Faith & Reason

There are a number of different struggles taking place in regard to how one should view the concepts of faith and reason. The attacks and confusion come from both inside as well as outside of the religious community. Numerous suggestions are given for how one ought to view the relationship between the two.

From a by-gone era, Mark Twain quipped, “There are those who scoff at the schoolboy, calling him frivolous and shallow: Yet it was the schoolboy who said ‘Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.’” Has the schoolboy enlightened us with some profound information? Or has he simply said out loud what others thought but were afraid to say? More recently, philosophy professor Peter Boghossian has echoed the words of Twain in his own definitions of faith. According to Boghossian, faith is either “pretending to know things that you do not know” or “belief without evidence.” The significance of this definition is seen when one understands that the agenda for the said professor is to talk people out of faith and into reason. If faith and reason are seen as mutually exclusive, one will have a formula for taking believers and creating atheists.

However, faith is not a blind leap into the dark beyond the evidence that has been provided. Biblical faith is not belief without evidence. On the contrary, faith and knowledge cannot be separated. Biblically approved faith, also known as saving faith, requires evidence. Where there is no evidence there can be no faith. Where God has not spoken or revealed himself there can be no faith.

Roy Deaver once offered this helpful insight into the components of biblical faith:

Biblical faith inherently involves: (1) the fact of the existence of God; (2) the fact of the existence of man; (3) the revealing ability of God to man; (4) the response ability of man; (5) the testimony of God to man; (6) man’s proper response to that testimony. Faith – in the Bible sense – means taking God at His word. It means doing just what God said to do, just because God said to do it. There is no Biblical faith where there is no testimony of God.

Take note of John 17: 21, 23. Jesus desired for the world to believe that he was sent from the Father. Jesus desired for the world to know that he was sent from the Father. Faith does not preclude knowledge. Knowledge does not preclude one from having faith. In fact, the opposite is true. Knowledge is necessary for faith.

As we search through Scripture, we never once approach the idea of being asked to pretend to know things that we really do not know. Rather, what we find is that we are to be in awe of the truth of the incarnation and plan of salvation (John 1:14; 3:3-5). We are to humbly submit to and trust in the one who is the truth (John 14:6). Faith involves a discerning intellect and it also involves a trusting heart. With a clearer understanding of the relationship between faith and reason, fewer will abandon faith and fellowship. The school boy was wrong. Faith is not “believing what you know ain’t so.” Faith is being committed with the head and the heart to the one who is the truth.