Is faith rational?

[this is a sample of text from the book “Living on the edge” by Jonathan Burke]

Is faith rational?

Faith is confidence for a reason. Everyone understands faith in this sense, as applied to ordinary matters. It is the same in divine matters. There is no truth in the popular view that places faith outside the confines of reason.’[1]

A typical dictionary definition rightly informs us that faith is belief which is not based on proof.[2] However, this is not the same as saying faith is blind, or that faith is belief for no reason, or that faith is not based on evidence.

Blind Faith (film)

Blind Faith (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Proof is a body of evidence which demonstrates a belief or statement to be conclusively true (typically through testing); evidence is a body of facts which provide rational reason for belief, without being conclusive. Faith is belief on the basis of evidence, where actual proof is absent.

There are many aspects of our faith which we cannot prove: we cannot prove the existence of many of the characters of the Bible, and many of the events recorded there; we cannot prove the resurrection took place; we cannot even prove the existence of God.

In each of these cases we have no opportunity to test the claim and prove it conclusively. However, in each of these cases there is sufficient evidence to warrant belief. We do not hold these beliefs without any evidence whatsoever. Throughout the Bible repeated appeals are made repeatedly to evidence, in support of truth claims; eyewitness accounts,[3] [4] verifiable historical monuments,[5] and direct personal experiences.[6] Blind faith is never encouraged.[7] [8] [9]

Early Christians appealed to evidence in order to argue that their faith was rational. Accordingly, the earliest defenders of Christianity (known as the Apologists), presented it as rational and worthy of belief,[10] and in harmony with science,[11] which appealed to thoughtful non-Christians.

The 4th century Latin commentary known by the name ‘Ambrosiaster’, identifies prophecy as ‘the first proof that our faith is rational’.[12] The famous 13th century theologian Thomas Aquinas likewise argued that faith is rational and that reason could be used to demonstrate theological truths.[13] Christian belief, if it is to be both rational and defensible, must be based on a faith which is not blind. [14]

‘The certainty of and trust in the Christian faith cannot be made hard in a scientific, deductive or inductive way. But neither is it based on arbitrary opinion.’[15]

 

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[1] Roberts, ‘The Visible Hand of God Or Miracles, Signs, And Wonders’, The Christadelphian (18.199.16), 1881.

[2] ‘1 complete trust or confidence. 2 strong belief in a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.’, Concise Oxford English Dictionary (11th ed. 2004).

[3] John 3:11 I tell you the solemn truth, we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony.

[4] Acts 5:30 The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, whom you seized and killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him to his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses of these events, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

[5] Deuteronomy 3:11 Only King Og of Bashan was left of the remaining Rephaites. (It is noteworthy that his sarcophagus was made of iron. Does it not, indeed, still remain in Rabbath of the Ammonites? It is thirteen and a half feet long and six feet wide according to standard measure.)

[6] Acts 10:39 We are witnesses of all the things he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him up on the third day and caused him to be seen, 41 not by all the people, but by us, the witnesses God had already chosen, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.

[7] ‘It required a robust faith to undertake a journey of four months, cumbered with women and children, and the valuable vessels of the temple, lying through a country infested with robbers and enemies of the Jews, without making every possible arrangement for protection. But theirs was not a blind faith. God would not be pleased with such.’, Roberts, ‘Sunday Morning at the Christadelphian Ecclesia’, The Christadelphian (54.633.109), 1917; Roberts is referring to the Jewish exiles who returned to Israel after the Babylonian captivity.

[8] ‘In other words we rightly endeavour, as the early brethren did, to find the real meaning behind the English words we read and so come to the true message of God for man. This approach marks us as distinct from Fundamentalists; it has, I believe, always commended itself to  people of reason who are not prepared to follow a blind faith.’, Draper, ‘Fundamentalism’ (letter to the editor), The Christadelphian (121.1437.109), 1984.

[9] ‘But Bible faith is not blind faith. We are given more than sufficient evidence to prove that Christ was raised from the tomb.’, Cresswell, ‘Proving the Resurrection of Christ’ The Christadelphian (137.1634.296), 2000.

[10] ‘In addition to the refutations of calumnies and the presentation of Christianity as a rational faith the Apologists were also concerned withthe questionings of thoughtful men.’, Barnard, ‘Justin Martyr: His life and thought’, p. 3 (1967).

[11] ‘According to the early Fathers, science and Christian doctrine were to be developed side by side, each on independent grounds, and each in harmony with the other.’, Mahan, ‘A Critical History of Philosophy’, volume 1, p. 483 (2003).

[12] ‘Paul begins with prophecy, which is the first proof that our faith is rational, for believers prophesied when they received the spirit.’, Ambrosiaster, in Bray (ed.), ‘Commentaries on Romans and 1-2 Corinthians’, p. 96  (2009).

[13] ‘For Aquinas faith is rational; it involves, like all knowing, the assent of the intellect. And reason can demonstrate the truth of some theological propositions.’, Hicks, ‘The Journey So Far: Philosophy Throuth the Ages’, p. 201 (2003).

[14] ‘We believe this, and that the Bible teaches thus and so. Both these propositions are topics of investigation, and the man accepting them as true, and acting them out in his life, is not justly chargeable with fanaticism. It is not “the blind faith of a fanatic” that impels him, but the resolution of a sane man who acts from the perception of the facts.’, Roberts, ‘Rejoinder to MacMillan’s Notice of “An Obscure Sect”’, The Christadelphian (27.316.369), 1890.

[15] Stoker, ‘Is Faith Rational?: A Hermeneutical-phenomenological Accounting for Faith’, p. 199 (2006).

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Preceding articles:

Where is the edge

The mythical conflict of science and Scripture (1)

The mythical conflict of science and Scripture (2)

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Reconciling Science and Religion

Reconciling Science and Religion

Science and religion [are] no longer seen as incompatible.”—The Daily Telegraph, London, May 26, 1999.

Clerks studying astronomy and geometry. France...

Clerks studying astronomy and geometry. France, early 15th century. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Both science and religion, in their noblest forms, involve the search for truth. Science discovers a world of magnificent order, a universe that contains distinctive marks of intelligent design. True religion makes these discoveries meaningful by teaching that the mind of the Creator lies behind the design manifest in the physical world.

“I find my appreciation of science is greatly enriched by religion,”

says Francis Collins, a molecular biologist. He continues:

“When I discover something about the human genome, I experience a sense of awe at the mystery of life, and say to myself, ‘Wow, only God knew before.’ It is a profoundly beautiful and moving sensation, which helps me appreciate God and makes science even more rewarding for me.”

What will help one to reconcile science and religion?

An Enduring Quest

Accept the limits:

No end is in sight in our quest for answers about the infinite universe, space, and time. Biologist Lewis Thomas noted:

“There will be no end to this process, being the insatiably curious species that we are, exploring, looking around and trying to understand things. We’re not ever going to get it solved. I can’t imagine any terminal point where everyone will breathe a sigh and will say, ‘Now we understand the whole thing.’ It’s going to remain beyond us.”

Similarly, when it comes to religious truth, the reach is boundless. One of the Bible writers, Paul, stated:

“Now we see only puzzling reflections in a mirror . . . My knowledge now is partial.”—1 Corinthians 13:12, The New English Bible.

Partial knowledge concerning both scientific and religious questions, however, does not prevent us from reaching sound conclusions based on the facts we have. We don’t need a detailed knowledge of the origin of the sun in order to be absolutely sure that it is going to rise tomorrow.

Let the known facts speak:

Science and Religion are portrayed to be in ha...

Science and Religion are portrayed to be in harmony in the Tiffany window Education (1890). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the quest for answers, we need to be guided by sound principles. Unless we stick to the highest standards of evidence, we can easily be misled in our search for scientific and religious truth. Realistically, none of us can begin to evaluate all scientific knowledge and ideas, which today fill huge libraries. On the other hand, the Bible provides a manageable compendium of spiritual teachings for our consideration. The Bible is well supported by known facts.*

However, concerning knowledge in general, earnest effort is required to distinguish between fact and speculation, between reality and deception—in both science and religion. As the Bible writer Paul advised, we need to reject “the contradictions of the falsely called ‘knowledge.’” (1 Timothy 6:20) To reconcile science and the Bible, we must let the facts speak for themselves, thereby avoiding conjecture and speculation, and examine how each fact supports and adds to the other.

For example, when we understand that the Bible uses the term “day” to represent various periods of time, we see that the account of the six creative days in Genesis need not conflict with the scientific conclusion that the age of the earth is about four and a half billion years. According to the Bible, the earth existed for an unstated period before the creative days began. (See note 2: “The Creative Days—24 Hours Each?”) Even if science corrects itself and suggests a different age for our planet, the statements made in the Bible still hold true. Instead of contradicting the Bible, science in this and many other cases actually provides us with voluminous supplemental information about the physical world, both present and past.

Faith, not credulity:

The Bible provides us with knowledge of God and his purposes that cannot be gleaned from any other source. Why should we trust it? The Bible itself invites us to test its accuracy. Consider its historical authenticity, its practicality, the candour of its writers, and its integrity. By investigating the accuracy of the Bible, including statements of a scientific nature and, even more convincingly, the unerring fulfilment of hundreds of prophecies throughout the ages and into our present day, one can acquire firm faith in it as the Word of God. Faith in the Bible is not credulity but a proven confidence in the accuracy of Scriptural statements.

Respect science; acknowledge belief:

People should as such not look so much for words of people but should look more for Words coming from the Divine Creator Himself. When we do find His Word we should trust in that Word of God. The apostle Paul stated:

“When you received God’s word, which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of men, but, just as it truthfully is, as the word of God.”—1 Thessalonians 2:13.

English: Home bible study with the help of a b...

Home bible study with the help of a bible teacher. The yellow book seen in the photo is What Does the Bible Really Teach? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of course, as with science, damaging falsehoods and practices have infiltrated religion. Thus, there is true religion and false religion. That is why many people have left organized, mainstream religion to become members of other smaller Christian congregations. Those people came to understand it would be better to join those who are not of the majority mainstream Christian churches, but are people who live conform the Biblical truth. Many searchers for truth have been disappointed by the unwillingness of their previous religions to disavow human tradition and myth in favour of discovered or revealed truth. Therefore they found it more appropriate to join the perhaps more hated group of Bible readers and more active Bible Students, because they found it more important to do the Will of God instead of keeping to traditions and popularity.

What is more, true Christians find real meaning and purpose in life, based on an intimate knowledge of the Creator, as he is revealed in the Bible, and of His expressed intentions for humankind and the planet we live on. Those serious Bible Students have been satisfied with reasonable, Bible-based answers to such questions as, Why are we here? Where are we going? They would be more than glad to share these insights with you.

*

Notes:

1. See The Bible—God’s Word or Man’s? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

2. The Creative Days—24 Hours Each?

  Some fundamentalists claim

that creationism rather than evolution explains pre-human history. They

assert that all physical creation was produced in just six days of 24

hours each sometime between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago. But in doing so,

they promote an unscriptural teaching that has caused many to ridicule

the Bible.

  Is a day in the Bible always literally 24 hours in length? Genesis 2:4 speaks of “the day that Jehovah God made earth and heaven.” This one day encompasses all six of the creative days of Genesis chapter 1.

According to Bible usage, a day is a measured period of time and can be

a thousand years or many thousands of years. The Bible’s creative days

allow for thousands of years of time each. Further, the earth was

already in existence before the creative days began. (Genesis 1:1) On this point, therefore, the Bible account is compatible with true science.

However, do not let this escape your notice, beloved ones, that one day is with Jehovah* as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.+ (2 Peter 3:8).

  Commenting on claims that the

creative days were only 24 literal hours in length, molecular biologist

Francis Collins remarks:

“Creationism has done more harm to serious

notions of belief than anything in modern history.”

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Preceding articles:

Bible containing scientific information

The mythical conflict of science and Scripture (1)

The mythical conflict of science and Scripture (2)

Science and the Bible—Do They Really Contradict Each Other?

Are Science and the Bible Compatible?

Science and Religion Harmonized (Once and For All…)

Dutch version / Nederlandse versie: Wetenschap en religie zijn met elkaar te rijmen

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Additional reading:

  1. God’s design in the creation of the world
  2. Only one God
  3. God is One
  4. Attributes to God
  5. Cosmos creator and human destiny
  6. Incomplete without the mind of God
  7. The truth is very plain to see and God can be clearly seen
  8. Doctrine and Conduct Cause and Effect
  9. Creation of the earth out of something
  10. Life and attitude of a Christian
  11. Is it “Wrong” to Believe that the Earth is a Sphere? Inclusive the first generation of Christadelphians their views
  12. A dialogue about the earth moving and spinning around the sun
  13. Everyday beauty

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Find also related:

  • Fulfilled Prophecy – Proof of Bible’s Divine Inspiration?
  • Izak Burger who replied to Forbes article “Jerry Coyne’s Twisted History of Science and Religion”: Enter Copernicus. His book caused a massive change in the way people thought about the universe. If you think this was a problem for the church: It was even more of a problem for the universities. Copernicus actually delayed the publication of his book, not because he was worried about the church, but because he worried about the academics! If I recall the history correctly, this was more than just a new model: It was “experimental” mathematics.
  • How to falsify a religion using scientific or historical evidenceIf you prove that the universe is eternal than would falsify the Bible’s claim that God created the universe out of nothing. That would be a scientific disproof. If you could find the body of Jesus still inside a tomb, that would falsify the Bible’s claim about a resurrection. That would be a historical disproof. The nice thing about Christianity is that we make lots of testable claims. Christianity is about forming beliefs that are in line with the available evidence.

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  • Science & Religion: The Paramount Candour (umbrascriptor.wordpress.com)
    Scientific truths are cautious. Science believes that nothing is absolutely true. What is regarded as true today may be proved to be false the very next day by further experiments and observations. Thus, there was a time when the earth was supposed to be motionless and the sun was supposed to go round it but gradually science proved that this was wrong and showed that it is the earth which goes round the sun. Similarly, Newton’s law of gravitation held the day till Einstein came out with his superior theory of relativity. In this way, science advances towards truth as absolute. But whatever is written in religious books is regarded as absolutely true. Anyone who criticizes the teaching of religion is considered to be a heretic and is violently condemned. In the past, those who dared to question a religious truth were mercilessly persecuted and punished, and the example of Galileo readily comes to mind in this connection. Even more, who knows not about the Darwin’s theory of evolution. In short, science is progressive and dynamic while religion are static and orthodox and this shows that there is a great conflict between science and religion.
  • Science is not a religion. (twoculturescourse.wordpress.com)
    Some people scream ignorance at those who believe in God, or something greater than man. But look at what is around us, an incredible Earth filled with infinite opportunity and some of the most incredible natural occurrences ever.
  • Mendel Medal Recipient Seeks to Reconcile Science and Religion (vutimes.wordpress.com)
    The Villanova University Mendel Medal is an award presented to outstanding scientists, aware of the limitations of science, seeking to bridge the gap between science and religion. In the Mendel Medal Lecture given by the 2013 Medal recipient Dr. Sylvester “Jim” Gates, Dr. Gates emphasized the uncertainty inherent to science and how this uncertainty means that we will forever be unable to truthfully define reality.
    Truthfully defining something is not the same as accurately defining something. For a long time, science has been able to accurately define things in the natural world for the desired application. Consider pi. If you wish to use pi in an equation, a value of 3.14 will generally suffice. This is an accurate representation of pi. However, this is not the true value of pi. I could fill this entire issue of the Times and every paper that exists with digits of pi and it would still not be true, despite being incredibly accurate. Consequently, it is science’s ultimate inability to reflect complete and utterly certain truth that is what will always allow religion to coexist with and even to complement science.
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    With further understanding of science and its inherent uncertainty, we can begin to establish a dialogue between science and religion even in areas where fierce radicals on both sides stubbornly persist.
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    The Big Bang: From Humble Beginnings

  • Text to Text | Einstein and ‘Where Science and Religion Coexist’ (learning.blogs.nytimes.com)
    In this Text to Text, we take on the question of the compatibility of science and religion, with an excerpt from a Times Opinion piece written by Albert Einstein in 1930; a 2013 report on a conference between scientists and Buddhist monks hosted by the Dalai Lama; and a video in which the theoretical physicist Richard Feynman talks about trying to find answers to life’s big questions while living with doubt.
  • Politics, Science, and Religion (thefloridaconservative.com)
    Like politics and science, many people deny they are religious. This would mean they have no organized world view, or beliefs.  Even if you do not believe in something, you believe in something. The triad of Politics, Science and Religion is inescapable.
    +
    Those who would exploit Politics, Science, and Religion count on your ignorance in the area of critical thinking. They count on the herd mentality that affects the human condition. If someone I respect based on my world view says something, it is a common tendency to consider it factual.  Nothing could be more perilous than to fall into this trap.  Ask any sheep.
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    Critical thinking requires you to step outside your personal belief system. This is probably the most difficult.  It requires you to question everything and everyone.  You will need to be strict with yourself to create a discussion that argues the vice and virtue of both sides. You will need to build evidence that proves both sides.  You must be determined and constantly ask yourself if you are just trying to support your own personal beliefs.
  • David Barash explores science, religion and meaning of life in ‘Buddhist Biology’ (washington.edu)
    For better or worse, there has been a lot of intellectual conflict between science and religion these days, and although I consider myself one of the “New Atheists,” I am also an aspiring Buddhist and have been about as long as I’ve been a biologist: more than 40 years. The sad truth is that for the most part, science and religion do not get along very well – especially because religion keeps making various “truth claims” that are simply untrue! But Buddhism is a fascinating exception.
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    I don’t accept some of the more extreme notions of Buddhism, especially karma as it pertains to reincarnation. That is, I don’t believe that that each of us is going to be reborn in the future as some creature or other, or that our current situation is somehow a result of what we did in a prior life. By any biological or scientific standard, this is arrant nonsense. But biologists including myself acknowledge that every organism is literally composed of atoms and molecules that have been and will continue to be recycled from a “prior existence” as plants, other animals, dirt, rocks, atmospheric particles, etc.
  • Science Vs Religion (beccsbordom.wordpress.com)