I recently finished reading Paul Copan’s new booklet, A Little Book for New Philosophers: How and Why to Study Philosophy. It’s a short book and an easy read. He had a couple of pages devoted to faith that really jumped out to me, for I know several atheists and even other believers that seem to misunderstand what faith is, as Paul says:
Faith is a much-abused term these days. Some claim that faith is mere opinion or unsupported belief. Unlike science, they argue, faith ignores reason, denies evidence and doesn’t get results. Mark Twain defined faith as “believing what you know ain’t so”; others have claimed it’s pretending to know what you don’t know. Actually, it’s these critics who pretend to know what they don’t know about faith.
He then goes on to describe faith:
Genuine faith is truth-directed, not truth denying. It invites intellectual inquiry and appeals to evidence such as signs and wonders or eyewitness testimony. Consider Augustine’s dictum, “I believe that I may understand” (credo ut intelligam) and Anselm’s, “Faith seeking understanding” fides quaerens intellectum). Both assume that trust in God (“I believe”) is the first step in the journey to better comprehend how we ought to think and live before God in this world (“…that I may understand”). These thinkers repudiated evidence-resistance or truth-avoidance since true biblical faith is not opposed to reason. Rather, they rightly understood faith to be a volitional stance of trust in God, and this choice enabled them to see reality more clearly. C. S. Lewis expressed their stance this way: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
If you google “define faith”, Google will return the following definition:
- complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
- strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.
The Greek word for faith used in the New Testament is pistis. The Hayford Bible Handbook by Jack W. Hayford defines pistis as:
Conviction, confidence, trust, belief, reliance, trustworthiness, and persuasion. In the New Testament setting, pistis is the divinely implanted principle of inward confidence, assurance, trust, and reliance in God and all that He says.
Even more interesting is if you read the Complete Jewish Bible, it never uses the word faith, but instead always uses the word trust. For instance, Hebrews 11:1
Trusting is being confident of what we hope for, convinced about things we do not see.
Being married, I have faith and trust in my wife. This faith and trust is based on evidence that she has provided in our years of being married (and years of dating before then). I am confident in her, and convinced of her love for me, even though I can’t physically see that love. Our faith and trust in a loved one is a good analogy of our faith and love for God.
Dr. Copan continues:
As though speaking in our own day, Augustine wrote in his Literal Meaning of Genesis about how disgraceful it is for ill-informed Christians to talk science with well-informed, scientifically-minded unbelievers. If Christians speak such falsehoods about science and other areas of study, will these unbelievers – who know the “facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason” – take Christians seriously on topics like the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, or God’s kingdom?
To me, this is a good explanation on why we should study apologetics.
In our culture, many – alas, even some Christians! – pit faith against knowledge. It is assumed that faith is simply opinion, closed off from scrutiny, something restricted to the private life. While this may be true in other religions, this is a far cry from the biblical faith, wich is a knowledge tradition (Jn 17:3; 2 Pet 1:5-8; 1 Jn 1:1-5). To have genuine faith is to have genuine knowledge: Scripture connects the two, rather than dividing or compartmentalizing them. Indeed, what good is a faith disconnected from knowledge and not rooted in reality? Faith without knowledge is dead. It is incapable of properly guiding our actions or our worship. True faith – and thus knowledge – can and should inform how we engage in the public square, and it brings illumination and insight to a wide range of intellectual disciplines. A privatized faith is not a biblical one: “We cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20).