[This post is a work in progress as part of the CAA Catechism.]
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Summary in 400 words or less:
Controversy-loving media, as well as New Atheists and Internet agnostics, have popularized the idea that a war exists between religion and science, between faith and reason. They redefine faith to be belief without evidence, or despite scientific evidence. This idea is based off an untraditional and unbiblical understanding of faith.
Some say that faith is mere belief, whereas knowledge is justified, true belief (or justified, true faith). This is a very stripped-down understanding of faith. While biblical, saving faith is justified by good reasons, it doesn’t stop at mere intellectual assent. As opposed to the dead faith of demons (James 2:19), living, saving, biblical faith is trust in God that is reflected in action. When we trust the Gospel that we are loved, it produces the fruit of living as loved.
Some take certain translations of Hebrews 11:1 (http://biblehub.com/hebrews/11-1.htm) to say that faith is evidence, but actually a more accurate translation is that faith is confidence. Abraham had faith (confidence) that God, his trustworthy authority, would fulfill his promises (Genesis 12:1-3), though Abraham never lived to see their ultimate fulfillment (Hebrews 11:8-13). Like the heroes of the faith, like our cloud of witnesses, like Jesus, we endure the temporary and look faithfully forward to the unshakable kingdom (Hebrews 11:39-12:28). “We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:18) We trust God will bring about the ultimate fulfillment of his promises; we look forward to our resurrection into Jesus’ eternal kingdom.
Does taking things on authority require blind faith? C.S. Lewis answers that “believing things on authority only means believing them because you have been told them by someone you think trustworthy. Ninety-nine per cent. of the things you believe are believed on authority.” (Mere Christianity) So, no, that is not blind faith. However, for those of us who need more than the testimony of someone we trust, there is a wealth of evidence available to us in natural theology and from history—evidence of God’s faithfulness to us. We can put faith in him because he has left us evidence that he is faithful.
But biblical faith does not come naturally, for “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14) (see also John 3:3). “By faith we understand…” (Hebrews 11:3). By faith, or a trusting spiritual insight, we are receptive to invisible spiritual data, like grace and the resurrection, and we evaluate them with our minds. And when we neglect faith, our spiritual insight is likewise darkened (Romans 1:18-25 and on).
In Romans 12:1-2, Paul calls on his readers to respond rationally (to render ‘reasonable [Greek logicos] service’) rather than just emotionally (contrary to the cultic idea that we can receive spiritual impressions without using our minds). In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis elaborates this aspect of faith, calling it “the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” Frail human faith falters even in the midst of avalanches of evidence. Strong faith is a reasonable (logicos) response.
No one needs to abandon faith in order to be a scientist or use one’s reason generally — nor does anyone need to surrender reason or science in order to trust the Gospel. Many scientists are in fact people of faith, as were most of the founders of modern science (e.g., Michael Faraday and Isaac Newton). Many passages in Scripture (e.g., Job 28-32; Psalms 19 and 139; Proverbs 6:6; John 12:24) invite readers to analyze the natural creation, and science is a form of such analysis.
Further, the stripped-down understanding of faith is foundational to science. Nietzsche puts it this way: “Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as science without presuppositions…a philosophy, a ‘faith,’ must always be there first, so that science can acquire from it a direction, a meaning, a limit, a method, a right to exist…It is still a metaphysical faith that underlies our faith in science.”
Faith and reason are complimentary and necessary elements of what it means to be human. They are both used in all of the sciences, including theology, philosophy, and the natural sciences.
Scripture for YouVersion: 2 Cor. 4:16-18; Hebrews 11:1-27; 1 Cor. 2:14; John 3:3; James 2:19; Romans 5:5; John 17:3
http://oneminuteapologist.com/searchpage#faith|science (Video 351)
Three questions (1 fill-in-the-blank, 1 multiple choice, and one discussion question):
In the context of faith and reason, which of these four phrases best describes “faith”?
A. Pretending to know what you don’t know
B. Belief that is foundational in real-world contexts of loyalty or risk
C. The opposite of doubt
D. Belief in something without having evidence
References for further reading:
Brush, Nigel. The Limitations of Scientific Truth: Why Science Can’t Answer Life’s Ultimate Questions. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel, 2005.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Collins-Fontana), p.60.
Scientists of the Christian Faith http://www.tektonics.org/scim/sciencemony.htm
Thomas Aquinas, Faith, Reason and Theology, trans. Armand Maurer (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1987)
Augustine, “The Spirit and the Letter,” in Augustine: Later Works, ed. John Burnaby (1955, repr., Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), p.238.
Collaborators: Z. E. Kendall, David Haines, Edgar Andrews, Maryann Spikes, Jonathan Hanna
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