In a recent conversation, a skeptic told me faith meant belief without evidence. He dismisses explanations that Biblical faith is grounded in reasons and evidence and cited the fact that so many people believe without being able to articulate the reasons or point to the evidence. He is a fan of Peter Boghosian, Professor of Philosophy at Oregon State University and author of A Manual For Creating Atheists, who popularized this definition.
While such a definition may seem plausible to them, since many religious believers including Christians are unprepared to make a rational defense of their faith, is it really the case that they are believing without evidence? It should be noted at this point that evidence never speaks for itself. Evidence is one thing, and interpretation or explanation is another.
Some Christians grew up in a Christian home. They learned the Christian faith from their parents. Their parents told them many things that turned out to be true. So, when they told them about Jesus, they believed it. Did they have evidence or reasons? As far as they were concerned, they were getting their information from a trusted source. They had reason to trust their parents. That counts as evidence.
Some grow up with no religious teaching, but when they hear the Gospel from a friend, or in a church service they attend with a friend, they respond to an internal sense of the truth of the message. Is this evidence? I think it counts as a religious experience. Religious experiences count as evidence.
Still others attend a church service or evangelistic meeting where an evangelist uses scare tactics to manipulate the audience. Some respond to the fear they feel, sensing it to be evidence of the truth of the message.
Others respond to the message from friends whom they knew before they had become Christians and saw how their lives had changed. They saw this change as evidence for the truth of the Gospel.
In each of the examples above I have shown that believers who may or may not be able to articulate reasons why the Gospel is true believed with evidence. A skeptic may find the evidence in each case unconvincing, and think the believers naive for putting their faith in someone on such bases. That is his choice. However, in every case there was evidence, which the individuals took to be persuasive. Ultimately, defining faith as “belief without evidence” is just another dismissal. If the skeptic was brutally honest, he would say Biblical faith is believing without evidence that would persuade him.
14 thoughts on “Is Faith “Belief Without Evidence?””
Reblogged this on anna5929's Blog.
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I find it interesting that the secular/skeptic society tells us what faith is, or seeks to define it for us, but if faith is something we do, we should be the ones to define it, or more specifically, we should let the Scriptures define faith for us, since it speaks of faith. And how does the Bible define faith? “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11.1).
There you have it. The Bible builds faith on evidence! The Bible places faith on substance. To illustrate: Juries operate by faith when they themselves have not witnessed a crime, but they examine enough evidence to persuade them beyond any reasonable doubt that so and so committed the crime.
Good points, Don, but to be clear my objective in this post was not to demonstrate what faith is, but what it is not, namely, belief without evidence.
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Right, I was compelled because of how often people, Bible-believers included, misunderstand faith, and I know that you realize that, which prompted you to write your article. Thanks for your thoughts.
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beliefs are what we hold to be true, those are founded on either evidences or on faith, which according to heb 11.1 takes the place, metaphorically, of evidence. then we Trust those beliefs to be reliable. that thing we do is called Trust, not faith.
Mike, biblically speaking, faith and trust are synonymous.
I think a lot of people get cnfused there because biblically, faith is used two different ways.
It’s used in place of evidence in hebrews 11 1 to state why we believe, and then as a description of how we apply that belief as well.
So on the second instance I would agree but the first is what I’m talking about and that is very different
When I read Hebrews 11:1 I don’t get that sense. Here is the verse from the NASB:
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
It seems to me you are on the right track distinguishing belief from faith. However, I think belief, as you point out, is to hold something to be true. Faith is the response of trust that flows from that belief. If you read 10:32-12:3, which is the pericope that gives us the context for the verse, I think it bears my point. What do you think?
“by faith we understand…” (ie faith is a stand in for evidence ‘that’ something we believe is true) then later in the chapter faith is the application… Trust in that belief based on Faith
The Greek word translated “faith” throughout this text is “pistis.” You can find a pretty good resource on what that means here:
There is nothing in this definition/explanation that supports what you are saying when you distinguish trust from faith.
So you don’t believe anything by the type of faith I’ve described?
I think I differ from you on what faith means, though not by much. I think belief is an inference drawn from evidence, and faith is the response to that belief, such that it effects behavior. So, by extension, faith does not stand in for evidence, but is a response to it. I think where it seems like it “stands in” is when we lack evidence now, but our faith is grounded in past evidence. In such a case, our faith is still grounded in evidence. Does that help?