Why Faith?

blindfoldI just had an atheist with whom I’ve been interacting ask me a great question:  “What’s so good about faith?”  He went on to describe the concept as “believing without seeing,” and compared it to walking across the street blindfolded … something he and I would agree is pretty dumb.  So here’s my answer:

Nothing, in the way you describe it. That idea that there’s benefit in the exercise of the mental ability to believe something that seems counter to the facts? It’s not a virtue in the slightest. That’s one of the greatest tragedies of Christianity, that Christians have cast faith in that way.

Now “faithfulness,” which is the more Biblical concept, that’s something else. It’s what the Marines mean in their motto “Semper Fidelis” … being faithful to an ideal (in this case, the country) such that you’re willing to lay your life on the line for it. The early apostles were “faithful” to the experience they had with Jesus. We can debate whether what they passed on was true or not, and that’s somewhat beside the point … they were convinced enough of the truth of what they had heard & seen that they were willing to die rather than recant (one bit of evidence, to me, that leans toward–I did not say proves–their testimony being true).

Being faithful to the concept of enemy love, self-giving, honest living, a life of gratitude and graciousness … I think there’s a LOT of value in that. I don’t claim Christianity is the sole source by which people can achieve that … nor that most Christians live it … but I see more if it coming out of Christians than I do non-Christians. To me, that’s something.

But to reiterate … the exercise of believing something true against evidence? No value whatsoever, unless you have countervening evidence. And that ain’t what the fundamentalist is asking of you. That’s why the fundamentalist doesn’t like me either.

I do think it’s possible to become paralyzed by waiting to decide many things (little and big) until one has satisfied oneself that the case is airtight. I don’t think any of us has that luxury, if luxury it be. We decide a lot of things on a preponderance of evidence, and others based on a hunch we can’t fully tie to specific evidence. So if that’s another way to describe faith (not in a particular religion, just as a way of life), maybe that’s not so bad. OCD paralysis isn’t my idea of a life well-lived either.

But that’s a far cry from “blind faith,” which I don’t advocate any more than you do.

3 thoughts on “Why Faith?”

    1. Dan Martin Post Author

      There may not be “virtue in faith.” There certainly isn’t as it’s usually described, which was my whole point. And no, whatever faith is, it’s not to “earn God’s love,” which clearly isn’t earnable, but rather is a before-the-fact reality. But Biblically, I think it’s legitimate to read that in response to God’s love, faithfulness is expected.

  1. Robert Roberg

    To me faith is like an inner confidence barometer. Rom 12:3 El Shaddai has dealt to every man the measure of faith. It tells you a storm is coming, but assures you that the captain of the ship is going to get you through. Jesus was constantly criticizing his followers for having very little faith. So faith can grow. It can also be lost. I have met a number of atheists who once had faith, but they let some church kick it out of them. Jesu once said if you want proof of my teaching just start doing what I said to do and then you will know. That’s how faith grows. Doers become believers.

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