I have been thinking a lot about Richard Dawkins’ statements that faith is the greatest moral issue in the modern age, and I really agree with him. Of course, he would say that having faith is the greatest modern danger, but I would say that not having it is the greater danger. Details, details. :)
Part of the difference is that I can’t really get behind his definition of faith at all. Dawkins defines faith as believing something without evidence.
I don’t really think that’s what faith means at all. My faith in Christianity comes from the evidence that Jesus lived 2,000 years ago, died and later rose again. Of course, Dawkins asserts that no evidence could assert that Jesus rose from the dead because it’s scientifically impossible from everything that we know, and all claims of miracles are completely bogus.
To me, this is putting a lot of extra faith in our own understanding of the world. It would be like someone from 500 years ago asserting that X-ray machines are scientifically impossible because X-rays at the time were unknown.
Similarly, Jesus raising himself from the dead or performing miracles is not that particularly hard to believe, if we believe that Jesus has a perfect understanding of all of the laws of the universe. Or, to put it another way, perhaps Jesus’ had more understanding or better technology than we do. It’s not actually scientifically impossible, it’s just scientifically unknown to us.
Arguing against Jesus on the basis of miracles not being common or understood is silly, since that was the entire point. You can’t disprove miracles based on modern science, but you can prove them with many witnesses and examining history.
Perhaps through examining history you’ll come to a different conclusion, but in my examination, I found every reason to believe that Jesus performed many miracles and (most of all) raised from the dead, giving great weight to his claims to being God’s one and only Son sent to earth.
So faith is not without evidence, it is with great evidence, though obviously some may not find the evidence convincing. But to say that faith is not based on evidence is silly.
The second part to faith, especially Christian faith, is that it is not faith in an idea, but faith in a person. Just as a married person has faith in their spouse, I have faith in Jesus. This faith is certainly based on evidence, a couple may start out as friends, grow romantically involved, then eventually get engaged and get married. Their faith in each other starts at zero and gradually grows (and shrinks) based on evidence. If I have faith in someone to do the right thing for me, I need to know they love me, and the way I know they love me is based on what they do. Therefore, their actions act as evidence to feed my faith in them. This is true in every relationship and is especially true in my relationship with Jesus.
At first, my faith was small, but as time has gone on, my faith has grown as Jesus has proven to be more and more reliable. I used to ask Jesus what to do with small parts of my life, and as he guided me and things worked out Ok, I trusted him more and more. Now, I base my whole life on what he directs me, and I have faith that will only grow.
This is just as much evidence driven as whether I believe that Jesus lived and that he rose from the dead and that he appeared to hundreds of people post-crucifixion alive and well.
But in general, scientists will take “faith” to mean the first, when most Christians use “faith” to mean the second.
This conflict has been huge, and it has caused many to wrongly assume that Christianity and Science are in conflict and can’t live together. In reality, they both fit together nicely, and that’s because they answer different questions with different approaches.
Science can only answer questions about things that are observable and repeatable. Christianity answers questions about the motives and plans of people. (primarily the person of God)
Evidence, logic and understanding drive both, but they drive both differently.
Faith is still informed by and grows through observation, information and history. But even with the best information, nothing is completely certain. Faith is just the word we use to cover the uncertainty.