Monday, August 22, 2011


I've been thinking about faith lately. The Apostle Paul said, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen." Which sounds kind of neat, except that when you examine it closely, it ends up not meaning much. Exactly what is "the substance of things hoped for?" The other half, "the evidence of things not seen" makes a little more sense, except that I'd say that the evidence of things not seen is -- evidence. We can't see the back side of the moon, but we accept that it's there, based on, what? Faith. No, I'd say that we have faith based on evidence.
And yet the idea of evidence-based faith runs counter to most religious thought today. One religious leader said, "Faith precedes the miracle," which I interpret to mean, if you believe hard enough, it will come into being. Kind of a twist on the "If you build it they will come" mantra from otherworldly movies like "Field of Dreams."
So, I'd like to posit that there are three types of faith.
Faith A is faith that you have because of the evidence. What the Greeks called "logos." When my doctor told me I had blockage of the cardiac artery and showed me the X-ray, I believed. I had faith. Some people differentiate between knowledge and faith, but that's a false dichotomy. If you believe because of the evidence, you have Faith A. In a court case, both sides present evidence, and one side engenders more faith than the other. Then you get a verdict.
Faith B is a faith that you have in the absence of evidence. This is what most people think of as faith, and perhaps what Paul had when he started his maundering definition. I believe in God, or Jesus, or Buddha, or Mohamed, or Zoroaster, or astrology or the Tarot, or tea leaves, even though there is no real evidence that the information is true.
Faith C is a faith that you have in spite of the evidence. The belief that the earth is 6,000 years old, for instance, or that God created a certain number of animal species which has remained constant, that there was a world-wide flood -- you get the picture. This faith is the scary one. It's one thing to believe in a 6,000 year-old earth when all you have to go on is some old texts, but it's quite another when you can walk out in your back yard and see the folding in the earth that took place a good sight longer ago than a measly six grand years. In order to keep your belief, you have to reject not only the accumulated evidence, but pretty much rational thought itself. The work that people will go through to explain away data is awesome. One person explained to me in solemn detail how the layers in the earth's crust were the effect of a giant earthquake that shook things up and made them naturally sort themselves out into layer. Sir William of Occam is twirling in his grave.


Bekkieann said...

This is a very thoughtful post, Ron. It gives me something to think about from my agnostic view.

I was wondering what you might think of this billboard now seen from a SLC freeway? Do you see it as either helpful, offensive, or neither?

On both your houses said...

Thanks Bekkiann. About the billboard. It's not a very good design, and I don't know if the message is effective. I think they are trying to snag the lonely, puzzled, thoughtful driver who, just at that moment, is feeling very alone because he or she thinks that everyone in the world believes in God. Hmmm. There's a blog in that.