Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Why Do We Have Faith?

Faith is so often misrepresented by non-believers. Richard Dawkins describes it this way:
"Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence."
As usual, Dawkins is spouting complete drivel. Here's a great quote from John Lennox, a professor of mathematics at Oxford, who has debated Dawkins a few times, and each time utterly torn his worldview to shreds.
"Faith is not a leap in the dark; it’s the exact opposite. It’s a commitment based on evidence… It is irrational to reduce all faith to blind faith and then subject it to ridicule. That provides a very anti-intellectual and convenient way of avoiding intelligent discussion."
That's the difference. We're all on Dawkins' side if he's talking about blind faith - believing without thinking. But actual faith is not that. The faith that most people talk about regularly is not that. As Lennox will tell you, the word 'faith' comes from the Latin 'fides', which means trust. You have faith in your family, faith in your girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife, faith in your government (maybe). And you usually say that you have faith in them because they've never let you down before or you know them well enough that they will come through. You trust them. The phrase 'faith in humanity' gets thrown around a lot, although more often than not, it's mentioned as a 'loss of faith'. It's still talking about trust.
Pretty much the only time I hear faith being bundled up with blind faith as the same thing is when fundie atheists are using the word in reference to religious belief.

As John Lennox said, faith/trust is based on evidence and that is the Biblical definition too. The number of preachers and prophets throughout the book who ask questions and want a bit more evidence to keep their faith strong should be plenty enough to destroy this stupid definition of faith completely. Doubting Thomas is probably one of the most famous episodes of Jesus' story. He wanted evidence, Jesus gave it to him, his faith was strengthened.

So when Dawkins, Harris or the other New Atheists talk about faith, they're talking about 'blind faith'. And that is not something any Christian is into! So they're wasting everyone's time...
So what is the evidence that Christians have?

For most, it's very simple. We call it personal experience.
There may have been a feeling of closeness to God, or a feeling that a prayer had been heard. It may be that a prayer was answered. For many, like Craig Keener, it may be that an actual miracle was witnessed. These feelings are as real as the feelings we get from other human beings, and there's no reason for us to think they're fake.

Unfortunately, for the non-believer, the personal experience believers have had sounds like some kind of crazy delusion. Billions of people throughout history should be locked away in a mental institute. 
I can sympathise. I guess it does sound mad if you haven't had a similar experience.
Fortunately, there's loads more evidence for the thoughtful Christian to put their trust in. For many, like me, when you start thinking that maybe your personal experience could be some kind of madness, the solid evidence is there to clear your doubts.

First, are the many arguments for God's existence. These (especially when taken together) are extremely powerful. Using the best science and philosophy we can pretty much prove that a powerful, moral, creator being was what started everything off. Here are a few of my favourites:
That's just a taster. There are plenty more out there.
One of which of course is the Resurrection of Jesus. This one alone (as Gary Habermas might put it) can carry the weight of the faith all by itself. By studying the historical records available to us, we can show several indisputable facts about Jesus' life. The best explanation for all of these facts is that the Biblical record of his death, deity, and resurrection is true!

After that, for those who want to dig deeper (eh?) there's the endless archaeological finds that support not only the Gospels, but several chapters of history in the Old Testament too. There's even more amazing stuff when you discover all the hidden science in the pages of the Bible. Loads of little details here and there that have been included, but would not have been known by the people of the time (the fact that the universe had a beginning being the most obvious one).

And there's evidence from a purely scientific angle too. The existence of the mind and consciousness separate from the brain, the incredible complexity and signs of intelligent coding in DNA, the origin of life as opposed to purely mechanical beings.

So bundle that together: plenty of scientific and philosophical reasons to believe in an almighty, moral creator, a thorough historical account from several historians of a first century Jewish carpenter in Roman occupied Palestine, and endless archaeological discoveries that always agree with the Biblical accounts.
This is the kind of thing that J. Warner Wallace, a cold case homicide detective, discovered when he set out to disprove Christianity. He realised that if he wanted to remain a naturalistic atheist, he would have to overcome a long line of intellectual hurdles so he could wriggle his way out of the conclusion of the evidence. But if he wanted to accept Christianity, all he had to do was let go of his blind faith in naturalism, and allow the evidence to show him the way. And why cling to naturalism anyway? Craig Keener and Gary Habermas will show you a huge amount of modern day real life reliable reports of miracles, faith healings, and near-death afterlife experiences. Christianity sits so comfortably in light of the evidence, while any other world-view struggles with problems that seem impossible to get around.

  • Evidence for the supernatural from mind, NDE's, miracles, prayers, afterlife.
  • Loads of evidence for an all powerful, supernatural creator. Signs of design, signs of creation, signs of purpose.
  • Evidence that the creator is a moral, personal being.
  • Reliable, accurate historical accounts of a man who claimed to be God and proved it.

The evidence is stacked up against the non-believer. If anyone is practising blind faith, it's the atheist.

With all this stuff in the bank, it's easy to take a leap of faith about the bits that we're not sure of.
"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is what faith is: trust based on evidence. We might not have all the facts, but we have more than enough to believe we're on the right track.