Many atheists today hold the view that faith and reason are opposites. They view Christians as believing in God “despite the evidence” instead of because of it, and as long as they hold that view, they will not be open to considering the evidence for God’s existence. In my last post, I discussed the importance of precision in language, so as to convey the correct notion that reason underlies faith, as it underlies all sound thinking. Atheists who realize that there is nothing irrational about “having faith” may eventually be open to considering the evidence for the God of the Bible.
As a picture paints a thousand words, good analogies can go a long way toward making intellectual concepts like this clear. They can help the listener see that they do in fact rely on “faith” all the time. Because no one can know all things with complete certainty, a decision to believe that something is true – that it describes the way things really are – is a decision that relies on faith. We all do it, often intuitively and without much thought, because it is simply the way things work.
When it comes to ultimate things, the specific question at issue is whether “someone is there.” Should we believe there is a God who stands behind all that we see, or should we conclude that there isn’t? Or that know one can ever, really know. How do we generally decide is “someone is there?” Of course, the easiest way to know that someone is there is to actually see the person. That would constitute direct evidence. In courts of law, direct evidence of identification is usually quite helpful. But there are other, equally valid ways of knowing, such as by deduction or inference. The footsteps you see in the sand are pretty powerful indicators that someone was recently walking by. Mail in your mailbox did not spontaneously appear. We may not know much about the source of these things, but we would be wise to conclude that they did not appear on their own.
Let’s take it a step further. Imagine being a police officer coming upon the scene of a burglary; you will strongly suspect someone is inside if you see the broken front door lock and hear something moving inside. You may be wrong, but it would be rational for you to conclude that someone is there. If you bring in a police dog that moves to a particular closet in the house, you can be quite sure that someone is behind the door. Despite lacking direct or conclusive knowledge, you would not dismiss these conclusions as being based “on faith,” but would instead recognize that you are employing reason to form conclusions about things you cannot directly see.
Now at this point, the skeptic may say “okay that makes some sense. I can deduce ‘someone is there’ from circumstantial evidence, but I already know that people exist, so it is no surprise that a particular person might be in the sand, or delivering mail, or hiding in the house. Now you want me to believe in a God that no one has any direct experience with?”
Yes, in fact, I do. And in my next post, I will offer an example from science that will show how this reasoning applies even when the thing we believe is there is not of this world.
Posted by Al Serrato