Is Biblical Faith Separate from or Based on Solid Evidence?(under construction)
CRUCIAL FOUNDATIONS OF RATIONAL THOUGHT
"Test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good." 1 Thessalonians 5:21
"The gullible believe anything they are told, but clever people know to question every step." Proverbs 14:15
Follow the evidence, wherever it leads.” Socrates
G.K. Chesterton - "Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions."
Some of the most important foundations of rational thought in all fields are the principles above, test everything (don't be gullible), avoid fallacies as if it was deadly cancer (most harm in history that has been been done started by reasoning with fallacies of some kind), then follow the theory which has the best evidence as the truth to the best of your knowledge. Then sStay open to new evidence and the possibility that you could be wrong. Listen to challenges and questions (but questions aren't evidence...they are great stimulation to find new evidence). But only change your view if a new hypothesis demonstrates that it has more and better evidence than the one you currently have, especially in the most important areas. These principles have produced some of the greatest progress and benefits in the history of humanity. But, does the Bible really reason this way? Isn't it true that if you have faith, you have no need for evidence as some people say?
Unfortunately, many well meaning people have been conned into thinking that biblical faith in God has nothing to do with evidence. But historically, the term faith was used by many cultures, including Bible writers in ways that intrinsically depended on evidence. If you read the Bible, you will see that it's writers consistently argued for faith and belief in God based on many types of evidence. The idea that biblical faith is disconnected from evidence just is not true and could not be farther from the truth and you will be able to see that for yourself below.
Please keep in mind though that evidence is NOT only evidence that you can see. Even atheists like Richard Dawkins agree with that saying it's absurd to refuse to believe something just because you can't see it:
God did not expect people to just accept any old claim that was made. NEVER. From the beginning, He made claims and then backed them up with unrivaled practical benefits (profound human rights advances, better health, more wealth, etc.), scientific evidence, historical evidence, logic, wisdom, signs, wonders, and miracles, the most credible witnesses and more. God used many kinds of fully empirical evidence to confirmed the superiority and truth of His claims. Real biblical faith works a lot more like this:
It is an indisputable fact that the Bible strongly advocated having evidence and good reasons for beliefs of all kinds that people accepted. It warned against accepting just anything we are told as a trait of the gullible. It advocated carefully distinguishing myths from facts and deciding based on the weight of evidence long before the Greeks did. This also applied to the concept of faith for the Israelis (as well as to some extent the Greeks and Romans) which was something that rested strongly on evidence. Based on the way Bible writers used the term faith, faith in God's reality can even be called the conclusion of the weight of evidence and a theory (in the scientific sense). Just a few of them are these:
- "When we apostles told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we didn’t base our message on clever myths that we made up. Rather, we witnessed his majesty with our own eyes." 2 Peter 1:16
- "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have." 1 Peter 3:15
- "Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ." Galatians 1:11-12
- Hebrews 2:3-4 So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? 4 And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose.
- “Now search all of history, from the time God created people on the earth until now, and search from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything as great as this ever been seen or heard before? Has any nation ever heard the voice of God speaking from fire—as you did—and survived? Has any other god dared to take a nation for himself out of another nation by means of trials, miraculous signs, wonders, war, a strong hand, a powerful arm, and terrifying acts? Yet that is what the Lord your God did for you in Egypt, right before your eyes.
“He showed you these things so you would know that the Lord is God and there is no other. 36 He let you hear his voice from heaven so he could instruct you. He let you see his great fire here on earth so he could speak to you from it. Because he loved your ancestors, he chose to bless their descendants, and he personally brought you out of Egypt with a great display of power. He drove out nations far greater than you, so he could bring you in and give you their land as your special possession, as it is today.
So remember this and keep it firmly in mind: The Lord is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is no other. 40 If you obey all the decrees and commands I am giving you today, all will be well with you and your children. I am giving you these instructions so you will enjoy a long life in the land the Lord your God is giving you for all time.” Deuteronomy 4:32-40
- "I searched everywhere, determined to find wisdom and to understand the reason for things." Ecclesiastes 7:25
- "Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly." Leviticus 19:15 (NIV)
- "When a king sits in judgment, he weighs all the evidence, distinguishing the bad from the good." Proverbs 20:8
- "'Come now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord..." Isaiah 1:18
When God asked Moses to go to Egypt, he was very worried that they wouldn't believe him. In Exodus 4:1, he says, “What if they won’t believe me or listen to me? What if they say, ‘The Lord never appeared to you’?”
God tells him how to convince them, with 3 miracles that God gives him power to do (turning a staff into a snake, healing a leprous hand, and turning Nile water into blood). Then God says in verse 8:
“If they do not believe you and are not convinced by
the first miraculous sign,
they will be convinced by the second sign."
God challenges other gods/idols in a famous court scene to present evidence that they exist in Isaiah 41 after God has done MANY things that Israel has seen.
21 “Present your case,” says the Lord. “Bring forth your strong reasons,” says the King of Jacob.
22 “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were,
That we may consider them, And know the latter end of them;Or declare to us things to come.
23 Show the things that are to come hereafter, That we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil,
That we may be dismayed and see it together.
29 Indeed they are all worthless; Their works are nothing; Their molded images are wind and confusion.
Luke, one of the most accurate historians in ancient history, writes about Jesus,
"After his suffering [death on the cross], he showed them that he was alive with many convincing proofs. He appeared to them over a period of forty days, speaking to them about God’s kingdom." Acts 1:3
In Daniel 1, Daniel was an Israeli exiled to Babylon after Israel was conquered (due to wickedness of many people). He strongly wanted to keep following God. The Babylonians offered him food that God said was not right or healthy to eat. He couldn’t appeal to the Bible. They didn’t care about them. So, he proposed an independent scientific test which was actually the first use of the modern scientific method in all history with a control group and met many of the conditions of modern clinical trials. He proposed a 10 day scientific test comparing the Biblical diet (vegetarian without alcohol) to the Babylonian diet (meat based with alcohol) using 2 groups of boys to determine which was healthier.
Dr. David Grimes, a doctor with decades of experience working in public health at the CDC, Emory University, USC, the University of North Carolina and others (http://davidagrimes.com), writes about this:
“Around 600 BC, Daniel of Judah conducted…the earliest recorded clinical trial. His trial compared the health effects of a vegetarian diet with those of a royal Babylonian diet over a 10-day period. The strengths of his study include the use of a contemporaneous control group, use of an independent assessor of outcome, and striking brevity in the published report.” Clinical research in ancient Babylon: methodologic insights from the book of Daniel. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7501328 The full paper can also be viewed here: http://oldjll.sustainabilityforhealth.org/trial_records/bc/daniel/grimes-commentary.pdf
The Bible also warns us that people will be tempted to follow their own desires instead of truth.
- "For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths." 2 Timothy 4:3-4
- Speaking of Jewish traditions that conflicted with the Bible, Paul said, "Don’t pay any attention to any of those senseless Jewish stories and human commands. These are made up by people who won’t obey the truth." Titus 1:14
As you read keep in mind that words even in the same language can have very different meanings and ranges even in the same language, and more so in different languages. A couple examples of this:
- Dinner for some Americans means the evening meal, while for others it means lunch (and supper is in the evening)
- Football in America is a game with touchdowns, while for most of the world, it refers to the game soccer.
- The word pumpkin in America has the connotation of cute, while in Korea it has the connotation of ugly.
- (range difference) Doll in English can mean a human shaped toy, but in Korea, the term includes all stuffed animals.
See more here:
This does NOT mean that all the Bible or other books can mean anything you want it to. Of course not. This is an even more fallacy than the idea that faith does not rest on evidence. While in some cases there are multiple meanings for words, there are only a very limited possibility of meanings that can exist. If you look at the different linguistic cues and use fair reasoning (the same you would want used with your own words), then you can figure out what the author maent to say with 100% surety in the vast majority of cases. For example, when a friend talks about football and then uses the words striker and goal and names of famous soccer players along with that, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that he's talking about soccer, not American football. It's the same with the Bible or any book. The few cases where we aren't 100% sure hardly ever matter since we have many other very sure verses on those topics or they are on very trivial topics that aren't of any serious significance.
Throughout the Bible, faith was NOT an assertion or assumption. It was a rational CONCLUSION of many types of evidence, some of which are listed below. And Christians have developed quite a few more additional lines of evidence to believe in God in addition to Bible arguments. Dr. William Lane Craig for example in a recent debate at Purdue University briefly listed 8 philosophical/scientific reasons why God is real (and you can see many others in other places in this website and links that it suggests).
Eight Reasons Why God is Real
Dr. Craig had a debate with Alex Rosenberg in early 2013 at Purdue that was quite good and in that first ~30 minutes he lists ~8 reasons from philosophy/science/math why God is real. These are only 8 evidence based reasons out of 1000s. But, they are quite good.
(an audio interview with the 8 reasons is here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBJTtQ7JVsM
You can hear the results of the debate at the end of the debate. The official voting results were:
1) Audience vote: Craig (1390), Rosenberg (303).
2) Judge vote: Craig (4), Rosenberg (2)
3) Online vote: Craig (734), Rosenberg (59).
Rosenberg is clearly very smart on a number of topics, but unfortunately he uses a lot of fallacies. He for example starts off criticizing Craig for using arguments he has used before (something every leading atheist does all the time) and then proceeds to do precisely what he criticized Craig for, recycling all the oldest and most worn out atheist arguments, such as the problem of evil, which has been decisively answered very well for centuries and more recently by Plantinga of Notre Dame...see: http://questions.truth-is-life.org/IsGodEvil.html).
But, overall, the evidence for God is VERY persuasive even with these 8 reasons alone. God is not going to give 100% evidence though for several reasons. One of them being that one of the reasons we are alive is to develop trust in God. If we always have 100% evidence for the reasons for everything, we will never learn to develop trust.
Another very powerful lecture about solid reasons for God, this time in the area of morality, was given by Ravi Zacharias at Princeton in 2013.
Ravi at Princeton University - Why I'm Not an Atheist
FAITH---"pistis" FOR GREEKS/ROMANS/ISRAELIS WAS OFTEN USED IN CONNECTION WITH EVIDENCE
It wasn't just Israelis that connected faith to evidence. Romans and Greeks did too:
modern thinkers have insisted that genuine faith is incompatible with
evidence. Yet there is a significant tendency in ancient Greek
literature, not least in Jewish & Christian writings from the period
of Christian origins, to use pistis precisely in the sense of "pledge"
or "evidence" on which subjective confidence or belief my appropriately
be based...Aeschylus says that the credibility (pistis) of an oath
hinges on the integrity of the one who swears it (frg. 394 )...One
might speak of sense data in general or of a particular empirical
observation as constituting pistis in the sense of "evidence"
(Democritus frg. 125; Polybius 7.13.5; 8.2.1; 10.47.6; Epictetus Disc.
1.28.3; Vettius Valens 7.5.29-30; Diogenes Laertius 10.63 [Epicurus]).
Lawyers describe eyewitness reports as "conclusive proof" of their
assertions (Antipho 6.28)...Plutarch, however, describes an Epicurean
who doubts that events really offer confirmation (pistis) of prophecy
(Or. Delph. 398F). Appian reports that Antony construed Brutus's refusal
to fight as clear proof (pistis) of defeat & cowardice (Bell Civ.
Pistis as "Ground for Faith" in Hellenized Judaism & Paul, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3267114
6 TYPES OF BIBLICAL FAITH
See this link for a short animation on biblical faith. Some of this section comes from this site: http://tektonics.org/whatis/whatfaith.html
The Greek word for faith is "pistis". In the works of Aristotle this was used as a technical rhetorical term for forensic proof. We can also see examples of it from Quintiallian & in the NT. The Bible actually refers to ~5 kinds of faith/belief:
A) demonic/fear based belief (demons know God exists, but don't follow Him. James 2:19)
B) Faith that comes after seeing evidence: For Israel, God didn't ask for them to have faith first (not even after He had done the 10 plagues). He just told them to stand & watch (Exodus 14:13). It is only after opening the Red Sea & sinking the chariots of Pharoah (supernatural actions sometimes do leave physical evidence & they did in this case. They have no similarity to Harry Potter or magic), that God asked them to put faith in Him.
"When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the Lord & in his servant Moses." Exodus 14:31
Peter writes, "For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes"¦The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, "This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy." We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain." 2 Peter 1:16-18.
In addition to eyewitness evidence above, Peter tried to persuade people with 3 main lines of evidence. (Acts 2:22-36):
1. He appealed to the evidence of the wonders & signs performed by Jesus;
2. He appealed to the empty tomb and witnesses,
3. and he appealed to fulfillment of OT prophecy.
Paul cites many very credible witnesses that his readers could verify Jesus' resurrection (and does the same with King Agrippa, a non-believer in Acts) & says, "And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 & if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless..." 1 Corinthians 15:16-7
Paul's writing here also summarizing Pascal's Wager, a strong logical evidence for God that has never been refuted (and all atheists strawman it):
"Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life & in the life to come." 1 Timothy 4:8
These are just some of the types of evidence that Bible authors cited & that made the case for Judaism & Christianity being a religion based on evidence more than any other in history.
C) Dead faith-faith that has no results in changing habits, lives (James 2:17)
D) Empowering faith: This is the crucial faith that connects to God's power to help us overcome addictions, destructive habits, dysfunctional thinking, abusive & dehumanizing behaviors, etc. (Acts 26:18) as well as giving God permission to cover our sins with Jesus' sacrifice & allow him to represent us in front of God.
E) Faith in applying God's principles: The Wright Brothers had faith that humans could fly. Reagan had faith that democracy would triumph over communism. This kind of faith inspired them to diligently work to achieve these results & they succeeded did.
Scientists often have faith in their hypotheses & are convinced they are true (sometimes because of track record, intuition or other reasons) & work to prove (or disprove) them. In a similar same way based on track record, Christians have faith that God's principles when applied will make a far better world now. The Torah/Old Testament speak very little about heaven/hell (as in less than 1% if that). It was almost totally focused on the results of following God's principles in THIS world & making this earth as close to God's ideal as possible. The results of this have been stupendous & pretty much every person on the planet has benefited from this.
How? Kenneth Scott Latourette, Sterling Professor at Yale University, wrote, "Across the centuries Christianity has been the means of reducing more languages to writing than have all other factors combined. It has created more schools, more theories of education, & more systems than has any other one force. More than any other power in history it has impelled men to fight suffering, whether that suffering has come from disease, war or natural disasters. It has built thousands of hospitals, inspired the emergence of the nursing & medical professions, & furthered movement for public health & the relief & prevention of famine"¦Men & women similarly moved & sustained wrote into the laws of Spain & Portugal provisions to alleviate the ruthless exploitation of the Indians of the New World"¦By its name & symbol, the most extensive organization ever created for the relief of the suffering caused by war, the Red Cross, bears witness to its Christian origin. The list might go on indefinitely. It includes many another humanitarian projects & movements, ideals in government, the reform of prisons & the emergence of criminology, great art & architecture, & outstanding literature."
[A History of Christianity, Vol. II, pp.1470,1471]. http://www.tektonics.org/scim/sciencemony.htm
F) Faith that itself is evidence of things we cannot see: This is the kind of faith that based on evidence above and a relationship with God helps us believe that heaven is real, even though we cannot see it.
PRESUPPOSING ANY WORLDVIEW IS AN A PRIORI FALLACY & COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL/HARMFUL
Why do you believe the theories and ideas that you have come to accept as true? Many people just accept whatever teachers, scientists, historians, pastors, parents, media, news, the government, good friends and other sources tell them. Sometimes these are good sources of truth. But quite a few times in history, establishments of all types have gotten it wrong and sometimes this has harmed lives. Until the early 1900s, for example, doctors were recommending that patients with respiratory problems start smoking. In history, sometimes the weight of evidence has led in directions that went against the accepted wisdom of intellectuals. When people were willing to follow that evidence without banning ANY conclusions beforehand, this led to some of the greatest advances in knowledge and quality of life in human history. So just trusting establishments without checking the evidence for yourself, has a significant chance of leading you in wrong and even harmful directions.
James W. Sire for example writes:
"A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic construction of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being."
people choose 1 of these 2 sets of presuppositions (or a combination of
them) without really thinking about the implications:
1) Metaphysical/Methodological Naturalism: The presupposition that the natural sciences can only deal with the natural world and that there is no way for them to address questions about God. The judge in the infamous Dover trial cited Robert T. Pennock articles on methodological naturalism and said,
"While supernatural explanations may be important and have merit, they are not part of science." http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/kitzmiller_v_dover_decision2.html
2) Presuppositional Theism: The presupposition that God is responsible for creating the universe and life at the beginning and the forces that influence change over time. Dr. Greg Bahnsen writes that Van Ti said,
"We must reason by presupposition. And the powerful essence of that presuppositional argument is just this: "The only 'proof' of the Christian position is that unless its truth is presupposed there is no possibility of 'proving' anything at all." www.cmfnow.com/articles/pa210.htm
Which one have you chosen? Most atheists and some scientists presuppose methodological naturalism before they investigate the evidence and rule out conclusions pointing to the supernatural regardless of how strong they may be. All contrary evidence is excluded, dismissed and any alternate explanation or doubt is accepted first. For example:
"Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic." Kansas State University immunologist Scott Todd, correspondence to Nature 401(6752):423, 30 Sept. 1999.
"...the debate about the existence of God should properly begin from the presumption of atheism, that the onus of proof must lie upon the theist." Anthony Flew in his famous essay, "Presumption of atheism" (he was arguing for the presumption of negative atheism, but this is still a presuppositional argument).
The problem is that banning
any conclusion a priori as atheists consistently try to do is anathema to genuine science and rational thought. Some
Christians have decided that since methodological naturalism claims it
can presuppose its worldview and has been doing so for centuries, well
then, so can they. So in opposition to the
biblical method, some Christians in recent times have been developing presuppositional
apologetics. They presuppose that God exists before investigating the
evidence and then subsequently try to fit all the evidence into that
presupposition and ignore contrary evidence, but they do use evidence to
show that other belief systems are not internally consistent, etc.
Are you comfortable with a priori decisions that decide on the conclusions before checking the evidence, whether they are atheistic or theistic? Are you comfortable with ignoring an idea that all the data and evidence might point to as Scott Todd is? If not, you're a more objective and rational thinker than many and we are on the same wavelength there whether you are religious or not. The problem is that if I make a priori decisions that theism is correct or atheism is correct, then anyone can just make a priori decisions about their view of life and just fit all the evidence into that and dismiss all evidence that doesn't fit. This causes our world to be even more fragmented because our positions are what Dr. Thomas Kuhn called incommensurable, and there is no way to compare positions to discern which is more accurate no matter how much evidence is produced and thus no way to change anyone's view, making most discussions meaningless.
This picture symbolizes both the a priori methodological position and the a priori theistic position fairly well.
There is nothing rational about deciding on conclusions before you consider evidence and that goes for Christianity, atheism and all other worldviews. People on both sides are guilty of engaging in this fallacy that mostly hardens people in their positions. NOTHING should be ruled out a priori, NOTHING. This is an a priori fallacy and can not be reconciled with objective inquiry. Presuppositional thinking on either side is the antithesis of the foundation of rational thought.
PRESUPPOSE METHODOLOGICAL NATURALISM: Assume that no evidence could
ever point to God & force all evidence into this worldview. Ignore
all evidence that doesn't fit, no matter how much or how significant.
2) INSIST ON OBJECTIVE INQUIRY: Agree that the foundation of rational thought and science proposed by Aristotle, the Bible and most great thinkers in history is best: We must follow the weight of evidence WHEREVER it leads, whether to human, natural or supernatural conclusions, no matter how much we like or dislike the conclusion. Our wordview needs to conform to reality, not the other way around.
3) PRESUPPOSE THEISM: Assume that God created/caused everything. Fit all evidence into that assumption. Ignore all evidence that doesn't fit.
If you choose #2, congratulations. You are among the rare few people who really are trying to be objective. If you pick #1 or #3, you have left the realm of science, you have left the way Bible writers argued and you have given up on objective inquiry, and you might as well not pretend that anything could change your mind or read anything outside your comfort zone. The above picture describes your mental position well. There's no point in you reading further since your mind is already made up and no amount of evidence will change that. I sincerely wish you the best in your life.
Anthony Flew, probably the most famous atheist of the 20th century (he was kind of the Richard Dawkins of the 20th century), in his conversion to theism, speaks of a far more objective foundation for making decisions, one that Socrates made famous, but as we will see later was used much earlier by God and Bible writers:
“My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato’s Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads.” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6688917/ns/world_news/t/there-god-leading-atheist-concludes/#.Tz2Bm1Fog9M
gave up atheism as being scientifically indefensible and became a
theist and a believer in a Creator (though not a Christian or a believer
in eternal life). He commented on Richard Dawkins' comical effort to
argue in The God Delusion that the origin of life can be attributed to a
"lucky chance" and explained one reason he left atheism.
“If that's the best argument you have, then the game is over. No, I did not hear a Voice. It was the evidence itself that led me to this conclusion. When Flew looked at the extraordinary complexity and subtlety of the workings of DNA, he concluded that it looked to me like the work of intelligence. What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinary diverse elements to work together. 75There can never be any real opposition between religion and science; for one is the compliment of the other. 105 http://www.tothesource.org/10_30_2007/10_30_2007.htm
But, this evidence above is only one of 1000s of lines of evidence for Christianity.
A far better and more objective definition of worldview is with the caveat that a worldview to be true and most helpful must be based on evidence and have more and better evidence than any of its rivals. It may have some difficult questions not yet answers or some anomalies, but for it to be accepted by rational people, it must have more and better evidence for the most important questions about life on earth and the possibility of life after this one is finished.
If we engage in a priori assumptions that our worldview is correct, then we will be stuck in the problem incommensurability that Dr. Thomas Kuhn wrote about in his seminal work in the philosophy of science, "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions". If we only fit the evidence into the view that we assume is correct a priori, there is no way to compare the two views to see which is more accurate. This fallacious way of reasoning is not only fundamentally irrational, but very unbiblical as well.
“A worldview, naturalistic or not, is a multi-purpose cognitive tool that can help make sense of our situation and guide behavior over the long haul. It’s the big picture about reality and the meaning(s) of life that puts things in an ultimate context, there to be consulted if we need it…A worldview also acts as a cognitive filter, shaping fundamental attitudes and beliefs, for instance about what sort of creatures we are, what our life goals should be, and how society should be ordered… The divergent founding philosophies get reflected in most practices of everyday life, from cuisine, to marriage, to jobs, to education, and the relationship of government and religion.”
BIBLICAL FAITH IS EVIDENCE EVIDENCE BASED. ATHEISM IS BASED ON FALLACIES/SUPERSTITIONS
Faith (Greek "pistis") for Bible writers, Greeks, Romans and Christians throughout most of Christian history depended directly on evidence. The atheistic description of faith badly misrepresents and straw mans the way Bible writers used the term. The straw man that is used is about as bad as claiming that every time Shakespeare used the word "gay", he was referring to homosexuality or every time that British people use the term football, they are referring to the sports game with a pigskin and touchdowns.
As you read this page and others, keep in mind the words of professor Simon Greenleaf. Greenleaf was the Harvard professor of law who wrote “A Treatise on the Law of Evidence” (considered by many to be one of the greatest legal volumes ever written), for many years a textbook for lawyers at Harvard and other universities. Here is a review of his work:
“It is no mean honor to America that her schools of jurisprudence have produced two of the first writers & best esteemed legal authorities of this century -- the great & good man, Judge Story, and his worthy and eminent associate, Professor Greenleaf. Upon the existing Law of Evidence (by Greenleaf) more light has shone from the New World than from all the lawyers who adorn the courts of Europe.” London Law Magazine, http://www.ankerberg.com/Articles/apologetics/AP0302W3.htm
Greenleaf was for years an atheist. But like many intellectual atheists who weighed the evidence fairly, he converted to Christianity since the weight of evidence points more strongly towards the Christian worldview and the resurrection than any other (see the resurrection page for some of that evidence). He wrote:
"In examining the evidences of the Christian religion, it is essential to the discovery of truth that we bring to the investigation a mind freed, as far as possible, from existing prejudice and open to conviction. There should be a readiness, on our part, to investigate with candor, to follow the truth wherever it may lead us, and to submit, without reserve or objection, to all the teachings of this religion, if it be found to be of divine origin… The investigation, moreover, should be pursued with the serious earnestness which becomes the greatness of the subject— a subject fraught with such momentous consequences to man. It should be pursued as in the presence of God…Christianity demands nothing more than is readily conceded to every branch of human science.
Christianity does not profess to convince the perverse and headstrong, to bring irresistible evidence to the daring and profane…This might go to destroy man's responsibility. All that Christianity professes, is to propose such evidences as may satisfy the meek, the tractable, the candid, the serious inquirer." Simon Greenleaf, “An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice”, pg. 21-22.
"In all human transactions, the highest degree of assurance to which we can arrive, short of the evidence of our own senses, is that of probability. The most that can be asserted is, that the narrative is more likely to be true than false; and it may be in the highest degree more likely, but still be short of being absolutely certain. Yet this very probability may be so great as to satisfy the mind of the most cautious, and enforce the assent of the most reluctant and unbelieving. If it is such as usually satisfies reasonable men, in matters of ordinary transaction, it is all which the greatest skeptic has a right to require ; for it is by such evidence alone that our rights are determined, in the civil tribunals ; and on no other evidence do they proceed, even in capital cases...If such evidence will justify the taking away of human life or liberty, in the one case, surely it ought to be deemed sufficient to determine our faith, in the other...
All that Christianity asks of men, on this subject [the evidence for the resurrection], is, that they would be consistent with themselves; that they would treat its evidences as they treat the evidence of other things ; and that they would try and judge its actors and witnesses, as they deal with their fellow-men, when testifying of human actions and affairs, in human tribunals. Let the witnesses be compared with themselves, with each other, with their contemporaries, and with surrounding facts and circumstances; and let their testimony be sifted, as if it were given in a court of justice, on the side of the adverse party, the witnesses being subjected to a rigorous cross-examination. The result, it is confidently believed, will be an undoubting conviction of their integrity, ability and truth." Simon Greenleaf, “An Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice”, pg. 36-38.
His book is available here for free if you want to read it:
http://www.archive.org/details/examinationoftes00greerich (Start at around p. 21.)
BIBLE FAITH IS EVIDENCE BASED IN MANY WAYS
Bible faith was solidly based on evidence. This should be obvious to even the most casual observer who bothers to think critically. Bible authors argued from evidence and facts for faith in God and clearly stated that if their claims weren't based on facts and truth, they weren't worth believing.
people might say that the Bible starts in Genesis 1 with an assumption
that God is real and created the world. Actually that is simply not
true. Why? Consider who Genesis is written to. It was written to the
Israelites. And repeatedly, as you can see in the verses below, the
Bible's authors were able to appeal to a variety of different kinds of
evidence, to show that God was real. They said that they had seen and experienced different kinds of evidence that God is real and his principles are true. They didn't just say, "Just believe
because we say it's true" No. They also said, "YOU have seen, YOU have
experienced, YOU have witnessed , you can test God's claims to see if they are true or not for yourself."
Genesis was written AFTER the Israelites had seen very strong evidence for God. It was not the initial assumption. It and other books of the Bible, were written after much evidence had been given. This is why for the Bible, faith is the CONCLUSION of the weight of evidence, NOT EVER an initial assumption. Read Exodus 34, the account of the Red Sea, made famous in many films from "The Ten Commandments" to "Prince of Egypt". It is only AFTER Israel saw this miracle that they then put their faith in God.
Well, you might say, what about us? We didn't see these miracles. What evidence do we have? Evidence is NOT only what you see. Some people did see God's miracles in the Bible, but some did not. But, people throughout history have had evidence of different kinds. The methods of history and science that we have developed have allowed us to find far more evidence for God than most people in ancient history had or knew about. They didn't have any archaeological evidence, museums, most of the methods of modern science were unknown to them, there were no CSI type detectives and so much more. It can be argued that we have quite a bit more evidence in many areas for God than most people in the Bible had.
The Bible and Christians have argued for faith using at least 7 different kinds of evidence. Here are some of them.
1) DIRECT OBSERVATIONAL EVIDENCE: Some people in Bible times and the present time have seen angels, demons, spoken with God directly, seen miracles and experienced God in a variety of ways. The Bible writers pointed to that quite a few times.
"Now Moses called all Israel and said to them: “You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land— the great trials which your eyes have seen, the signs, and those great wonders." Deuteronomy 29:2-3
"Joshua, who was now very old...said to them, “I am now a very old man. You have seen everything the Lord your God has done for you during my lifetime. The Lord your God has fought for you against your enemies." Joshua 23:1-3
The Bible writers often persuaded people to believe based on what they had seen and heard themselves of God, the resurrection, their experience of following God's principles. They sometimes told listeners that they go and check the evidence or talk to the witnesses themselves to verify the facts.
“Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.” Luke 1:1-4
JOHN (who was willing to be boiled in oil rather than give up belief in Jesus)
“We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard & seen. We saw him with our own eyes & touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life. 2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, & we have seen him. & now we testify & proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life…We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen & heard…” 1 John 1:1-3
SCIENTIFIC/PRAGMATIC EVIDENCE: God made many promises to the people that following
God's principles had beneficial results in their lives in the here and
now, not just in heaven. Prophets pointed to
the experience of people in history and how benefits came
to those who followed God's principles and how problems came to many who didn't follow them. God repeatedly told Israel that they could
test these, both as individuals and as nations. Since pragmatic evidence is the most important kind of evidence, the reason we accept the scientific method and historical method and others as valid, this is by far the most important kind of evidence. Here are just a few:
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and depart from evil. This will bring health to your flesh and strength to your bones." Proverbs 3:5-8
"And he said. "If you will give earnest heed to the voice of the Lord your God, and do what is right in His sight, and give ear to his commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you, which I have put on the Egyptians; for I the Lord am your healer." Exodus 15:26
"Do not be wise in your own eyes, fear the Lord and shun evil.This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones." Prov 3:7,8
"Then it shall come about, because you listen to these judgements,and keep and do them...(12a).. the Lord will remove from you all sickness; and He will not put on you any of the harmful diseases of Egypt which you have known, but He will lay them on all who hate you." Deut. 7: 12a &15
“There should be no poor among you, for the LORD your God will greatly bless you in the land he is giving you as a special possession. You will receive this blessing if you are careful to obey all the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today.” Deuteronomy 15:4
(see also http://www.truth-is-life.org/jubileeeconomics.html for much more on how this and how Bible economics have helped up to 1.3 billion people escape poverty in the last ~25 years.)
“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will help you.” Psalm 37:4-5
“Praise the LORD! Those who honor the LORD, who adore God’s commandments, are truly happy!
2 Their descendants will be strong throughout the land. The offspring of those who do right will be blessed; wealth and riches will be in their houses.” Psalms 112 (Read the whole chapter)
Isn’t this the fast I choose: releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated, and breaking every yoke? Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry and bringing the homeless poor into your house, covering the naked when you see them, and not hiding from your own family?
Then your light will break out like the dawn, and you will be healed quickly. Your own righteousness will walk before you, and the LORD’s glory will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and God will say, “I’m here.” If you remove the yoke from among you,
the finger-pointing, the wicked speech; if you open your heart to the hungry, and provide abundantly for those who are afflicted, your light will shine in the darkness, and your gloom will be like the noon. The LORD will guide you continually and provide for you, even in parched places.” Isaiah 58:6-11
See more here:
http://www.kingsingles.com/bible_solutions/biblical_prosperity.htm (and see the other links on the left as as well)
3) HISTORICAL EVIDENCE #2--RECORDS OF ANCESTORS: Bible writers pointed to the records of history and what their ancestors had experienced, a solidly method of history to find and establish evidence.
"Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the Lord as to all the righteous acts performed by the Lord for you and your fathers...Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes!" 1 Samuel 12:7,16
EVIDENCE OF MIRACLES:
Jesus himself argued, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves." John 14:11:
4) HISTORICAL EVIDENCE #3--NEUTRAL & HOSTILE WITNESSES (the most credible type in law courts): Quite a few skeptics and enemies of Judaism and Christianity were converted to belief by powerful evidence and 1000s were converted in a very short time. They gave their testimony and it was often cited as a reason for belief. Paul was one of the worst enemies of Christianity himself, but gives his testimony several times in the Bible, showing how it was powerful evidence that led him to put his faith in God. He also cites specific names of highly credible witnesses for his readers so they could verify Jesus’ resurrection was a fact for themselves in the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15 (and does the same in giving testimony to the non-Christian King Agrippa later):
"I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him." 1 Corinthians 15:3-9 (see also Paul's more extended testimony in Acts 26)
5) LOGICAL EVIDENCE
After Paul tells people they can go check over 500 witnesses, he also says,
“And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 & if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless...” 1 Corinthians 15:16-7
Then he makes this powerful argument, that you gain benefits in THIS life as well as heaven.
"Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. “Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7,8
Since science confirms this numerous times, you really can't lose and can only gain in many ways by being a Christian. There are many other logical arguments all through the Bible as well.
6) PHYSICAL EVIDENCE: There were a number of specific physical evidence of God's interactions with people. Some of these you can still check out these days in person, on google earth and in other ways. Whether you like it or not, people in history & the present have seen & observed supernatural beings, actions, processes in ways that are impossible to be imagination & there are also in some cases physical results of this (a few of which you can even verify by visiting or with google earth yourself. See the videos "Mountain of Fire" and "Exodus Revealed" here for a couple examples: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?p=PL0E43BD1408512958.). It is many evidences like this that are the explicit foundation of biblical faith & it is because Christianity had evidence like this in stark contrast to many mystery religions, that Christianity grew so explosively.
7) PHILOSOPHICAL/LOGICAL/LEGAL EVIDENCE: The prophets asked the people of Israel to compare the evidence for Jehovah vs. other gods. Which one had been active and done miraculous things? Which one had the fairest and wisest laws? Which worldview had produced the most benefits for human life? What could possibly have brought Israel as a nation of slaves to freedom except God? Something like that had never happened before, esp. not when under the control of a super power (ex: Spartacus).
8) EVIDENCE FROM PROPHECY & MIRACLES: They pointed to many specific fulfilled prophecies in history covering centuries and even millenia as well as miraculous events that many witnesses friendly and hostile had seen.
It is a fundamental
misrepresentation of biblical faith to associate it with blind faith. It
was nothing of the sort. The arguments for belief in God based on the
Bible are more evidentiary based than any other worldview I am aware of. The above examples alone prove that anyone who says faith in the Bible isn't based on evidence simply doesn't know what they are talking about at all. They are profoundly ignorant of historical facts or engaging in intentional deception/intentional propaganda.
Keep in mind that we have stronger evidence for the authenticity of Bible manuscripts than nearly all other historical works:
**NOTE: Certain parts of the New Testament go back to as little as 2-3 years after Jesus' death. We actually have more authenticating evidence that biblical texts are the same now as when they were written than we do for the plays of William Shakespeare.
MOST CHRISTIAN INTELLECTUALS ARGUED FOR FAITH BASED ON EVIDENCE
Nearly all great Christian thinkers also advocated reason as a key element of having faith, refuting the modern atheist myth for the straw man fallacy it is. TheCartesianTheist summarizes just a few of them here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vRvTSqNYg0 (many other great videos on the Cartesian Theist's channel)
TheCartesianTheist summarizes Christian philosophy succinctly,
“I think, therefore I cannot be an atheist.”
This is especially true considering that ALL views, including atheism, must present more evidence than their rivals (since science and rational thought aren't supposed to allow any default views/a priori fallacies). This may be why Sagan said,
"An atheist has to know a lot more than I know."
DOES ATHEISM/DARWINISM FOLLOW THE WEIGHT OF EVIDENCE WHEREVER IT LEADS?
Many people think atheists & Darwinians just follow the evidence wherever it leads. Here are 4 examples that this simply isn't true, areas where they almost never question their foundational beliefs/philosophy. All of these views that they have are beliefs that can NEVER be reconciled with the foundation of science and rational thought above. Some atheists and Darwinians will most certainly change views in minor areas. But, most will not even consider changing views in these major areas.
FALLACY # 1) A PRIORI MATERIALISM: Atheists assume materialism and methodological naturalism before even looking at evidence. Then they reject anything that conflicts with this assumption and claim it isn't evidence. Cambridge Scientist Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D. talks in an interview about how this materialism is a dogmatic political and ideological belief system decided A PRIORI, BEFORE looking at evidence and how it cuts off funding for other types of research that can be investigated scientifically & treats them as taboo. Materialism is an a priori assertion that tries to ban and block funding for all hypothesis that conflict with its assertion.
**IMPORTANT--WATCH THIS BEFORE CONTINUING**
The Afterlife Investigations 1 - Rupert Sheldrake, Ph.D.
www.youtube.com/watchfrJpThIims8 (watch from 0-10:40 at least, but it’s all thought provoking.)
FALLACY # 2) A PRIORI FALLACY THAT SCIENCE CAN'T POINT TO ANYTHING NOT NATURALISTIC:
Most atheists and Darwinians have this same exact a priori fallacy.
‘Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic.’ Kansas State University immunologist Scott Todd, correspondence to Nature 401(6752):423, 30 Sept. 1999.
FALLACY #3) USING A PRIORI REASONING:
This along with banning evidence for creation science for political reasons (atheists used church/state issues to ban the teaching of the evidence for creation in schools and in publicly funded scientific organizations).
"In fact the a priori reasoning is so entirely satisfactory to me that if the facts won't fit in, why, 'so much the worse for the facts' is my feeling." Erasmus Darwin in a letter to his brother Charles after reading "The Origin of Species”:
Unfortunately some Christians&creationists have followed the Darwinian/atheist precedent of assuming your belief and banning all rival evidence as has been done with materialism and as is being done by many in science. But the Bible did not do this as you saw even above (and the whole field of presuppositional apologetics should not exist because of this).
FALLACY # 4) DOUBLE STANDARDS: Do Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence? The answer: No. by Satoshi Kanazawa
"The problem with the [Sagan's] dictum is that there are no absolute criteria for what counts as “extraordinary claims.” In particular, what counts as extraordinary depends entirely on what you know and believe. In the extreme case, if you know nothing, then everything is an extraordinary claim. As the comedian Elayne Boosler used to quip, “Popcorn is magic if you don’t know how it happens.”
The biggest problem with the dictum “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is that it is often and usually used politically. It is used too often to silence and censor politically incorrect claims that people do not like. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” often transforms into “Politically incorrect claims require extraordinary (and impossible) evidence.”
It is perfectly fine to hold evolutionary psychology (or any other scientific field) to higher standards of evidence, as long as all other fields are held to identical standards.The required level of evidentiary standards cannot depend on the conclusion or the contents of the claims, especially, on how politically correct or popular they are."
ALL competing hypotheses MUST be judged by the same exact standards. NO playing favorites. No banning of any ideas before checking evidence. No prejudice demanding that ideas we dislike be forced to meet higher standards of evidence. In short, Sagan's dictum was a sophisticated double standard that undermined the foundation of an objective scientific search for knowledge. If people had thought critically, they would have recognized this long ago without the need for Kanazawa, me or others who have pointed this out.
FALLACY #5) MORE DOUBLE STANDARDS AND STRAW MEN An atheists, Simon Albright Andshiney, said:
"A thought on biblical infallibility. The bible is a compilation of books filled with claims. No matter how many of these claims are validated every other claim must still be considered suspect. Even if every claim in Exodus is validated, that does not imply everything in Genesis is correct."
A) The Bible doesn't ever claim that all that is in it is infallible. Only God and what He says is infallible, not any human being. The Bible records many of God's words to human beings. But, even with some of them we must realize that God is condescending to use human language, and to deal with very immature people in different situations, some which may be very different from ours.
B ) If you're going to use that reasoning for Darwinism, much of it will have to be abandoned. Same for the Big Bang and so many other theories. How rationality operates is by looking at the theory that has the MOST evidence overall and trusting that theory even though it usually doesn't have 100% evidence for all aspects.
Atheism here as usually is diametrically opposed to the way rational though operates. Atheists claim to be free thinkers. But this assertion isn't backed by evidence. Most atheists are basically just conformists to whatever the opinion of the current historical or scientific establishment is, the status quo. That's what they bow to, regardless of how much it's indisputably been influenced by a priori biases (like materialism), prejudice, excluding evidence, politics, or whatever. Atheist and Darwinians rarely follow evidence outside of their major foundational beliefs. And the truth is that atheism and Darwinism mostly thrive where evidence for their rivals is suppressed.
The most extraordinary claim BY FAR is abiogenesis..but atheists give that EVERY POSSIBLE benefit of the doubt...while demanding far higher evidences for Christianity than universal common descent has EVER produced.
The Bible did not argue from a priori reasoning and suppression of evidence like atheism and Darwinians did/do. It argued from evidence and the overall weight of evidence in countless verses and from THAT asked for belief.
IS THE EVIDENCE FOR THE BIBLICAL GOD CONCLUSIVE?
The above verses are some of the claims and a little of the evidence of godly writers for faith in God. There's much more beyond this in other pages with evidence from science, history, pragmatic evidence and more. But, is the evidence for the biblical God conclusive? That depends on what you mean by conclusive. There are usually 2 ways a theory is considered true.
1) WEIGHT OF EVIDENCE: It has more of the evidence on its side than any rivals overall. (by far the most common)
2) ALL EVIDENCE IS ON 1 SIDE: There is no contrary evidence. 100% of the evidence supports one concept. No other interpretations are possible.No anomalies exist. (rare)
If by conclusive you mean the 2nd version above, no, Christianity does not have that level of evidence. But, no worldview has that level of evidence. NONE. There are not even many concepts in history and science that reach that level.
Lawyer Craig A. Parton writes on this:
“History, law & science are never completely 100% certain of their conclusions. They must always have some sense of humility & openness to being shown they are wrong & in need of correction if the facts turn out to be otherwise. Regardless of this, though, we continue to make life & death decisions based on probability evidence.” Craig A. Parton, Religion on Trial (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2008), 34.
What is demanded is that a worldview have more and evidence of different kinds on the most important questions that affect life than its rivals. In that sense, yes the evidence for Christianity is for sure conclusive.
Oren Harari writes about Colin Powell in a leadership primer, “Once the information is in the 40 to 70 range, go with your gut…don't take action if you have only enough information to give you less than a 40 percent chance of being right, but don't wait until you have enough facts to be 100 percent sure, because by then it is almost always too late...Procrastination in the name of reducing risk actually increases risk.”
Powell details examples of this in his book where strategic advantages and even wars were lost because of refusal to make commitments when good, but not complete 100% evidence was available. This is true in all areas of life, including spiritual life. And if you don't follow the weight of evidence, like Powell, it is quite sure that you will lose out on many things in this life.
One of my favorite writers writes,
"...faith is inspired by the Holy Spirit, and it will flourish only as it is cherished. No man can become strong in faith without a determined effort. Unbelief strengthens as it is encouraged; and if men, instead of dwelling upon the evidences which God has given to sustain their faith, permit themselves to question and cavil, they will find their doubts constantly becoming more confirmed.
"...There is but one course for those to pursue who honestly desire to be freed from doubts. Instead of questioning and caviling concerning that which they do not understand, let them give heed to the light which already shines upon them, and they will receive greater light. Let them do every duty which has been made plain to their understanding, and they will be enabled to understand and perform those of which they are now in doubt."Satan can present a counterfeit so closely resembling the truth that it deceives those who are willing to be deceived, who desire to shun the self-denial and sacrifice demanded by the truth; but it is impossible for him to hold under his power one soul who honestly desires, at whatever cost, to know the truth. Christ is the truth and the “Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” John 1:9. The Spirit of truth has been sent to guide men into all truth. And upon the authority of the Son of God it is declared: “Seek, and ye shall find.” “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.” Matthew 7:7; John 7:17."
"While God has given ample evidence for faith, He will never remove all excuse for unbelief. All who look for hooks to hang their doubts upon will find them. And those who refuse to accept and obey God’s word until every objection has been removed, and there is no longer an opportunity for doubt, will never come to the light." Great Controversy, pg. 572.
God to open your mind to truth and follow the evidence and truth you
are aware of . Keep your mind open to new truth and change. Investigate
the hard questions and look for answers. But, make decisions based on
which worldview has the most and best quality of evidence on the most
important questions that concern life, esp. life on this earth and life
for all eternity.
Praying that God continues to guide me, you and everyone to fuller understanding of the truth.
***END OF SHORT VERSION--DEEPER THINKERS (and those with more time), CONTINUE READING :)***
BIBLICAL FAITH IS EVIDENCE EVIDENCE BASED. ATHEISM IS BASED ON A PRIORI FALLACIES(longer version)
DEFINING TERMS AS THE AUTHORS INTENDED THEM TO BE USED
Words change over time.
EX #1: Consider how the meaning of the word "gay" has changed from Shakespeare's time.
EX: #2: Atheism used to mean a strong claim that God doesn't exist. Now most atheists say they just "lack belief".
These and many other meanings have changed radically in history. One reason that many people are confused about the biblical meaning of faith is that like the above, it too has undergone significant changes in usage. The meaning of the word faith is radically different from how it was used in the past. Today it has these meanings:
Faith - TheFreeDictionary: faith
1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief, trust.
3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters.
Often people assume that meaning #2 is what biblical faith is. Even one Christian book defined it as: "holding beliefs without seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, or touching the proof of them". Since most most people, including the writers of that Christian book, are not trained in linguistics or history, they just take the common meaning of their time and assumed that to be the same way it was used in history and in the Bible .But, not much could be further from the truth.
Meaning #2 has nothing at all to do with biblical faith. Meaning #1 comes MUCH closer to the way faith is used in biblical contexts as well as in the history of Christianity, but still doesn't help us fully understand how biblical faith was used or that there were ~5 types of faith listed in the Bible. It is absolutely crucial to look at how authors in their time and culture used a term to figure out what they intended by it.
GREEK/ROMAN USAGE OF FAITH/PISTIS
Again, we MUST let each culture and time define what THEY mean by using a term and accept that if we want to be honest. Even today, scholars sometimes co-opt word meanings at times and redefine them. It is the author's intended meaning at HIS TIME and how words were used THEN that matters, NOT other opinions in other times and places.
No respected secular linguist on the planet would agree that imposing our definitions on other cultures regardless of their intended meaning is a legitimate use of language. NONE.In the area of definitions, what you and other atheists are doing in straw manning faith is equivalent to trying to tell the British that they must play football (soccer to them) by American football rules or that when Kim Jungil talks about his country being a democracy, it’s no different from what Americans mean. I’m sorry, but this is an appalling crime against linguistics as well as rationality.
If you don’t think the author’s intended meaning matters, then in addition to the many examples already given, you should have no problem in someone judging the evidence for universal common descent (UCD) based on a definition of it being “change from inert matter to people in days” right (just to be clear, that is a double straw man)?
Let's look at how the word faith/"pistis" was used in cultures around Israel in history. Here’s a peer reviewed article on uses of faith (Greek=pistis) in Bible times by writers OUTSIDE of Israel and they used it in connection with evidence:
"Some modern thinkers have insisted that genuine faith is incompatible with evidence. Yet there is a significant tendency in ancient Greek literature, not least in Jewish and Christian writings from the period of Christian origins, to use pistis precisely in the sense of "pledge" or "evidence" on which subjective confidence or belief my appropriately be based...
Pagan writers commonly used pistis to mean "assurance" or "pledge" in the sense of a guarantee creating the possibility for trust regarding the truth of a statement or reliability of a promise(See R. Bultmann, "pisteuw xtl(transliterated from Greek)" TDNT, 6.177). 1 Thus, Herodotus employs it to mean a military pledge or agreement (3.8). Often the swearing of an oath is involved (Herodotus 9.92; Sophocles Oed. Col. 1632; Trach. 1182; Plato Critias 119D-120B; Polybius 16.13.3). Aeschylus says that the credibility (pistis) of an oath hinges on the integrity of the one who swears it (frg. 394 )... One might speak of sense data in general or of a particular empirical observation as constituting pistis in the sense of "evidence" (Democritus frg. 125; Polybius 7.13.5; 8.2.1; 10.47.6; Epictetus Disc. 1.28.3; Vettius Valens 7.5.29-30; Diogenes Laertius 10.63 [Epicurus]). Lawyers describe eyewitness reports as "conclusive proof" of their assertions (Antipho 6.28)...Plutarch, however, describes an Epicurean who doubts that events really offer confirmation (pistis) of prophecy (Or. Delph. 398F). Appian reports that Antony construed Brutus's refusal to fight as clear proof (pistis) of defeat and cowardice (Bell Civ. 4,1119). Pistis as "Ground for Faith" in Hellenized Judaism and Paul http://www.jstor.org/stable/3267114
“Persuasion, according to Aristotle and the many authorities that would echo him, is brought about through three kinds of proof (pistis) or persuasive appeal:
logos: The appeal to reason.
pathos: The appeal to emotion.
ethos: The persuasive appeal of one's character.”
Sources: Arist. Rhet. 1.2.2-3
"In its second meaning, pistis is the word used for a methodological technique . . .. In this sense, pistis means the logical instrument used by the mind to marshal the material into a reasoning process. It is a method which gives the matter a logical form, so to speak, and thus produces that state of mind in the auditor which is called belief, pistis. . . . It is this meaning of pistis which is applicable primarily to enthymeme, but also to paradeigma (example). For in rhetoric enthymeme (the process of deduction) and paradeigma (the inductive process) are the logical instruments which one is to use in constructing argumentation directed toward krisis, or judgment, on the part of another."(William M. A. Grimaldi, "Studies in the Philosophy of Aristotle's Rhetoric." Landmark Essays on Aristotelian Rhetoric, ed. by Richard Leo Enos and Lois Peters Agnew. Routledge, 1998)
FAITH IN GOD BEING REAL COMES DIRECTLY FROM TOPNOTCH EVIDENCE
It is THIS understanding of faith/pistis in terms of strong connection to evidence that Bible writers and Christians for centuries used to persuade people to believe and trust that God really existed and had been active for Israel in history. They based their appeals directly on the highest quality of evidence available:
There is a reason why many of the foremost defenders of Christianity in history were formerly atheists or non-believing elite intellectuals(**):
Simon Greenleaf (professor of law at Harvard and author of a textbook for lawyers),
Lee Strobel (degree in law from Yale), C.S. Lewis (professor at Oxford),
Dr. Jerry Bergman (7 Ph.d.s, most in science areas),
Dr. Francis Collins (head of the human genome project),
Dr. Walter Veith (Ph.D. in Zoology)
Dr. Pandit (former hindu, former atheist, Ph.D. in medicine)
and so many others(***).
Whether or not atheists believe the Bible is accurate does nothing at all to change the fact that it was for very logical reasons that people became believers in God. It was because they had evidence that was convincing to them. And the level of evidence they had is more convincing than the amount of evidence that we have for many events in history.
Numerous scholars, including secular & atheist scholars, have tried to prove the Bible wrong in historical areas & failed spectacularly over time & been convicted of its accuracy & truth. The Bible is a VERY accurate history book & almost nothing has a worse track record than skeptics of the Bible. There’s a reason for the saying, “The Bible is an anvil that has worn out many hammers.” & this continues to happen.
!!BIBLE VERSES SHOWING BIBLE WRITERS ARGUING FROM EVIDENCE FOR BELIEF!!
There are actually about 5 types of faith in the Bible (which will be posted here in the future), but the faith that God was real and was God was based strongly based on evidence of different types. The Bible has many examples of evidence based faith in commands to witness and in many cases of God's prophets and apostles citing it as they tried to persuade people to put their trust in God.
***Faith that comes after seeing and/or hearing evidence or trusting primary witnesses who have***
BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF FAITH BASED ON EVIDENCE::
- “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”1 Peter 3:15
- Paul charges us to test everything. “But test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. I Thess. 5:21-22.
- In Acts 26:25-26, Paul is on trial giving his testimony and is able to tell a non-Christian king that he can check the evidence out for himself saying, “…What I am saying is the sober truth. And King Agrippa knows about these things. I speak boldly, for I am sure these events are all familiar to him, for they were not done in a corner!”
- Jesus says, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves." John 14:11
- God challenged the Israelites who had gone into idolatry to bring their “gods” into a sort of court situation and prove that they had any traits of a god..or that they could even move to show they were real esp. in comparison to God’s proven evidences ( See Isaiah 41:21-24 & Isaiah 44:6-11 for example). This by the way is one of the first uses of the concept of the “weight of evidence” determining truth if not the first.
- In Deuteronomy 4, Moses challenges Israel to follow God’s laws so they will be a great nation and admired by surrounding nations. He challenges them to show any nation with fairer laws than Israel at that time. But, observe that even for these illiterate slaves, he didn’t just ask for mindless obedience. He reminded them of the evidence of God’s power that they had personally experienced and seen with their own eyes. See especially verses 9-13 & 32-37.5
5“Look, I now teach you these decrees and regulations just as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy. 6 Obey them completely, and you will display your wisdom and intelligence among the surrounding nations. When they hear all these decrees, they will exclaim, ‘How wise and prudent are the people of this great nation!’
7 For what great nation has a god as near to them as the Lord our God is near to us whenever we call on him? 8 And what great nation has decrees and regulations as righteous and fair as this body of instructions that I am giving you today?
9 “But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren. 10 Never forget the day when you stood before the Lord your God at Mount Sinai…11 “You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while flames from the mountain shot into the sky. The mountain was shrouded in black clouds and deep darkness. 12 And the Lord spoke to you from the heart of the fire. You heard the sound of his words but didn’t see his form; there was only a voice.…
32 “Now search all of history, from the time God created people on the earth until now, and search from one end of the heavens to the other. Has anything as great as this ever been seen or heard before? 33 Has any nation ever heard the voice of God speaking from fire—as you did—and survived? 34 Has any other god dared to take a nation for himself out of another nation by means of trials, miraculous signs, wonders, war, a strong hand, a powerful arm, and terrifying acts? Yet that is what the Lord your God did for you in Egypt, right before your eyes.
35 “He showed you these things so you would know that the Lord is God and there is no other. 36 He let you hear his voice from heaven so he could instruct you. He let you see his great fire here on earth so he could speak to you from it…
39 “So remember this and keep it firmly in mind: The Lord is God both in heaven and on earth, and there is no other. 40 If you obey all the decrees and commands I am giving you today, all will be well with you and your children. I am giving you these instructions so you will enjoy a long life in the land the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”
Later near the end of his life,
“Moses summoned all the Israelites and said to them: ‘Your eyes have seen all that the LORD did in Egypt to Pharaoh, to all his officials and to all his land. 3 With your own eyes you saw those great trials, those signs and great wonders’” Deuteronomy 29:2.
(the chapter goes on to recount MANY things Israel experienced firsthand). Moses ends his speech listing all the evidence and asking them to choose based on evidence and rational comparisons of what is best for this life.
- For Israel, God didn’t ask for them to have faith first (not even after He had done the 10 plagues). He just told them to stand & watch (Exodus 14:13). It is only after opening the Red Sea & sinking the chariots of Pharoah (supernatural actions sometimes do leave physical evidence & they did in this case. They have no similarity to Harry Potter or magic), that God asked them to put faith in Him.
“When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the Lord had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the Lord & in his servant Moses.” Exodus 14:31
- Peter writes, “For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes…The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.” 2 Peter 1:16-18
In addition to eyewitness evidence above, Peter tried to persuade people with 4 main lines of evidence. (Acts 2:22-36):
1. Pointing to the miracle of hearing the message of Jesus from the Galileans in their own tongue.
5 At that time there were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem. 6 When they heard the loud noise, everyone came running, and they were bewildered to hear their own languages being spoken by the believers. 7 They were completely amazed. “How can this be?” they exclaimed. “These people are all from Galilee, 8 and yet we hear them speaking in our own native languages!
In verses 17-19, Peter cited this as a fulfilment of prophecies in Joel.
2. He appealed to the evidence of the wonders & signs performed by Jesus;
“People of Israel, listen! God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know." Acts 2:22
3. He appealed to the empty tomb and witnesses, saying:
29 “Dear brothers, think about this! You can be sure that the patriarch David wasn’t referring to himself, for he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us. 30 But he was a prophet, and he knew God had promised with an oath that one of David’s own descendants would sit on his throne. 31 David was looking into the future and speaking of the Messiah’s resurrection. He was saying that God would not leave him among the dead or allow his body to rot in the grave.
32 “God raised Jesus from the dead, and we are all witnesses of this. 33 Now he is exalted to the place of highest honor in heaven, at God’s right hand. And the Father, as he had promised, gave him the Holy Spirit to pour out upon us, just as you see and hear today.
4. and he appealed to fulfillment of OT prophecy by David.
26 No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope.
27 For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave.
Paul cites many very credible witnesses that his readers could verify Jesus’ resurrection (and does the same with King Agrippa, a non-believer in Acts) & says, “And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 & if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless...” 1 Corinthians 15:16-7
Paul’s writing here also summarizing Pascal’s Wager, a strong logical evidence for God that has never been refuted (and all atheists strawman it):
“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life & in the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:8
AFTER there's a good amount of evidence and/or a decent track record of accuracy, then God asks us to put faith in Him. But, this faith's purpose is not to prove God exists. It is to connect to the power of God and accept His free gift of salvation AFTER we have been convinced that He is real.
!!!HAVE FAITH BECAUSE YOU (OR TRUSTED SOURCES) HAVE SEEN THE EVIDENCE!!!
The Bible authors didn't even just say "I have seen." 1 of the most common arguments they used was telling their audience, "You have seen." "You KNOW the facts", etc. And sometimes they said, your ancestors/fathers saw what I did. No honest person can claim that the Bible argued for faith in the absence of evidence. That is indisputably false. The SOLE and ONLY legitimate debate is about whether the evidence the Bible writers cited is legitimate evidence (which we’ll discuss in the history section). In addition to verses already given, here are more:
MORE BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF FAITH BASED ON EVIDENCE::
- "You have seen everything the Lord your God has done for you during my lifetime." Joshua 23:3
- "But you have seen the Lord perform all these mighty deeds with your own eyes!" Deuteronomy 11:7
- "He alone is your God...the one who has done these mighty miracles that you have seen with your own eyes."Deuteronomy 10:21
- ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians." Exodus 19:4
- "When your ancestors cried out to the LORD, I put darkness between you and the Egyptians. I brought the sea crashing down on the Egyptians, drowning them. With your very own eyes you saw what I did."Joshua 24:7
- For there your ancestors tested and tried my patience, even though they saw everything I did." Psalms 95:8
- "Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah." Acts 9:22
- “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know..." Acts 2:22
- 1 Corinthians 15:”3 …Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.
14 And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. 15 And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16 And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.
TWICE Paul says that faith is USELESS if Jesus has not in fact resurrected. TWICE. And he tells his readers that some of the witnesses are still alive, so they can go and question them themselves (and many did).This is EVIDENTIARY BASED FAITH AND IT’S INDISPUTABLE for any honest person. 100% indisputable. Read Peter again: 1 Peter 2: 16For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes 17 when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” 18 We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets.
They were willing to die for what they had SEEN. Plenty of people have died for what they have never seen (terrorists). But how many people die claiming to have seen something that they KNOW they didn’t see??? It’s precisely because so many people knew the facts and evidence that Christianity gained so many adherents so fast.
It’s just as wrong to do this as it is to define modern “lack belief” atheism as making concrete claims that there is no God and basing that on spontaneous generation since some atheists did that in the past.
MAIN POINT: BIBLE LEADERS ASKED PEOPLE TO HAVE FAITH BASED ON WHAT THOSE PEOPLE OR THEIR CLOSE ANCESTORS HAD PERSONALLY WITNESSED (as well as other types of evidence.)For more information, see: