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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Faith or Evidence?

I have commented in previous posts on this blog about the fact that many folks within both the Scientific and Christian communities see faith and evidence as concepts that stand in irreconcilable opposition to each other. Christians often define faith as a belief in God or something related to God that does not require any evidence or tangible proof. Likewise, Scientists often insist that any views/beliefs/opinions that are not derived from direct observation of evidence are basically worthless and should be discarded. Thus, the implication from both sides is that the two notions are incompatible with each other and mutually exclusive (each thing makes the other thing impossible : not able to be true at the same time or to exist together --Merriam-Webster). Is this perception of both sides accurate? Should faith be immune to (or divorced from) evidence?

The more traditional Christian view of faith was articulated by some of the great theologians of the religion's earliest days. Saint Augustine said, "Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe." Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_faith.html#3jr5MOh2df7jtcbT.99 Thomas Aquinas said, "To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_faith.html#3jr5MOh2df7jtcbT.99

However, another approach to the subject of faith is possible for Christians. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.” http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/faith This statement on faith implies that evidence is an integral part of faith. Can that be right?

The Blue Letter Bible says that the Greek word translated into English as faith 239 times in the New Testament suggests a "conviction of the truth of anything, belief" http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=G4102&t=KJV This is the same word that is used in what is probably Scripture's most celebrated discourse on the subject of faith: the eleventh chapter of the anonymous Epistle to the Hebrews.

"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen...Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." (Hebrews 11:1-3, KJV) The Greek word translated into English as "evidence" denotes "a proof, that by which a thing is proved or tested." http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/Lexicon/Lexicon.cfm?strongs=G1650&t=KJV Isn't that interesting? Sounds somewhat more scientific than the traditional view doesn't it?

In reality, doesn't Scripture teach us that faith is supported by evidence? Didn't the Apostle Paul write to the Romans that those who were engaged in suppressing the truth could not use their lack of faith in God as an excuse for their behavior? He wrote: "They know the truth about God because he has made it obvious to them. For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature." (Romans 1:19-20, NLT) In other words, the world around them provided evidence of the existence of God and "His" character. Didn't James also state that faith is demonstrated by the evidence of how a person conducts him/herself in life? (James 2:14-26) Didn't the Roman centurion say that his faith in Jesus Christ's ability to heal his servant was based on the evidence of his own experience as a commander of troops? (Matthew 8:5-9) And what was Christ's response? "Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no not in Israel!" (Matthew 8:10) In other words, Christ saw this as the epitome of faith.

Maybe it's time for us to reconsider our respective aversions to faith and evidence? Maybe faith doesn't have to be blind and ignorant? Maybe faith doesn't have to be an alien concept to the halls of science? Many folks on both sides of the aisle have reconciled these concepts - It is possible for those who are willing to abandon the false dilemma that has existed in the minds of many for centuries.

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