There is a strong connection between faith and knowledge. Peter Boghossian is wrong: faith isn’t pretending to know what you don’t know.
I’ve been promising to write more on what faith really is instead, and in fact I have done so previously, more than once. Here’s an annotated summary of some of those articles. In all of this I am writing specifically about Christian faith, the only faith that I can represent responsibly, and the only form I care to defend.
The Faith-Knowledge Connection
I contrast two views of faith when I compare information from multiple sources in the New Testament. In one setting it looks like a disciple follows Christ as an impetuous decision, free of all relevant information. With more complete information from other contexts, however, we see that this disciple knew a lot about Jesus at the time. He had knowledge. He knew what he was doing.
A critic suggests my blog should be called “rationalizing Christian,” to which I respond, faith is belief is built on knowledge.
Debates over the definition of faith are not now for me, nor are they for other Christians. I defend a view of evidence-oriented faith in a debate with Alonze Fyfe, “the atheist ethicist,” and also with atheist Phil Torres.
There’s a common thread here: the atheists I’m responding to in all these posts think they can redefine faith for the rest of the world. For them it’s always belief without evidence, or belief opposed to knowledge, or some other form of essentially stupid belief. Face it: that’s what they think of it.
Which exposes the first problem with this atheist trope: it’s self-serving. It’s obviously self-serving. I can’t imagine why anyone would think it was anything but propaganda.
If Their Definition Were True…
Just think of what it would mean if it were true. Think of what it would mean for all the great Christian thinkers and artists and social activists down the centuries: they would be revealed as essentially stupid. Wilberforce led the fight against the slave trade for stupid reasons. Bach’s music was motivated by stupid thinking. Aquinas’s Summas were stupid from start to finish. Dostoyevski’s novels had were built on stupid themes.
Think of what it would mean for Jesus Christ: he would be revealed as history’s great enemy of faith. He kept providing evidence. If faith is belief divorced from evidence, then Jesus messed it royally, again and again, by giving people reasons to believe.
Think of what it would mean for the whole New Testament, where words related to knowledge, study, teaching, and so on occur an average of twice every chapter. Why would the Christian scriptures stand so much for learning if it undermines faith?
Think of what it would mean for the whole Christian educational enterprise, from publishing houses to grade schools to universities. Recall that all the first universities were founded by Christians. Why would we go to such pains to take away all the ignorance that faith requires?
Think of how completely opposed to faith every Christian apologist must be: with every success in providing reasons to believe, we take away people’s faith.
Trying to Make Faith Mean What It Has Never Meant
This is not difficult. Anyone can see that when atheists define faith their way, they’re ripping the word out of all historical, scriptural, theological, and experiential context. They’re trying to make it mean what it has never meant before. There’s no reason for it except for rhetoric: propaganda, actually.
Or I suppose it could be ignorance. Maybe they just don’t know about Christian thinkers and artists and educators down through history, or about Jesus Christ, or about apologists. The thing is, they act as if they know about these things. Are they pretending to know what they don’t know? Probably not; I think they’re more likely to be engaging in propaganda instead.
If they were, though, I wouldn’t call it faith, regardless of how well it fit their definition.
Yet to come in Part Two: now that I have established that there is a faith-knowledge connection, the question must be answered, how do faith and knowledge connect? Update Now Posted
Also Related: Okay, You’re Right: There’s No Evidence for Faith…
Related: The Peter Boghossian series