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How do we know what we know, and what is faith all about

A question about faith

Postby Gomer Pyle » Fri Dec 29, 2017 5:14 pm

If I asked you why you believe in Christianity without evidence then I am sure that most Christians would talk about faith, and the importance of faith vice knowledge. If I asked you if a Muslim, Mormon, protestant or catholic would answer the same way then you would be hard pressed to say anything but "yes".

So my question is this: Since faith can lead to a correct answer, and since faith can lead to an incorrect answer then how is faith a reliable path to the truth?
Gomer Pyle

Re: A question about faith

Postby jimwalton » Tue Jan 30, 2018 6:08 am

It's because faith is not "believ[ing] in Christianity without evidence," so your entire premise is leaning to one side and not standing on two feet.

Faith, according to the Bible, can be defined in various ways:

- Faith is "complete trust or confidence in someone or something." This is the commonplace use of the word apart from any religious significance, such as when a person has faith in a chair to support his weight or has faith in his employee to do a job well.
- Faith is "firm belief in something for which there is no proof." This is the definition unbelievers often use to ridicule believers, insisting that they, unlike religious people, trust only in that which is demonstrable.
- Faith is "belief in, trust in, and loyalty to God." This is an explicitly religious definition, in many ways similar to the theological definition of faith as involving knowledge, assent, and trust. Faith here is pictured as going beyond belief in certain facts to include commitment to and dependence on God.
- Faith is "a system of religious beliefs." This is what is meant when one speaks of "the Protestant faith" or "the Jewish faith." What is largely in view here is a set of doctrines. The Bible uses the word in this way in passages such as Jude 3.

I use faith, as I believe Hebrews 11.1 does, in the first sense. Here's my explanation:

Jesus never said faith is blind, and the Bible doesn't imply that faith is blind. In the Bible, faith is evidentiary. I define Biblical faith as "making an assumption of truth based on enough evidence to make that assumption reasonable." In my opinion, belief is always a choice, and is always based on evidence. When you sit down in a chair, you didn’t think twice about sitting down. You believe that the chair will hold you. Faith? Yes. You’ve sat in chairs hundreds of times, but you can't be absolutely sure it will hold you this time. Things do break on occasion. But you make an assumption of truth based on enough evidence to make it reasonable for you to make that assumption, and you sit down. That’s faith, and it was a conscious choice.

Almost all of life works this way because we can never know what lies ahead. Every time you turn a door knob you are expressing faith. Because 10,000 times you’ve turned a door knob, and it opened the door. So you turn the knob and move forward. Does it always work that way? No. Sometimes you turn the knob and the door doesn’t open. But you make an assumption of truth based on enough evidence to make it reasonable for you to make that assumption.

We know chairs hold people. That's past experience and learning. We know turning door knobs open doors. We know that when we turn a key a car starts. But every time we turn a car key, we do it because we believe it will start. The evidence is compelling, and it was a conscious choice. We don't know for sure that the car will start, and unfortunately sometimes it doesn't. Then we use our knowledge to try to figure out what to do about it. We dial our phone (as an act of faith, assuming it will work and help us reach another person), and try to get help.

You'll notice in the Bible that evidence precedes faith. There is no "dumping on a random doorstep" and good luck to ya! God appears to Moses in a burning bush before he expect him to believe. He gave signs to take back to Pharaoh and the Israelite people, so they could see the signs before they were expected to believe. So also through the whole OT. In the NT, Jesus started off with turning water into wine, healing some people, casting out demons, and then he taught them about faith. And they couldn't possibly understand the resurrection until there was some evidence to go on. The whole Bible is God revealing himself to us all—and I mean actually, not through some exercise of faith.

My faith in God is a conscious choice because I find the evidence compelling. It's an assumption of truth based on enough evidence to make it reasonable for me to make that assumption. When you read the Bible, people came to Jesus to be healed because they had heard about other people who had been healed. They had seen other people whom Jesus had healed. People had heard him teach. Their faith was based on evidence. Jesus kept giving them new information, and they gained new knowledge from it. Based on that knowledge, they acted with more faith. People came to him to make requests. See how it works? My belief in God is based on my knowledge of the credibility of those writings, the logic of the teaching, and the historical evidence behind it all. The resurrection, for instance, has evidences that give it credibility that motivate me to believe in it. My faith in the resurrection is an assumption of truth based on enough evidence that makes it reasonable to hold that assumption. The same is true for my belief in the existence of God, my belief that the Bible is God's word, and my understanding of how life works.

I would contend that faith is never blind. Talk to me.

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