Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

How to deal with faith

"Maybe I don't have any arguments, but I have faith, and you can't take that away !"

From an evangelical perspective, you're still at the beginning there. Of course the Christian has faith, that's assumed as a matter of course. The question is, why ?

From a debate/discussion perspective, many people think this is the end and that there is nothing left to say, but it really isn't and there is still plenty to say. As I've discussed recently in the classification of the positions, belief is not an ontological position. The idea that one has faith is not an ontological statement, but a personal appeal. There are believers of every religion because one's religion is determined by parental indoctrination, not by the evidence.

So the first answer one should give to such a statement is "why are you bringing your personal appeal in a discussion about facts ? We don't care whether you have faith or not". To invoke a personal appeal against arguments of fact is a cop-out.

Of course, the emotional weight of the belief is such that this is unlikely to to convince anyone. And if you are trying to convert someone, it's the wrong thing to say. But it's a perfectly natural reply in a philosophical discussion. Why should we care about someone's faith ? We should care no more than we would about someone's scientific position. Truth is not a vote.

There are many places we can go from here :

* You can use the subjectivity of belief-forming experiences to show how fragile the concept of faith is. "Religious experiences" are only assumed to be of God, or even "religious", because of the believer's presuppositions, and so on and so forth.

* You can also use the dice analogy - you roll a die, and either assume what the number will be based on your favourite numerological belief (faith), or use your senses to look at the die and see what number it is (reason) - to prove that the Christian does not take faith seriously. Parallel to that, you can ask them in general how many things they have faith about, or why they don't have faith in the Spaghetti Monster or other gods.

* You can point out that Biblical characters did NOT need faith, as they had material evidence of the existence of God. Why aren't we all given what Abraham or Paul had ?

* You can take the argument tack and interpret faith as a variant of the arguments from belief, and argue that materialism can give an account of the person's faith, disproving the connection between the personal appeal and the ontology.

* You can attack it outright with materialist apologetics and show that the Christian could not have such a faith without concepts (such as the idea of what "God" or "Christianity" is) and without the nature of whatever it is they use as support.

But never let the Christians off with the excuse of faith. It is really no different from any other personal appeal, just more generalized. If you have any other ways to deal with faith in a discussion/debate perspective, post them on the comments and I'll add them.

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At 8/31/2005 12:30 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

You can ask about the origins of their "faith" and why their "faith" is selective (like why they dont have faith in the Flysing Spaghetti Monster).

You can ask them to define faith, and then give them the dictionary and biblical definitions of it. You can ask them what other things they have faith in besides religion (what else they believe in without logical proof or material evidence).

You can ask them which biblical characters had faith, then when they answer "Mark" or "Abraham" or something, you can show them that they are wrong, because these characters had MATERIAL EVIDENCE in terms of miracles, direct talking with Jesus (who performed miracles), etc...

You can give them the Dan Barker quote on faith. (To paraphrase): Faith is a cop out, i the only way you can accept a position is through faith, then you concede that it cant be taken on its own merits.

Then finish off by directly asking them: "can your worldview be taken on its own merits?"

If they say yes, then tell them that they dont have faith because to take something on its own merits is to contend that it indeed DOES have "logical proof or material evidence"

Wow that is fun!

At 8/31/2005 2:38 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

Okay, I'll edit the article for these.

At 8/31/2005 3:48 PM, Blogger Alana Asby Roberts declaimed...

Probably most Christians who can only answer that they have faith are not theologically trained. Right now the larger part of the Church so-called is more concerned with whether Christianity is hip than whether it is true. I call this group PopChristianity.

This does not mean that Christianity is unreasonable. In fact, the beliefs of the Christian faith are part and parcel of the history of Western ideas, culture and belief. Only the irrational arrogance that sees one's own time as the only arbiter of truth can serve as an excuse not to recognize the tenets of Christianty as, at least, intellectually plausible.

But you should also know something about the nature of Christian faith. Since we are using the word, it is our theology that defines it. And scholarly Christianity has always seen faith as an inner confidence in the goodness or reliability of God. Remember, history shows that it is the natural state of humans to recognize a deity. The question that faith has had to deal with for most of history is not, "Does God Exist?" (this question would have been seen as irrational) but rather, "Who is God? Can I trust God?"

Since, in the Christian story, everybody is born antagonistic to God's nature, faith is an inward moral revolution - a change into likeing the way God is. God himself must give it to a person. It is almost like a revelation that is good for just one person. Therefore, to a Christian, the posession of faith in some measure proves (but only to the posessor) that God is there. So some who answer "I have faith" may be simply saying that they are OK with your attacks because they have an experience that makes them impervious to it. They may not be using their experience to try to convince you.

If you want to think about the rationality of theology, you might try C.S.Lewis or Ronald Nash.

At 8/31/2005 4:39 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

"If you want to think about the rationality of theology"

There is no such thing as the "rationality of theology".

"you might try C.S.Lewis or Ronald Nash."

How about I don't and say I did.

I've already refuted many of C.S. Lewis' presuppositionalist "arguments" on my web site. Never heard of Ronald Nash, but he must be worse.

At 9/01/2005 3:37 PM, Blogger Brandon declaimed...

"If you want to think about the rationality of theology"

There is no such thing as the "rationality of theology".

Honestly, and you wonder why all the defenders left. You don't even try to refute his position anymore.

When the athiests start turning their back on you, then that's bad news.

At 9/01/2005 5:05 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

What defenders left ? All the atheists are still posting on here. It's the Christians that are running away.

At 9/01/2005 11:03 PM, Blogger Aaron Kinney declaimed...

alana asby roberts said:

And scholarly Christianity has always seen faith as an inner confidence in the goodness or reliability of God.


At the foundation, you are not expressing faith in God, but expressing faith in a MAN-MADE BOOK!

Your faith rests, at the foundation, on a material book written by material men in a material universe.

THAT is the heart of your faith.

Sorry for all the bold and capitalization, but when you say that your "Christian" faith rests on God (foundationally), you are either blind/confused to what the basis of your worldview is, or a liar.

At 9/09/2005 6:59 AM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

"If you want to think about the rationality of theology, you might try C.S.Lewis or Ronald Nash."

Ah, the old confusion of ideas between rationality and rationalization.

I have read C.S. Lewis extensively. Good story teller, but I cannot remember even one reference to pasta, so he must have been misguided. Still, if it wasn't for "The Screwtape Letters", we might never have had the comic stylings of Jack Chick, so I guess we owe Lewis some homage for all the laughs.



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