Monday, January 31, 2005

Blind faith is not Christian faith.

It seems like just about everybody I meet defines faith as "belief in something you have no reason to think is true." If that's really what faith is, then you can destroy a person's faith merely by demonstrating the truth of their belief.

Doesn't that sound kind of backwards? Is there really some virtue in being irrational? I think such a view is inconsistent with what the Bible teaches.

I wrote a more detailed response to this idea of "blind faith," in a discussion I had over a year ago, but it's long, so I won't reproduce it here. Instead, I just want to hit on some of the high points.

Let's look at Hebrews 11:1, because that's the primary scripture this idea of "blind faith" comes from. It says:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Since people interpret this passage to mean that the definition of faith is "belief in things you can't see or have no reason to believe," I want to say why I disagree. There are two parts to this verse about faith. The first says faith is "the assurance of things hoped for." The second part says faith is "The conviction of things not seen." I think both of these parts are saying essentially the same thing. The second part is just an elaboration or rewording of the first part. "Conviction" and "assurance" both mean basically the same thing. That much seems obvious. But what's not immediately obvious is that "things hoped for," and "things not seen," both mean the same thing. In fact, I would argue that they are referring to something specific--namely the resurrection to eternal life.

This observation I'm making isn't arbitrary. I base it on something Paul said in Romans 8:24-25. He said:

For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.

I didn't quote the whole context, because I'm trying to save space, but if you read the surrounding passage, you'll see that Paul is talking about the resurrection. The object of our hope is the ressurection. When Paul says that nobody hopes for what he already sees, he obviously isn't talking about visual perception. He's talking about hoping for what you don't already have. You don't hope to have things you already have. You only hope for them if you don't have them yet. The hope that we're waiting for is the resurrection. It's in that sense that we don't "see" it.

Now let's go back to Hebrews. When it says faith is the "assurance of things hoped for," the author is not defining faith, but giving us an example of faith. To have Christian faith means, among other things, to have some assurance that we will be raised from the dead. Likewise, in the second part, it says faith is "the conviction of things not seen." In other words, to have Christian faith is, among other things, to trust that your hope in a resurrection will be fulfilled. "Things hoped for," and "things not seen," both mean the same thing, and they both refer to our resurrection. This passage has absolutely nothing to do with having blind beliefs in things we have no justification for believing.

But assume for the moment that faith is blind arbitrary belief. If we make that assumption, then we run into several contradictions in the Bible. Let me just list a few examples:

Proverbs 14:15: "The naive believe everything, but the prudent man considers his steps."

Acts 9:22: "But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ."

Acts 18:28 "For he [Apollos] powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ."

Acts 19:8 "And he [Paul] entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God."

1 Corinthians 14:20: "Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature."

1 Peter 3:15: "Always be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."

All of these scriptures presuppose that our faith be based on something. We can't very well give a defense for our hope if we don't have reasons for why we believe. The apostles didn't go about telling people to "just believe." On the contrary, they argued and gave reasons for why people ought to believe. Were they out to destroy people's faith? Of course not! Christian faith is not blind, arbitrary, and unjustified belief. Christian faith is simply trust in what you have reason to think is true.

For further reading on this topic, check out Fallacious Faith by J.P. Holding.


At 2/04/2005 6:11 AM , Blogger Safiyyah said...

I think there's more agreement between us than you may think. I do not think faith is "belief in something you have no reason to believe is true".


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