndrome is an inability to be objective or to let anyone else be objective. People either agree with you entirely love what you love and hate what you hate or you shove them into the enemy camp. This is not doubting, dear. It’s dogmatism. All you’ve done is trade one dogma for another. Free yourself. Free yourself doesn’t mean you have to be religious. It means finally freeing yourself of religion by being objective about it neither love nor hate, neither approval or aversion. That doesn’t mean you can’t speak out about bad things religion does, and it does a lot of bad things. It means that when you do speak out about it, your punches actually land someplace. What you’re doing now is just flailing around in the air because you are too emotional about the subject to see it clearly.

      September 29, 2014 — 22:35
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    January 28, 2014 — 23:31
    • Don’t have sex , or God doesn’t exist , what more is there to discuss? But like eyovrene else, I won’t let that fact get in the way of a little bloviation. I’ll try to confine myself to a couple points I haven’t seen brought up. First, the arguments of our current atheism advocates suggest that human culture would get by just fine without religion. I’m not an anthropologist, but I don’t think there’s ever been a human culture that didn’t have rituals and a belief system for dealing with unexplainable, heartbreaking mysteries of human life. Of the tremendous number of human cultures scattered (literally) over the entire globe, every single one has had religion. This suggests strongly to me that some kind of spiritual curiosity is hard-wired into our brains. Given that we are prone to curiosity on all levels, it’s unlikely that it doesn’t extend into this realm. Second, there’s another set of traits hard-wired into the human brain; that of animals who live in small family bands with homicidal tendencies toward fellow species members outside their own small group. Observation of almost any pre-agricultural society strongly suggests that this is true, and the behavior of our closest cousins, the chimpanzees, confirms it. The Buddha, Confucius, Christ, and Muhammed, in direct contradiction to human nature and casual observation, all discovered that compassion and altruism must extend beyond your own tribe. Has this precept been more ignored than practiced? Of course. Have imperially-supported religions of the last couple thousand years engaged in behavior that is downright evil under any sane value system? You bet. But the contributions of the founders of the major religion are truly revolutionary. They remain the ideals of the great faiths, and bad as things are today, the mere fact that they exist is cause for hope. Could they have developed without a religious tradition? I think that question is practically meaningless. Many of us hunger to be part of a tradition that possessed the wisdom to develop such radical, transformational ideals. The past couple centuries have seen religions worldwide in a struggle to redefine themselves as literal interpretations of their foundational myths have fallen apart, one by one. Some of the contortions taken to accomodate these apparent contradictions are truly grotesque, most visibly in the Middle East, but even stranger and less understandably in Christian America. I’ve left my Bible-Belt Christianity and embraced Buddhism because I feel that Buddhism is truer to the teachings of Christ, and is more adept at dealing with challenges (partially because doubt is something that’s encouraged, not condemned). In some ways I wish I had the strength to carry on within my family’s tradition, but I got tired of the fight. Religions will change, but those who think that enough rational explanations will make them go away are just wrong. God bless science, I’m grateful to be alive in a time when it’s in such a prolific state, but there are some innate human appetites that it will never satisfy.

      September 29, 2014 — 1:39
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