Faith is Not

Based on the last 18 months or so, I think having a crisis of faith is by all means a reasonable thing. The existence of doubt in light of current circumstances would be a logical response. However, I have found that many people think doubt is somehow uniquely problematic for the Christian living a life of faith – that if you doubt you are at some level a bad Christian.  I find that to not only be untrue, but I am willing to go further – faith cannot exist without doubt. Even if you refuse to believe me on that point, it is true that faith and doubt can exist in the same person at the same time.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11380
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Hi, Real Faith, the Faith of Miracles, starts with a
Positive Biased outlook.

  • If you have real faith, and pray everyday,
    Real Miracles should happen everyday,
    anyways that what happens for me.
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Faith is NOT … the absence of doubt.
On the contrary. Faith doubts that everything can be explained by logic, faith doubts that everything can be accomplished by science (just given enough time), faith doubts I can accomplish salvation, if only I tried hard enough. And faith can even critcally read the Bible - and doubt whether I got it right (my understanding). Adventists like to speak of the “tests of a prophet”. A very healthy dose of doubt, when all you need to say, is “God has told me” in order to silence all discussion.

I confess - I am very much with the unbelieving believer or with the doubting Thomas - okay, I am a researcher… But more importantantly I find Jesus very understanding in those situations and in my own life.

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Could you give us some examples of these Real Miracles, preferably some that don’t happen to people without real faith?

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This is a wonderful piece and very timely…thank you!

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As a method of gaining knowledge, epistemologically speaking, faith is acceptance of a claim for a fact of reality unobtainable through the exercise of reason based of sufficient objective evidence. To put it another way, faith is belief in the absence of evidence or in spite of evidence to the contrary.

In this sense, faith is not primarily belief in the object of a claim. For instance, if I claim to have been abducted by an alien spaceship and given the ability to define once and for all how the universe came to be and how people should comport themselves, those who accept my claim do not primarily have faith in alien spaceships; rather, they are exercising faith IN ME as the claimant. Without sufficient, objective evidence to back my claim, and despite my history as a psychiatric patient, those who believe me are truly exercising faith in the absence of evidence and ignoring disconfirming evidence. My claim has, in effect, replaced critical thinking in the minds of those who believe me. They have allowed a short circuit in the reasoning process to occur. But the rational response should be, “That which has been claimed without sufficient, objective evidence should be dismissed”. Period.

The default position for anyone hearing extraordinary claims should be doubt or skepticism. Most people with religious beliefs have no difficulty doubting the miraculous or extraordinary claims of other religions, but not their own. Does anyone reading this doubt and reject the Mormon claim that Joseph Smith received golden plates interpreted to him by an angel? Why? Is it because the claim is lacking objective evidence? Is it because contrarian evidence exists due to some early “witnesses” having recanted? Is it difficult to believe that Muhammad flew to heaven on a flying horse? Or that the virgin Mary appeared to a multitude in Fatima? Yet, when it comes to one’s own religious beliefs, the default position is to believe the extraordinary claims without the same skepticism which would be exercised towards “foreign” faith claims.

Think about it.

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I object to the definition of faith as a belief in the absence of evidence. Faith is based on evidence. It is “a leap” in that there is never sufficient evidence for absolute proof.

I do not believe that alien space ships have come to earth. But the government just released a trove of “evidence” that is quite convincing to some. There is evidence. One has to analyze it, and deicide.

What about the existence of God? I have read atheists say that there is “No evidence for God”. They look out at the universe and see no evidence for his existence. While others look out and say, “The heavens declare to glory of God.” Why the difference? They are looking at the same information, after all.

This coming to belief, such as that there is no God, or there is, or that we have been visited by aliens, is a mysterious process. An internal one, and one not really open to examination from one on the outside. I believe in God, and can explain why, but such an explanation will not necessarily be accepted by a nonbeliever. And I can understand why one might not come to beleif. But do not agree with those that do so. I think the best stance is to truly believe what you are convinced of, be understanding of others, but do not discredit your own thinking.

No.

What is sufficient evidence? That is the problem, for such is different for each person.

Many scientists of high standing believe in abiogenesis, the process where life comes from non life. Such belief is an act of faith. How can I make such a claim?

Well, the evidence is so thin.

  1. It has never been seen to occur in the present chemical milieu on our planet, in any lab or in the wild
  2. The Miller-Urey experiment and others like it have produced some chemical building blocks, nucleic acids, sugars etc., but no actual life molecules. And the same process that makes the building blocks turns them in to an inert tary goo by the Maillard process. These experiments are touted as proof of abiogenesis when they prove just the opposite.
  3. Life is so complex it defies a simple explanation.

Yet in the biology texts, any of them, you will find assertions as if this issue had been settled. Why? Because any idea aside from a godless one is not acceptable politically or philosophically. That is not an issue of evidence, but personal choice, that mysterious process I mentioned.

Actually, these assertions are not an honest assessment of the issue. There is really no deviance for abiogenesis.

No, it should be careful examination of the claims.

We are all biased. So, we should recognize our biases, admit them, examine them, and allow for error in our own assessments and that of others as well. I need not accept your claims for anything. But I should be respectful.

I have not been impressed that evolutionary scientist can do that. To doubt that evolution is true is just to threatening to their world view. So, such thinking is dismissed as unworthy of exploration.

Belief in abiogenesis is a pure leap of faith. But you would not think so by reading articles on it or on evolution (a different idea, but related).

Faith is required for any gaining of knowledge.

My little fourth grade student has explicit faith in me because he knows I love him. He believes what I say. So, he is open to all the knowledge that I have, and he is teachable, and will gain knowledge quickly, because, well, he believes. It is the same at every level of education. If the student believes IN the teacher, they can be taught. Otherwise it is useless.

Before knowledge comes faith. Just the way it is.

Really? The Tonga tribe of the Zambezi Valley claim that Nyami Nyami the River God lives in Lake Kariba. How much time would you devote in “careful examination of the claims”? Or, with the claim lacking any apparent reason, would you simply dismiss it?

If your neighbor claimed to have played a round of golf and got a hole in one on all 18 holes, would you honor the claim or scoff? At least in this case, there is prior evidence that golf courses exist and that a hole in one is possible, though exceedingly rare. But the claim that this rare event happened 18 times in succession is highly improbable. Would you yet have faith in this otherwise trustworthy individual, or would you default to skepticism. Would you at least ask for video?

2000 years ago, most of the Mediterranean world believed in the existence of Jupiter or Zeus. Would you carefully examine the claim?

If you read in an ancient text that a donkey spoke, would you dismiss it as a claim without sufficient evidence, or would you dismiss it in the same way that you would dismiss Muhammad’s flight on the magic horse?

If evidence exists, faith is superfluous. Without evidence, faith is a replacement means of acquiring knowledge based on someone’s claim. It has no method for verification or falsification. As such, it can be neither true nor false; it is simply an arbitrary claim deserving of summary dismissal.

The actual need is sufficient OBJECTIVE evidence. Evidence isn’t subjective. It exists or it doesn’t. It must fit into the hierarchy of previously established knowledge, or if compelling enough, it will alter that hierarchy. For a credulous person, the claim of an ancient, anonymous person might be enough to believe, especially if it comes from a prior trusted source, usually one arising from one’s childhood and cultural indoctrination. But credulity isn’t the same thing as knowledge.

You are now moving from one definition of faith to another. Slippery but disingenuous. Faith as a means of gaining knowledge is an epistemological methodology. You are now moving the definition to “trust”. Yes, a child trusts authority figures. You may teach her both facts and fantasy, and she will accept both. With maturity, that child should develop a healthy skepticism to allow one to be sorted out from another. With maturity, that person learns that all actual knowledge may not be known by any single individual, but that given time, motivation, and intelligence, experts in any field can present the data and the reasons establishing both facts and informed speculation leading to the acquisition of knowledge. That isn’t “trust” or “faith”. Rather, it is the means of communicating the facts of reality based on sufficient objective evidence. A mature student, practiced in the art of reasoning, can discern the flaws or the validity of a chain of knowledge and logical extrapolation. Your example of a fourth grader’s credulity is the perfect example of indoctrination. She trusts you, so she will accept any proposition you offer. That may or may not correspond to actual knowledge.

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Paul showed us how to handle such claims by his speech on Mars hill. He was serious with them, and did not attack their belief, but rather presented the truth. I have not found that scoffing is a useful way to change minds. Even of a neighbor claiming 19 holes in one.

So why do so many scientists believe in abiogenesis? There is no more evidence for that than for Jupiter or the Nyami Nyami. You seem to feel that these issues are easy and clear cut. They are not. I noted the mysterious nature of belief because we believe things on a wide range of basis. Watson looked at the complexity of life and asserted that it must have come from somewhere else, panspermia. What kind of faith is that? There is no evidence for it at all, yet this great scientist believed it! What about panpsychism, an idea gaining advocates even in science?

How can anyone believe in abiogenesis? Or panspermia? Where is the objective evidence?

You are quick to condemn believers, but do not see the beam in the eye of science. Real respected scientists have faith in things that have no evidence. So what plane are they operating on? The same plane as the creationist in your little cartoon.

Do you believe in abiogenesis? Panspermia? Panpsychism? The mind? Wha about the mind/body problem? Which of these is based on facts, anymore than a belief in a designer, and creationism?

I don’t really even care how you answer, for there is faith required in all of them. Even math is based on unprovable assumptions. (Godel’s incompleteness theorems).

Science is a human exercise. Humans choose their “objective facts”. And so come to different conclusions.

You need to show me your thinking on abiogenesis. Then we can really talk.

I’m not a scientist and have spent no time on speculative origin of life concepts. Pointing out gaps in scientifically established facts does not in any way discredit the broad scope of scientific theories which continually correspond with emerging knowledge. Nor does finding quotes from individual scientists which go beyond evidence call into question established facts. That evolution has occurred is a fact. The mechanism by which it operates is a theory. That theory stands at the base of all related fields of knowledge: genetics, geology, the geologic column, biology, medicine, and dating techniques.

At its core, abiogenesis is nothing more than an observation that life somehow originated from non-living matter.

After all, we know that there was no living matter some 13.7 billion years ago at the beginning of the universe as we know it (the so-called “big bang”) and we know that there is life now, so the only possibility is that life somehow arose from non-living matter at some point in time.

Even most religions agree with this, since they usually have some sort of story about how a deity of some sort formed the first life out of clay or water or some other non-living matter.

The only questions are how and when did abiogenesis occur.

There are certainly pseudo-scientific explanations, such as the aforementioned religious stories.

And then there are several scientific hypotheses which, although not quite well established and supported by evidence to be accepted as full-fledged theories, are certainly scientific in nature since they are based on actual evidence and not just ancient stories.

The question of how and when life began is not yet answerable. This is not to say that it will never be answerable. We are dealing with the unknown, not necessarily the unknowable. The suggestion that El or Yahweh did it is not a reasonable alternative any more than the notion that the world sits on the back of a turtle. What is under the turtle? Another turtle. It is turtles all the way down. We can either seek actual knowledge, or devolve into belief in magic.

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Sometimes it is the best way to break through the fog, as Jefferson noted:

“Altho’ I rarely waste time in reading on theological subjects, as mangled by our Pseudo-Christians, yet I can readily suppose Basanistos may be amusing. Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. it is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus. if it could be understood it would not answer their purpose. their security is in their faculty of shedding darkness.” Thomas Jefferson, letter to Francis Van der Kemp.

or " No God and no religion can survive ridicule. No political church, no nobility, no royalty or other fraud, can face ridicule in a fair field, and live." Mark Twain

The alternative is to take seriously and solemnly examine the claims of flying horses, golden plates with seeing stones, parting of a sea, or bodies flying up into outer space. One certainty is that there will never be a shortage of extraordinary or ludicrous claims; respect is not the first response that comes to my mind.

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This is a statement of your view on the origin of life, it is an observation. it does not need explanation.

There is a vast difference between believing that a diety did it and that it arose spontaneously. The difference is agency. To believe that it arose spontaneously without an agent is an idea not based on evidence, for we have never seen anything so complex as life without an agent involved

Again, the difference between the idea of a diety doing the creating and it occurring without agency is large. The scientific hypotheses are speculation, without basis in any known chemical reaction or reactions. The three ideas on life’s origin, cell membrane first, RNA first, protein first, all have utterly fatal flaws. In fact they are pseudo-science themselves, for they have no basis in any known science. No better than Watson’s panspermia.

What you have done, having dismissed all other ideas as impossible, is accepted impossible scientific hypotheses that have no basis in real science. There is no evidence that life could have arisen without an agent. None. So, such belief is actually a statement of faith, defined as you do, a belief without evidence.

No, Yahweh was better credentials than the turtle hypothesis.

  1. Yahweh claims to have done it.
  2. There is evidence that an agency did do it. Nothing but an agency could have made something so complex.
  3. Yahweh gives evidence of his existence with prophecy and the gospel.

Your dismissal of agency is the problem. No other origin of such complex things as life has been hypothesized. So you are in the realm of fantasy.

Hmmm.

My answer would be Jesus on he cross, ridiculed by the crowds, but the one in whose name the largest church on earth has been established.

Even though the thread is closed, I can answer a bit by editing this post. I will only answer one of your objections, because it is the most egregious mistake in your accusation.

No, it is not bewilderment. Not at all. When I look at a contrived item, I can tell it is contrived. it has the look of the work of a designer. We see it all the time. I am sitting in front of an Apple Mac. It was not the result of random happenings, it was designed and built by an agent. When I look at the micro-machines in the cell, they have th same appearance. They look contrived. And they are wonders of miniaturization.

Now you can argue that we just do not know “yet” how it could happen naturally, but at the moment there is no other explanation than a designer. You guys do not even come close. I have a BA in chemistry and am an MD., so have a modicum of knowledge here.

You have no explanation. I do. And it not based on an ancient text, but objective evidence.

I already told you that I’m not a scientist and have little interest in origin speculation. The one thing we know is that virtually every “mystery” of the universe that has been claimed as a deity’s doing has eventually been shown to have natural causes. Speculating beyond existing evidence is a bit fruitless. Scientific experimentation to try to find in answers always produces failures until there is a new finding that can be replicated.

The fossil record will probably not be where evidence is found since anything prior to the first single cell organisms will likely not be preserved.

The absence of a natural explanation (yet) is not evidence that Yahweh did it. The explanation that a deity is responsible for that which is not understood has always been the fallback position throughout human history. Of course the bronze age Bible writers didn’t understand the cosmos and thought the earth was flat, that there was a metal dome above us, and that the gods lived just beyond it. They didn’t know where the sun went at night. So naturally, we want to go to them to understand origin questions.

Your suggestion that there must be agency involved in origins because of complexity is the same as saying, “My bewilderment is evidence that a god must be responsible.” Of course, by its very nature, the notion that a deity is involved, lacks evidence entirely. As the article is about faith, I will point out that your claim that “Yahweh claims to have done it”, is not based upon anything other than the writings of an unknown author from somewhere around the 5th century BC. I’m guessing that you haven’t had Yahweh whispering in your ear, so you are taking the word of that anonymous author. Your faith is not primarily directed toward Yahweh; rather, your faith is directed toward another person, unknown and with unknown motives, who doesn’t make any claims as to how he got his knowledge.

What a remarkable thing that the particular deity(s) among the Canaanite pantheon in which you believe just happen to actually exist. Even in Genesis, it is evident that there are two disparate creation myths present. The first is that of the Canaanite god El who was the highest god, or since El is written in plural form, the entire pantheon. Genesis 2 follows with a creation myth of Yahweh. It would appear that the entirety of Genesis is a compilation of folklore meant to be a Hebrew founding myth.

You think prophecy validates the totality of the ancient writings which were later compiled into one anthology. Think again. Predictions written after the event or predictions which fail aren’t very persuasive.

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