|Is Faith Rational?
Is faith rational? If one took this question at face value, the answer is quite simple: yes, faith is rational. How do we know that? We merely need to understand the terms and see if "faith" fits within the bounds of "rational." That's a simple academic exercise handled in the sidebar below. Of greater interest is what people usually mean when asking the question. What's commonly being asked is either:
1. How can faith be rational, when faith means believing in something with no evidence?
2. Is Faith/belief in God/belief in miracles compatible with science?
Starting with the second question - Faith in God and belief in miracles are compatible with science because faith and science are complimentary; not contradictory. There are questions that science is not equipped to handle. In such cases it doesn't mean the item the question isn't real; it simply means that science is incapable of answering the question. One such item, as author, scientist and theologian Alistair McGrath points out is this:
The answer clearly is no, science can't answer it. And why not? Famous evolutionary biologist and historian of science Stephen Jay Gould suggests it's because science and religion deal with different spheres of knowledge - "magisteria" as he called them - and they do not overlap. Science and religion are thus Non-Overlapping Magisteria (NOMA) - so the one can not comment on the other. This formulation is close. Science can not see or measure the spiritual world, so it can not comment on it; but God, who is spirit (John 4.24) sees both the spiritual and material world, and thus can comment on both as an eye witness. Thus regarding the creation of the world, what you have in Genesis 1 is an eye witness account of the creation of the heavens and the earth in 6 days, and recorded as evidence - a testimony for all time.
In passing, God as an eye witness to the creation is something science can not disprove. They can disagree with his testimony, (which they do) and disbelieve he even exists (which they do), but they can not prove he does not exist. Neither can they provide an eye witness to their version of creation - the big bang. They say believing God's testimony can only be done by faith. Okay, so what is it when you believe George Washington was the first president? No one alive today was there to see it. All we have are testimonies. Is that not then, also faith? Yet no one asks scientists to prove George Washington was the first president, or prove that he existed. They take both to be true on the word of historians. Biblical testimony is no different. So why is faith in God's written testimony any less rational than believing written testimonies that George Washington was the first president?
If doubters of the Biblical account still want "proof" one can say creationists have higher quality "proof" than scientists - since in addition to scientific evidence, creationists have an eye witness account by a perfect witness while science merely has a of highly disputed theory - the big bang which is backed by highly disputed evidence. Indeed the more we learn, the more the big bang is discredited. The universe is both too young for the theory to be true (for more on that see Saturn's Rings are Young!) and recent discoveries like the Higgs Boson (the so called "god particle") contradict the Big Bang theory. (For more on that see Testimony of the Higgs Boson.)
So faith expressed as belief that God exists is rational; it is consistent with how we use "faith" in other spheres, and it is consistent with science. But some people don't agree with that assessment for reasons that take us back to the first question:
"How can faith be rational?" (implied: when science can't see the evidence to prove it). This is perpetuated by a chorus of acolytes echoing the refrain:
What's always amusing about these statements is the claim there is no evidence. Because the first thing they typically do is list the evidences then explain why they refuse to believe it. First off they want to eliminate the Bible as evidence because it's well - the bible - a holy book. They never seem to realize they are committing the fallacy of a false analogy when they compare the Bible to a book of mythology or even other holy books. Unlike mythology and other "holy" books the Bible is full of verified history, fulfilled prophecy (we'll note one below), known, verified historical people, and geographical locations that exist to this day that you can visit. That makes it a reliable source of information. In fact regarding reliability of the key section of the Bible that records the life, death and resurrection of Jesus - the New Testament - author and apologist Josh McDowell states:
Objective scholars regard the Bible as a reliable historical record, it's people with an atheistic agenda who object to using the testimony of the Bible. But let's look at a few of these objections. Typical of those stating faith is not rational, is the blogger above who states faith is believing something which you have no good reason to believe is true. He has 3 main objections:
I've already discussed why objection 3 - taking the Bible as mythology is fallacious, so I will turn my attention to objections 1 and 2.
Claim 1: "There is no evidence whatsoever that Jesus rose from the dead outside of claims made in the Bible."
But of greater interest is his refusal to accept the historical testimonies recorded in the Bible as evidence.
This is not surprising - as I mentioned above the first thing atheists and materialistic scientists want to do is throw out the Biblical witness. But
what if such testimonies were not part of the Bible? Consider this:
Yet some skeptics believe that because 2000 years have passed, and the books have since been recognized as authoritative for the Christian faith, they are now no longer valid as evidence. That would be like taking a time machine and arriving in the year 3776 to find people believe that the Declaration of Independence is full of myths, signed by mythical people who populated a mythical land called "the United States of America" because anything that old must be a myth. Clearly such reasoning is misguided, and the only reason they reject the testimony of the Bible is because it is a strong, reliable testimony that disagrees with their pre-conceived notions.
Claim 2: In fact, there’s really no evidence that Jesus ever existed or had followers...There is no historical or archaeological evidence to support the existence of Jesus.
This claim is so obviously false it's laughable. So I won't spend a lot of time on it in this article. To make my point I will simply offer historical and archaeological evidence that supports the existence of Jesus. I don't want to get side tracked by them however, so for further discussion of them, see the companion article Physical Evidence Jesus Existed. The evidences listed are:
The above are all historical or archaeological evidences to support the existence of Jesus. Thus we can firmly
and categorically state the above claim that there's no evidence Jesus ever existed is simply another false, misleading claim. People making such
statements wish there were no evidence, and want to persuade you to follow their godless beliefs, but now you know better.
Let us examine one further consideration when the question "is faith rational" comes up. It seems many people perceive Christians as those who act on faith without having a reason. Take a scenario where someone is going to take a job, or get married, or do some other action because they have "faith" that God wants them to. This is a different scenario and different type of faith from what we originally discussed. Faith in God as I originally discussed, was faith in the existence of God based on the myriads of evidence around us. This final example - performing a specific action based on "faith" is really what Christians would consider identifying the will of God and having the faith to do it, as Jesus says:
Finding and doing the will of God is also rational because it is also done based on evidence, but it is a different
type of evidence. Further discussion on finding the will of God for your life warrants its own separate article, so I can't go into detail here. Suffice it to say that you can not understand the evidence to find
and to do God's will in the second place until you first acknowledge God's existence and authority over your life and seek him in the first place.
Because "without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who
earnestly seek him." (Heb 11.6)
Duane Caldwell | posted 10/28/2014
2. NOMA - Non-Overlapping_Magisteria see
3. If you doubt that the Big Bang is highly disputed, see
4. This particular echo of the refrain is from the article"
9. Four witnesses only includes the gospels. If you include the epistles - particularly Paul's letter to the Corinthians
- where he notes there were more than 500 people who saw the resurrected Jesus (1 Cor 15.6) - the number of written testimonies is higher.