How many Christians when they consider their faith, are convinced that it is actually true? How many are unsure? If they do admit that it is true, what is the basis for that belief? Is it that they are intellectually convinced by the evidence? Is it that they “just know” their must be a God? Is it because they have warm and fuzzy feelings when they go to church or small group? Is it because of the testimony of the Holy Spirit in their hearts? Is it because their life has changed? How many people can say that they are convinced or “know” that God exists? and that He is revealed in Jesus Christ alone? Are you convinced? or are you skeptical? Maybe you think it is mostly myth, legend, or superstition? Do you claim to be a Christian but live like a practical atheist, as though God was not really there? If God is really there and has made himself known, would this not change everything? Would you not lay everything aside and completely and utterly devote your life, possesions, desires, hopes, fears, etc. to God if He was there and you knew it? Is not truth (especially of God’s reality) of utmost importance?
There are lots of questions here that can be summed up under the issue of faith’s relationship to reason. I’ll try to be brief. Many modern day Christians usually fall into the camp that faith is separate from or above reason, and that reason somehow undermines faith. If you “know” that God exists then what need is there for faith? On the flip side, reason is viewed as above faith or that faith is somehow harmful. This is usually the defaul position of atheism or secular humanism. They might say, “Why would someone take a leap of faith if their is no justification to do so?” They accuse believers of irrational blind faith and believers accuse them of lacking a cardinal virtue, faith.
My questions is: Why the dichotomy? I submit to both atheists, Christians, and anyone else who cares that the most sensible view of faith’s relationship to reason is that of balance.
In answering the questions above, I can admit that each of those ways of knowing contributes to our overall knowledge. Intellectual conviction, God as a basic belief, the emotional feelings we have when worshipping and connecting with other Christians, the testimony of the Spirit of God which indwells us, our experience of the power of Christ to transform lives, etc.
Now I admit that God can use any one of these avenues to impact a person’s mind and heart and draw them to Himself. But what I find interesting is that the avenue which brings justified true belief, is what is lacking in much of the church today. If someone were to ask me why I am a Christian. How should I respond? I submit that the subjective responses: I like church, I like the people at church, I feel better, my life has changed, my parents made me, there is great coffee, or just because I want to, etc. fall short. The best answer is….because it is objectively true!! Because Christianity is the most reasonable faith? Because it makes more sense than any other worldview when compared with reality. The Christian is able to answer the most difficult questions of life with the most coherence and profundity. Christianity describes the human condition as we experience it and gives a solution for it that matches philosophical, historical, and scientific scrutiny.
The key here is that Christianity is objectively true. Not simply subjectively true. All our subjective experiences that give us warm fuzzies as Christians just happen to coincide with objective reality. Keep in mind that not all believers experience the “warm fuzzies.” And even some false religions have warm fuzzies. Consider the testimony of the Mormons who claim to know that their religion is true because of a burning in their bosom. Or the Unitarian whose life has “improved.” Subjective experiences might help to validate a true idea especially for the person having them. However, they are not universally accessible and can not be used as the primary basis for validating truth.
To close let me drive this home with a story: I once debated with an atheist and the next day we sat down for coffee to chat. He told me that if God was real, that that would be “indescribably huge” and would necessitate a total life committment and devotion. I agreed (and was somewhat convicted because of my own lack of utter devotion at times). If God is real then nothing else would take precedence over that truth and its impact on our life. However, he pointed out that even if he saw radical committment from others, that would not prove God’s existence. The sincerity of or committment to a faith is subjective and does not make it actually true. I completely agreed. He went on to say that science couldn’t prove God and that He would not just take a subjective leap of faith. You see- he equated faith with subjectivism. False problem. I told him that faith could be objectiv. I asked him if he knew with 100% scientific certainty that his mother was in fact his biological mom. I asked him if he had received a DNA test to prove that his mom was his mom. He said no and admitted that even if he had, he would not know if the tests were somehow falsified. I asked him, “Don’t you have to take a leap of faith in order to know that your mom is your mom?” He agreed, yes. So I suggested to him that he could still have justified objectively true belief that his mom was his mom based on the testimony of others. He could probably trust his dad who saw him born and could testify to his continuity of personhood to this day. Maybe there were other people who could do the same. Maybe there were other “reasons” to “believe.” Maybe he had traits and characteristics of his mom that were likely not coincidence. Of course, he could be wrong, but probably not.
What’s the point. Even the atheist must have “faith” to believe anything to be true. He must take into account the evidence before him just like the rest of us. He must “trust” certain people as he sifts through truth and falsehood. In this case he must trust his dad, etc. Yet he can still have justified true belief that is not subjective. I shared withhim that I have more faith that God is my Father, than I do that my mom is my mother. Why? Because there seems to be insurmountable evidence, i.e reasons, to think so. Our knowledge is not 100% certain, but that does not mean that it is not probably (99.5%) true. Faith corresponds with reason. What are those reasons? I’ll save that for another day. Lord willing.
By the way, the atheist converted on the spot……………………………………….not.