Tom Gilson

The Idea Workbench: Taking Ideas Apart and Putting Them Back Together To See How They Fit

I owe a large debt of gratitude to James Lindsay and others for helping me discover something new about myself.

It goes back to weeks ago when I started interacting with the idea that “faith is belief without evidence.” I objected to that  for reasons that didn’t include any evidences for faith. Several people came back and said, “Come on, Tom. If faith is belief with evidence, then show us that evidence.” I didn’t do it. They wondered why. I gave answers, and they weren’t satisfied with them. At times they speculated darkly that I was hiding some secret problem of not having any evidence after all. Perhaps I was keeping that hidden even from myself, to support my confirmation bias.

A Disposition Toward Taking Ideas Apart and Putting Them Together Again
Well, I’ve been reflecting, too, on why I haven’t answered the way they wanted. I woke up this morning with a fresh realization about that. The reason I haven’t done it is because it’s not the way I naturally work. Others can do it a lot better than I can. I have another mode of operation that’s more in tune with who I am.

It’s a matter of disposition. Apparently I’m not, primarily or by preference, a relayer and displayer of evidences. Evidences certainly matter to me, but they matter (along with all kinds of other ideas) as raw materials—raw materials for a kind of idea workbench, where I take ideas apart, put them together again, and check how they fit.

That’s the main thing I do here on this blog. It’s how I’m wired, it’s what I seem to be good at, and it’s what I enjoy—all of which matter a lot, considering I don’t get paid for writing here!

The Idea Workbench
Imagine an inventer (maybe even a mad scientist?) taking some new idea out to the garage/shop, to test it and see if he should add it to his collection of usable materials. He’s been collecting parts for years, and he’s had a reasonably good budget, so he’s got quite a jumble of hardware.

It seems rather mess out there, since he hardly ever throws anything away, but on closer inspection it’s not as bad as it looks. The workbench is neatly organized. He has his hardware sorted according to quality, the junk in one large corner, the great stuff in another, and in-between stuff in between. He keeps the junk because it’s useful in a way (although here I’m straining my analogy): when he gets a new piece of hardware, then more it looks and acts like the junk he has stored, the more likely it is to be junk. But he really prefers to test new stuff by comparing it with what’s in his good pile.

A Recent Negative Example
How does that fanciful illustration work out in reality? Let’s take the thought, “Faith, by definition, is always belief without evidence.” I put this idea on the test bench, and I pull out a few other ideas to test this one against. I am confident these other comparison ideas are solid, true, and widely shared; so if the new idea doesn’t fit with them it fails the test, and it goes in the junk pile.

So, here’s how that worked out recently when I took the above-mentioned definition of faith to the workbench. I pulled some comparison ideas out of my “good” pile. These were solid, true, non-controversial and widely shared ideas, listed here as numbers 1, 2, 3, and 5. I fastened them together (numbers 4, 6, and 7) with the screws and nails of logic.

  1. Jesus Christ is universally regarded as a character (either historical or fictional) who promoted faith.
  2. His characters’ influence (whether historical or fictional) has been so great that for a great proportion of humanity for thousands of years, “faith” has been understood to be that which Jesus Christ promoted.
  3. The character of Jesus Christ is known (whether as history or as fiction) as one who presented evidences for faith everywhere he went.
  4. Therefore, for a great proportion of humanity for thousands of years, faith meant belief according to evidences: that’s how the word was used.
  5. Definitions are a matter of how words are actually, conventionally used.
  6. Therefore the definition of “faith” could never have been strictly and only, “belief without evidence.”
  7. Therefore it is not true that “faith, by definition, is always belief without evidence.” It can’t be: it doesn’t fit with other ideas that are known to be true.

Number seven summarizes the result: there was no place left in the assembly to include, “Faith is always belief without evidence.” That meant it didn’t belong in the good pile. It was a junk idea.

A Powerful Approach That Not Everyone Prefers
That’s how I did it. It’s not the approach everyone prefers, though. Others who wanted to challenge Boghossian would have gone straight to the evidences:

  1. Boghossian says “faith is always belief without evidences.”
  2. But I have evidences a, b, c, … underpinning my faith.
  3. Therefore Boghossian is wrong.

That would have killed Boghossian’s theory right quick, too. It’s a great way to answer. I didn’t do it that way because I’m not wired that way. It’s not what I do most naturally: it’s not taking ideas apart and putting them back together to see how they fit.

It’s more direct than what I do, and for some people I’m sure it’s more satisfying than what I do. But note this: both methods show that Boghossian is wrong. Put the two approaches together and they make a really solid case, because if there is evidential reason to believe that Jesus was historical rather than ficitional, then faith in him could never have meant belief without evidences—not in any context.

But look again at what my approach offers that the usual evidential approach does not. It uses ideas that every halfway-informed person already has stored away in their “good” pile. Contrast that with an evidential approach, whereby, for example, we could argue for days over whether Suetonius serves as reliable near-contemporary attestation for the existence of Jesus in history. I don’t think the arguments against that are very good (I am informed about these topics, even if I don’t write about them), but that doesn’t mean the disputes couldn’t go on for days! No one, however, could rationally disagree with any of the “parts” I used to build my case against Boghossian’s definition. They’re all part of the common mental furniture of educated Westerners. If there’s a weakness in my case, it’s not in the parts, it’s in the assembly.

And I can’t think of anyone pulling together any strong objection to what I wrote, either to the parts or to the fasteners. Instead they said, “Where’s your evidence?” It’s a valid question, yet it has nothing to do with the case I had built. My objection to Boghossian’s definition doesn’t accomplish the same thing as an evidence-based argument, but it does seem to accomplish what it sets out to do, which is to show that his definition can’t be taken seriously from either an historical or linguistic perspective.

“But Where are the Evidences?”
Still I have to face the fact that although I like my approach well enough, it frustrates people who really want the evidences. I’ve tried to satisfy them by saying, “Look around the shop—the evidences are everywhere! Go to the libraries—the evidences are everywhere!” But this frustrates them, too, since they want me to put the evidences on the bench for display. The problem is, that’s not me: I don’t display things that way. I take them apart and put them together instead.

Now, that doesn’t mean I would never put some item of evidence out where others could examine it; I’m talking about a disposition I have, not a strict rule of life. I didn’t even recognize this disposition in myself until this morning. Now that I’ve seen it, I hope I’ll be more aware of how it both helps and hurts my writing. I might even end up displaying more evidences, the better to balance out my work.

A Preview of an Upcoming Positive Example
This isn’t only about figuring out what doesn’t fit. I’ve been asked, “What could cause you to give up your faith in Christ?” Some Christians answer that question, “The bones of Jesus Christ, showing he didn’t rise from the dead.” I think that’s weak. It’s too safe, for one thing, because how could anyone prove they were his bones? My answer instead would go like this: Any fact discovered anywhere that seriously undermined the tremendous coherence I find in the Christian worldvew.

I’ll write more on this soon. Here’s the short version of what I’ll say when I do that. When I take ideas apart and put them back together again, they fit together best when I assemble them according to a biblically-based view of reality. The ideas I’m talking about include everything in the shop. They include information gained from evidences. They include the facts of our shared humanness. They include the fasteners: the principles by which raw thinking materials are assembled together into solid structures, i.e., logic and reasoning.

When I try to assemble all those kinds of things in alignment with a Christian understanding of reality, they work. They fit. They make a solid, stable structure. No, it’s not flawless. There are a few pieces still laying on the workbench, puzzling me as to where they belong. But they come together that way a whole lot better than when I try to put them together in any other shape. If I try to assemble an atheistic/naturalistic framework, for example, it leaves humanness orphaned on the workbench, with no place to belong. I can’t find a place to attach it—at least not without hammering it into an unrecognizable shape.

I won’t detail the reasons for that today. This is just a preview of work I’ll be presenting over the next week or two. My purpose in mentioning it wasn’t to argue for which pieces fit which framework, but to explain and illustrate the way I prefer to work on questions like these.

Understanding Myself Better, I Have a Better Answer
So for those of you who have been wondering why I haven’t given you the evidences you asked for, that’s my answer. I’m disposed toward a different kind of discussion. It’s a better answer—more accurate, that is—than any I’ve given you before, because I understand myself and my reasons better now myself.

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187 thoughts on “The Idea Workbench: Taking Ideas Apart and Putting Them Back Together To See How They Fit

  1. It’s interesting that the verses where I find Jesus extolling faith he seems to refer to belief without evidence. while I see him giving evidence to others to believe his claims he always seems to bring up faith in a context where those showing it do not have that evidence. And directly in the case of Thomas we see him extol the virtue of belief with out evidence. Perhaps your good pile is not as shiny as you think?

  2. Matthew 16:8-10

    John 20:30-31

    Acts 1:3

    https://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/2009/03/two-views-of-faith/

    Those are in my good pile. And they shine just fine.

    The Thomas incident has been replayed here dozens of times lately, it seems. He’s not extolling belief without evidence: Thomas had the evidence of the testimony of all his good friends. Jesus gave him a mild rebuke for not accepting it, and a word of encouragement to everyone afterward who was able to believe without having actually touched and laid eyes on him face to face. Did you think that that would constitute praise for every single form of evidence-free belief?

  3. Tom,

    I tend to tinker with ideas, too. So I thought you wouldn’t mind that I thought about how a materialist might use your 7-steps to argue. Here is what I came up with:

    1. Science is universally regarded as a practice (either philosophical or operational) that promoted knowledge.
    2. The influence of science (whether philosophical or operational) has been so great that for a portion of recent history, “knowledge” has been understood to be that which science promoted.
    3. The attributes of science is known (whether philosophical or operational) as that which presented evidence for knowledge everywhere it was practiced.
    4. Therefore, for a portion of recent history, knowledge means belief according to evidences of science: that is how the word is used.
    5. Definitions are a matter of how words are actually, conventionally used.
    6. Therefore, the definition of “knowledge” is strictly and only, “belief with evidence provided by science.”
    7. Therefore, it is true that “knowledge, by definition, is always belief with evidence provided by science.” It must be: it fits with other evidences that are known to be true.

    I first thought that the conflation of “philosophical” and “operational” was a problem because it is not equal to the “historical or fictional” phrase of the original. But I think it works. Science at its root is a belief first, a belief that there is nothing beyond nature as we know it. It then it follows with an operation based upon that belief. It is only by first accepting the belief that the argument for knowledge –knowledge being only evidence provided by scientific operation– makes sense. So in a very real sense, the belief that knowledge is provided only by science is like religious faith.

  4. That’s a pretty interesting approach, John, thanks.

    I think you might need to double-check some of your fasteners, though. Prior to point 5, you were speaking of science as being understood as a route to knowledge. At point 6 you introduced “strictly and only.” That conclusion would only follow if you had established “strictly and only” in your premises, which you hadn’t done.

    Point 2 is the hinge:

    2. The influence of science (whether philosophical or operational) has been so great that for a portion of recent history, “knowledge” has been understood to be that which science promoted.

    If you could have inserted “universally and comprehensively” before “understood,” then you could have drawn the conclusion that you drew in point 6. But that insertion would be false. Therefore your conclusion is unfounded.

  5. That’s one approach; another one I could have taken is the more common observation that “knowledge is necessarily and always scientific knowledge” is self-defeating. If it were true, it could not be known to be true, because it is not a scientific statement.

    And this, my friend, though it is believed by many, is nevertheless false: “Science at its root is a belief first, a belief that there is nothing beyond nature as we know it.” Science at its historical roots was the inquiry into what God had done to make nature as we know it. Study the great scientists from the twelfth through the seventeenth centuries: very, very, very, very few (maybe none?) of them believed that there was nothing beyond nature. Even today there is nothing about either science (as science) or theism that supports that thesis.

    Not only is it false, but if it were true, it could be knowable only by “faith”–faith as Boghossian conceives of faith, that is. For there is no scientific way to demonstrate that there is nothing beyond nature as we know it.

  6. Tom,

    I am enjoying this conversation and like your “workbench” analogy. Another analogy that I will offer that I use is one of attempting to assemble a 1,000 piece puzzle. It is very difficult, if not impossible, unless I have seen the picture on the box. If I pick up a light blue puzzle piece, unless I have seen the blue color in the picture on the box, I can’t guess whether it is a piece that might fit in a sky or a lake or a lady’s blue dress. I find the term “evidence” to be like these puzzle pieces. Without having a framework or vision of how any piece of evidence might fit into the bigger picture, it is meaningless.

    There are two fields we can draw on for parallels: One is learning theory, the concept of a “schema” where for reading comprehension, for example, we must interpret bits of text according to the “bigger picture” of what the author is communicating to us.

    Another parallel analogy is in a criminal trial. The prosecutor’s job is to weave each witness’s testimony and each piece of forensic evidence to support a coherent theory of the crime. Without a sound theory of the crime, the particular pieces of evidence are incomprehensible or irrelevant. This is the process of guiding the jurors through the reasoning process about the evidence so that each one can decide whether or not the prosecution has made its case to satisfy the juror that they know the truth about the crime’s perpetrator “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

    This is why Boghossian’s argumentative definition of “faith” as “belief without evidence is so preposterous. Faith in God and faith in Jesus are the schema, the “bigger picture” that give meaning and coherence to the evidence.

    Thanks for your words of wisdom. JB

  7. Thank you, Jenna.

    Now if I understand James Lindsay, he’ll say that what you call a helpful schema is actually a package of misbeliefs that we attempt to shore up through misattributed evidences. I have some thoughts to share about that later, but I thought I’d put the question to you, since I expect you’ll be able to address it competently: how would you answer him if he asked that?

  8. Tom,

    Thanks for responding to my sorry attempt at constructing a logical argument, and for your kind feedback. Perhaps I should have used “scientism” instead of “science”? Scientism is a relatively new term for me, and as I understand it scientism refers to the core assumption of many modern scientists that “there is nothing beyond nature as we know it”. I am also discovering that this assumption is unlike most of the scientists in the Medieval Period through the Enlightenment. My question is, was it during this period that these thinkers began to use what is now known as “the scientific method”? It seems that “scientism” rests on an assumption and that an assumption is housed in a philosophical statement so that it cannot b a product of the scientific method. But I am wondering if this particular assumption was a result of the newly appreciated value of the scientific method, or was it a fairly commonly assumption before that and the scientific method merely gave it fresh legs?

  9. @John:

    My question is, was it during this period that these thinkers began to use what is now known as “the scientific method”?

    The philosophical groundwork can be traced back to Aristotle, but yes, the scientific method began to be fully developed in Medieval times by Grosseteste, Bacon, Albert the Great, etc.

    But I am wondering if this particular assumption was a result of the newly appreciated value of the scientific method, or was it a fairly commonly assumption before that and the scientific method merely gave it fresh legs?

    The second option is certainly not true; as for the first, the successes of Science undoubtedly played a role, but several other factors are at work — philosophical, cultural, etc.

  10. Tom,

    I don’t know if you’ve seen this yet, but James Lindsay posted a response to my review of his book “God doesn’t; we do” on Amazon today on his blog. Notice that he claims that I agree with him, but I’m unclear as to what he thinks I agree with him about. I’ll probably respond later, as soon as I figure out how to post on his site.

    Dr. Lindsay’s response to my review of his book may indicate how he might respond to my application of schema theory as it relates to religious faith. He identifies two “camps.” Those of us who assume that God exists (believers) and those who don’t (infidels, to use his term). Certainly, we believers have a schema of reality (big picture, meta-narrative) into which we integrate new knowledge as we learn it. In reality, we all, including atheists, have a schema of/about God, even atheists. We base our beliefs about whether or not God “exists” (in quotation marks because it depends on what is meant by the term “exists”). To assume that there is no truth in anyone’s mental schema of/about God is to assume that the term “God” is not and cannot be a label of/for any existing reality or dimension of existing reality. Perhaps our schema and our integration of new knowledge into our cognitive schema is what Dr. Lindsay calls “confirmation bias.”

    This calls into question what anyone means when s/he says, as Dr. Lindsay does, that s/he does not believe that God exists. This must be equivalent to saying, the schema I as a non-believer have in my head is not a schema of any existing reality. Perhaps this is true, but whatever schema we have of God is not God, meaning the reality of God.

    However, we must also consider the possibility that when a non-believer says that s/he believes that God does not exist, s/he is saying this: God is non-existence. In fact, I have no schema for something/ anything that is non-existent and therefore no mental construct into which I can integrate new knowledge about non-existence. Nor do I have any schema by which to judge the truth or non-truth of statements or concepts (axioms) about a non-existent something.

    So what is an atheist saying when s/he says that s/he doesn’t believe that God exists? There is really nothing to say about non-existence. To profess non-belief in non-existence is tautology, and certainly nothing very remarkable or intellectually profound. This is why I find the whole endless discussion among and with atheists about whether or not something labeled “God” does something called “exist” to be entirely beside the point. Yes, I belong to the group that “assumes” God’s existence because I don’t have a schema for God’s non-existence and, I suspect, neither does any atheist.

    I hope I haven’t gone on too long and still not answered your question.

    JB

  11. John,

    I think you forgot step 8.

    8. As my premises and syllogism are not science I have refuted my own argument. Thus you may ignore 1 – 7.

    My understanding of scientism is not that it is promoting the idea that “there is nothing beyond nature as we know it”. This would seem to me to be the assumption of naturalism. In my experience scientism is a term that is often accompanied by pejorative undertones to criticise the self-refuting statement that all knowledge is scientific knowledge. There may be other understandings, of course.

    If you want to investigate scientism further then people like Alex Rosenberg and Peter Atkins may be of interest. Both are atheists who enthusiastically embrace the word and promote the idea. Though I don’t suppose that it helps that Rosenberg holds some very odd views about the nature of reality (including the self) and that Atkins is philosophically incompetent (albeit amusingly rude at times).

  12. Tom,

    I can see from James Lindsay’s website blog that he is following our discussion of your workbench analogy since he discusses your analogy and my analogy of assembling the 1,000 piece puzzle. But I can’t figure out how to respond to James directly on his site. What to do? I can respond to his critique of my use of the 1,000 piece puzzle here since I first posted it here. I this a good way to go? Also, since I am new at the technology of this, what do I do to get a long quote to go up with the gray line on the left around it?

    Sorry to be “high maintenance.” JB

  13. Jenna Black – Given what we know about reality, we all make claims. This includes the claim that god either exists or doesn’t, or that god’s existence is unknowable.

    My claim is that this is unknowable but I am willing to consider the other two claims. In other words I don’t have an answer and I am open to either provided the evidence supports the hypothesis.

    Your claim (and correct me if I am misrepresenting you) is not only that god exists, but that he revealed himself to humans, sent a son, performs miracles, answers prayers, forgives transgressions, cares about our thoughts, condemns us for wrongs, rewards us for rights, the list goes on and on.

    Again,given what we know about reality, your claim seems extraordinary and your evidence is nothing more than a few short chapters in a book written several thousand years ago by people who knew little about how the natural world around them worked.

    I am willing to consider any claim but extraordinary claims do require extraordinary evidence and the evidence you present is nothing more than a book that claims to be right simply because it proclaims to be.

    My direct question to you is this:

    Could you be wrong?

    I know I could be….

  14. Jenna,

    I think in spite of James’ criticism I think your analogy is valid and accurately captures how many people assess new information. If it slots into their schema then it’s usually assimilated easily. If it could be interpreted a couple of ways and one of those is consistent with the schema then we will usually adopt an interpretation that is consistent with our overarching schema. If James thinks that he doesn’t do this I really think he needs to have another good honest appraisal of himself. Now if there is some pieces that cannot be fit what I would do, and I guess many others is to either adjust the schema or discard the schema. That is why I reject naturalism – there’s just too many puzzle piecesfrom our everyday experience that either don’t fit, or need parts cut off so they’re made to fit.

  15. @Jenna Black:

    Also, since I am new at the technology of this, what do I do to get a long quote to go up with the gray line on the left around it?

    Use the blockquote tags — see the info below the combox. There is no need to use the cite attribute; just make sure to close the tag, that is, do:
    <blockquote>quote goes here</blockquote>

  16. To Martin RE: #13

    I get the impression that you are using the term “claims” as a synonym for “beliefs.” This, IMO, muddies the waters in our attempts to communicate with each other about God and Christianity. The term “claim” is a borrowed word from formal, structured argumentation. In argumentation (discourse, rhetoric) there are different types of claims that are made to an audience as the opening to a formal argument, or asserting what it is that we are arguing about:

    Fact: A claim asserts some empirical truth.
    Judgment or Value: A claim asserts a judgment of some sort
    Action or Policy: A claim asserts that an action should be taken.

    IMO, it is very important to know exactly who is making a claim. You appear to be attributing to me the claims that are actually Jesus’ claims. Jesus made his claims to a particular audience and those claims are reported to us in the four canonical gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I am a Christian because I believe Jesus’ claims about God, our heavenly Father and how God relates to us and how we can and should relate to God as it says in John 4:24: to worship God, who is Spirit, in spirit and in truth.

    My evidence for believing Jesus’ claims is not just “a few short chapters in a book” but is my lived experiences in my relationship with God, as well as what I observe (know) of how God works in the lives of people who I know and love. It is reckless, and more than a bit arrogant, to make judgments about the sufficiency of the evidence that I have and on which I base my belief in Jesus’ claims. You are in reality only competent to make judgments about the evidentiary basis for your own beliefs.

    I make a plea that you sort out who is the source of any particular claim about God. The claims about God in the Hebrew Bible are the claims of the ancient Hebrews who transmitted the Bible to their people. The claims of Jesus are his claims, transmitted to us through the testimony of his followers. My beliefs become claims only when stated in the context of formal argumentation and are claims based on my own experiences and knowledge, not anyone else’s, since I am only accountable for the truth and authenticity of my own claims: the facts of/about my lived experiences, the judgments I have made about those experiences, and the actions I have taken as a result of those judgments. This is what we Christians calling witnessing.

  17. Jenna Black – Thank you for your response.

    Is it possible that your belief as it relates to Christianity or the Christian/Judeo God could be wrong?

  18. Tom,

    I’m following the dialogue between you and James Lindsay on his website since my name and posts are being mentioned there frequently. You’re doing a great job.

    First of all, I’d like to point out to Dr. Lindsay that “accusing” a Christian of viewing the world through “Jesus-colored glasses” is not an insult at all, but rather, music to our ears. Isn’t this what we Christians aspire to? To see the world through the love, compassion, justice, wisdom, intelligence and spiritual connection to/with God and to humanity and to our noblest selves with which our Lord Jesus Christ viewed (and views) the world? Isn’t this, in fact, what Jesus commanded us in Matthew 22:36-40:
    “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
    Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    Of course, we have the humility to recognize that we don’t live up to the lives we should lead as a result of seeing the world through Jesus-colored glasses, but we ask God’s grace to do so to the best of our abilities, keeping in mind St. Paul’s words in Romans 7:19 “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.”

    God bless you ministry, Tom. JB

  19. Martin, RE: 17

    Why do you ask this question? It seems obvious to me that all we humans can be wrong about lots of things, so the same must apply to our beliefs about God. But I am not concerned about this since this is what I believe: What is expected of us as Christians is not to get God right but to get right with God.

  20. Thank you, Jenna.

    I agree with your assessment of “Jesus-colored glasses,” with one exception. James takes that to mean that we live with continual confirmation bias and thus cannot know any of our claims to be true. There is more objectivity in Christian thinking than he appears able to see. I don’t know what color his glasses are, but they admit no wavelengths that would show Christians thinking clearly or objectively. It’s really quite an odd thing for him to say, especially he makes no distinction, and as far as I can tell he means it to apply to all Christians in all places in all times.

  21. Tom,

    You are right. I think that synonyms for “confirmation bias” as he uses the term are dogmatism and bigotry. His manipulation of language is yet another example of the Boghossian approach to atheist propaganda: co-opt and attempt to redefine language and terminology used in the linguistic community of Christians to suit one’s particular ideological agenda. Think of the connotation of the term “bias” as something we want to avoid because “objectivity” is more “scientific.”

    Which reminds me, have you seen the book by Marcus J. Borg: Speaking Christina: Why Christian words have lost their meaning and power-and how they can be restored”? I think you will find in interesting as a counter-point to the Boghossian/Lindsay campaign to use language to manipulate thought rather than to convey clear thinking.

    Thanks for providing a forum for these enlightening discussions. JB

  22. Jenna Black – Thanks for your reply. I asked the question because I think it an important one. In your response you clearly indicate that you (me or anyone) could be wrong about his/her belief as it relates to God/Christianity per my question. You then proceed to explain that you are not concerned with the possibility of being wrong.

    Help me to understand how you could be wrong but at the same time don’t need to worry about that possibility as it relates to understanding anything (God/Christianity included)? Can you provide a better example? I may not be understanding you correctly.

  23. Martin,

    All of us have an understanding of God. None of us can or ever will have a perfect understanding of God (UOG). I do not believe that God sits in judgment of how accurately or truthfully we understand Him. In fact, I believe that if/when we seek God, with a humble and open heart, God reveals to us what we need to know about/of Him so that our faith in Him grows and deepens. Jesus promises us this in Matthew 7:7, ““Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” I have found this promise fulfilled in my life.

    I simply don’t find a “wrong/right about God” paradigm to be at all useful or applicable to my faith journey. It’s all about God as we understand God, as is articulated in the Twelve Steps of the Twelve Step programs, for example. My spiritual practice of prayer and meditation, Bible study and research into the incredibly wonderful body of literature on Christian theology and mysticism are my ways of seeking to know the truth about God. I also believe in Christian witnessing as a source for knowledge of how God works in our lives.

    I hope this answers your question. JB

  24. Martin Ludecke,

    In an earlier thread James Lindsay made an “argument” that went (at least as far as I can discern) something like this:

    I was once a Bible believing Christian
    I discovered that I was wrong
    My experience is sufficient for me to now try to convince other Christians that they are wrong.

    My response (if I had made one) would have been: If he was wrong once then he could still be wrong, couldn’t he? He could even be wrong about being wrong. Personal testimonies can be powerful but ones like Lindsay’s are embarrassingly weak. He needs to offer more than just the admission that he was wrong.

    My point Martin is that you appear to be playing the same little game. I’m curious, where are you trying to go with this line of “reasoning”?

    Oh, and in case you’re wondering. I could be wrong about my beliefs. But, I need to be convinced that I am wrong, not simply that I could be wrong.

  25. Hi Tom,

    These were solid, true, non-controversial and widely shared ideas, listed here as numbers 1, 2, 3, and 5. I fastened them together (numbers 4, 6, and 7) with the screws and nails of logic.

    1. Jesus Christ is universally regarded as a character (either historical or fictional) who promoted faith.
    2. His characters’ influence (whether historical or fictional) has been so great that for a great proportion of humanity for thousands of years, “faith” has been understood to be that which Jesus Christ promoted.
    3. The character of Jesus Christ is known (whether as history or as fiction) as one who presented evidences for faith everywhere he went.
    4. Therefore, for a great proportion of humanity for thousands of years, faith meant belief according to evidences: that’s how the word was used.

    Even if the first 3 were true, the 4th does not have to follow on from that. Actually maybe you didn’t mean “therefore” to mean it was a logical and unavoidable consequence of the first 3 but that is how it reads and indicates an extra strength to your argument where there isn’t one.

    But I think the main flaw in these 7 steps is number 3, and it’s one you mention in your book. “If Christ wanted people to ‘believe without evidence’ then why was he performing miracles?” Why do the two things have to be strictly related in that way? Al Gore believes the burning of fossil fuels is causing Global Warming. But he travels on jumbo jets around the world to spread this message. Why? Because speaking publicly is the best way to get his message across? Why did Jesus perform miracles if he wanted people to ‘believe without evidence’? Perhaps because it was a good way of getting notoriety and getting his message across.

    To show that Jesus used the word Faith to mean ‘belief with evidence’ you need to give examples of exactly that. The ones you mention in your book:

    Simon/Peter being called to be a “fisher of men”
    You give examples that Peter had good reason to follow Christ. But the word ‘Faith’ is not used wen Jesus calls upon him so that example doesn’t add to your argument.

    The 3 miracles in Matthew 9; the rulers daughter, the woman and the blind men
    It does not say that any of these had witnessed him perform works or had any other physical evidence that he could do the miracles they were looking for. The woman says, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” Where would she have seen evidence that not only could Jesus heal, but that his power would be passed on though his clothing? I don’t believe there are other examples of it in the scripture prior to that point and there’s certainly no reason to believe she would have seen them herself. So when Jesus says, ” … your faith has made you well.” it indicates that she ‘believed without evidence’.

    Jesus asks the the blind men, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” He does not ask why or for what evidence they might have to back up this belief. And to make an obvious point, they men are blind. They cannot have witnessed any other miracles and can therefore have no evidence that Jesus could cure them. All they can be going on is here say. He then says, “According to your faith be it done to you.” Now that is an interesting phrase if faith means ‘belief with evidence’. He’s saying that the person who has witnessed the most evidence can expect the best cure. That is nonsensical, even if they weren’t blind. However if we use the definition of ‘believing without evidence’ then the sentence makes sense.

    I will also point out from a purely grammatical point of view, Jesus uses the word in the past tense; “… made you well.”, “… done to you.” This indicates that their faith is rooted in their past, before the miracles are performed. Once they are cured, they have definitive evidence of the power of Christ and therefore faith loses some of it’s value.

    Tom, if you wish to make point 3, you need to show an example of Christ giving evidence AND using the word faith in the way you understand it. The fact that he performed miracles AND spoke about faith does not mean the two are related.

    Then we can worry about Point 4. 🙂

    Cheers
    Shane

  26. JAD – Thanks for your response. I am simply asking questions to better understand other’s beliefs in an attempt to align them with what I experience. I think questions are the best way to advance discourse and gain a deeper understanding of everyone’s unique worldview. I am not trying to convince you or anyone here that their beliefs are wrong. I am only to asking if and in what way they could be wrong to introduce doubt.

    Belief revision, for me, begins with thinking about how I might be wrong. This then leads me to examine the process I used to come to a particular belief or set of beliefs.

    How does the belief revision process work for you?

  27. Jenna Black – Thank you again for your responses.

    In response to my question you answered that you do not believe that God sits in judgement based upon how accurately or truthfully someone understands Him. I have conversed with others who believe that God does indeed judge people based on those things.

    Do you think it is possible that some people have just misinterpreted the information that led you to your belief?

  28. JAD – Thanks for your response and input. You also asked in your post – “where am I trying to go with my line of “reasoning” here?”

    In answer to that I don’t think I am really going anywhere with it other than to gain perspective or learn something from others that may have value to me.

    In your opinion, where do you think I am going?

  29. Martin,

    I can’t say if or why people may interpret Christian teachings differently than I do and I would not go so far as to call anyone’s interpretation a “misinterpretation.” However, I see God as being merciful, forgiving, loving and just. Therefore, I don’t see God as judging us on getting Him “right” in our cognitive, intellectual understanding of Him. Jesus gives us the metaphor of God as our Heavenly Father or Father Almighty. I don’t know of any loving father who condemns his children for not getting things “right” when his children are making their very best effort at understanding. The term used in the Bible consistently is the pursuit of righteousness, not rightness.

  30. In response to my question you answered that you do not believe that God sits in judgement based upon how accurately or truthfully someone understands Him. I have conversed with others who believe that God does indeed judge people based on those things.

    And that is totally unsurprising.

    The Bible does not provide a clear answer that I’m aware, and so different people have reached different conclusions based on their understanding of God.

    There are a few generally agreed basic beliefs you really need to hold before you can be considered a Christian. Not many.

    If you hold to those widely agreed beliefs, there is a lot of latitude in what else you choose to believe. Christians are free to disagree on many issues. We don’t all think the same.

  31. The 3 miracles in Matthew 9; the rulers daughter, the woman and the blind men It does not say that any of these had witnessed him perform works or had any other physical evidence that he could do the miracles they were looking for. The woman says, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.”

    So a sick woman approaches a random Jewish male who by Jewish law she is not allowed to touch, and somehow gets the bizarre idea that if she touches him, she’ll be healed?

    No, her behaviour only makes sense if she had some evidence that Jesus could do what she was expecting – either she’d seen it herself or (more likely) she had heard that Jesus was performing miracles of healing.

    Similarly for the blind men and the ruler – they must have heard enough stories of the miracles of Jesus that they had confidence in Jesus’ ability to heal.

    Believing without any evidence at all makes little sense in these scenarios.

    He then says, “According to your faith be it done to you.” Now that is an interesting phrase if faith means ‘belief with evidence’. He’s saying that the person who has witnessed the most evidence can expect the best cure.

    Not at all. The blind men most likely had access to the same testimonial evidence. But faith is not necessarily proportional to the evidence. Their levels of faith were based on the evidence they had, but were not necessarily equal. It does not mean evidence was absent.

  32. Hi Bigbird. Pleased to meet you.

    No, her behaviour only makes sense if she had some evidence that Jesus could do what she was expecting – either she’d seen it herself or (more likely) she had heard that Jesus was performing miracles of healing.

    Similarly for the blind men and the ruler – they must have heard enough stories of the miracles of Jesus that they had confidence in Jesus’ ability to heal.

    Believing without any evidence at all makes little sense in these scenarios.

    You are misconstruing evidence and here say. Obviously they had gone looking for Jesus because they had heard stories, but stories are not compelling evidence. This is the point I was making. They believed he could heal them even though they had not witnessed him perform any miracles themselves. They had faith he could do what they had heard. They believed without any evidence.

    Maybe it’s the fact that they were healed that is confusing you because their faith panned out. What if it didn’t? Here’s a recent news story that illustrates the point.

    http://dailypost.com.ng/2013/12/17/enugu-healing-river-disaster-waiting-happen-experts/

    Earlier this month a herdsman in Nigeria told the story of a river that appeared out of nowhere and had miraculous healing powers. This being the 20th century, word spread fast and millions of Nigerians headed to the river to partake of it’s healing properties. Did they go because of evidence? Or did they go because despite having no evidence they believed (had faith) it could heal them?

    Not at all. The blind men most likely had access to the same testimonial evidence. But faith is not necessarily proportional to the evidence. Their levels of faith were based on the evidence they had, but were not necessarily equal. It does not mean evidence was absent.

    This is not correct using Tom’s definition of faith. If faith was believing with evidence, the more evidence you had the stronger your faith would be. Being on the boat to see Jesus jump the side, calm the storm and walk on water would fill you with ultimate faith no matter who you were. Here say is the weakest form of evidence, so two blind men will have equally low faith. There is no way one of them can have stronger evidence. They are both blind. Both heard the same stories. Both have exactly the same level of evidence, and therefore have the same level of faith. If the definition of faith is belief based on evidence.

    The only way two people with the same amount of evidence can have different levels of faith is if the definition of faith is not tied to the amount of evidence you have. Then two people with the same amount of evidence can have different levels of faith. The extension of that is you can have faith with no evidence at all. Ergo, faith is belief without evidence.

    Cheers
    Shane

  33. “not compelling evidence” != “no evidence”

    So testimony on the witness stand may be “not compelling evidence” but it is most definitely “evidence”.

    Consider John12:27-29

    “27 “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!”

    Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.”

    Same “evidence” to all who heard the voice. Was it the voice of God, was it thunder or was it an angel speaking? How does one test this?

  34. Shane, you can’t on one hand declare that hearsay (testimony) is the “lowest form of evidence” (says who exactly?) and later declare that the correct definition of faith is “believing without evidence”. Do you not see the contradiction in your statement?

    (BTW, in legal systems hearsay doesn’t have the pejorative connotations that you imply. Hearsay is admissible evidence that is subsequently vetted for accuracy. An interesting article here that is somewhat related. )

    Additionally, while I agree that people can believe without they type of evidence that I would deem to be sufficient, I can also state that my faith has grown after I began to look at the general evidences for a creator and the specific evidence for God. Indeed, making a case for the existence of God (and thus bolstering confidence) is the point behind the apologetic enterprise. Whether you think the enterprise suceeds is besides the point. I regularly listen to apologetics podcasts and it’s not unheard of somebody writing in to state something along the lines of “your ministry has been a tremendous source of strength” etc. So I’m not sure how either my experience or those of others fit into your categorical statement that “if faith was believing with evidence, the more evidence you had the stronger your faith would be”.

    BTW, I do mean to respond to you on the other blog entry (I think it requires a little more time on my part) but I’m currently in the middle of some big life changing decisions and I’m constrained by time.

  35. One other thing

    stories are not compelling evidence

    I disagree. Strongly. So do legal systems. The link I provided expands more on this.

  36. Jenna Black – Thank you for your response again.

    Since you do not know why people interpret Christian teachings differently and since you would not characterize this as misinterpretation do you think any interpretation is correct?

  37. Martin,

    You asked me about a specific interpretation, if that is the proper term, of Christianity: a perceived need to get God right. I explained that I do not know why among Christians there are some to believe that God judges us on the “rightness” of our understanding of God and why others, like me, do not understand God as being judgmental in this regard. However, now you appear to have overgeneralized my statements to mean that I do not know why there are different interpretations of Christian teachings in general. I don’t think that this phenomenon is at all mysterious. We are talking here about diversity within Christianity. Christianity is a worldwide, universal religion. Christianity, like all religions, takes on its expression in different communities of faith around the world and within any particular society based on people’s cultural, linguistic, traditional, historical contexts.

    My suggestion to you is that you consider the concept or paradigm of people’s understandings or interpretations or expressions of Christianity being either “correct” or “incorrect.” It is not a useful paradigm for understanding either the diversity or the unity of worldwide or of individual expressions of our Christian faith. I find it much more helpful to think of and learn about how we Christians share and express our faith rather than in terms of some sort of arbitrary and authoritarian doctrinal “correctness.” As I said, Christianity is about the pursuit of righteousness, not rightness.

  38. @ #11 Billy Squibs

    Thanks Billy. I will look into the sources you suggested. I was not aware that the word “scientism” was meant as a pejorative. Your statement about me forgetting step 8 evoked a question: What do you mean when you say that premises and syllogism are “not science”?

  39. Jenna,

    You state the pursuit of Christianity is getting to righteouness. Do you think it is it possible to get to objective righteousness or truth given the widely varying degree of Christian interpretations?

  40. Martin, RE: 39

    My first question for you is this: What do you mean by “objective righteousness”?

    I urge you to consider many and long traditions of interpretation in Judaism and Christianity. Please examine the tradition of “midrash” in Judaism, where lively (and often times loud) discussions and debates over interpretations of the Torah are seen as the way to understanding the Holy Scriptures. Remember that Jesus was a Jew and “midrash” was the custom his religious tradition. For the Jews, religious discourse is essentially interpretive. In fact, read Luke 2:41-52 about the boy Jesus in the temple and how astounded people were at his wisdom in interpreting the Holy Scriptures.

    Midrash or interpretation of holy scriptures involves two processes: exegesis, the process by which one draws out a meaning or meanings from a text and its partner, eisegesis that is a process of reading or imposing a pre-existing interpretation onto a text. These two processes work together to create a “dialectical tension” that gives life to the Holy Scriptures that enables us to learn from and apply biblical teachings to our lives. For a discussion of these processes, see Rabbi Michael Samuel (2010). “Birth and Rebirth Through Genesis: A Timeless Theological Conversation Genesis 1-3.” Also see Karen Armstrong ( 2009) “The case for God.”

    Also consider the fact that Jesus taught using parables. There is no one correct interpretation of a parable and actually, the truth in/of a parable is only discovered through its interpretation and application in/to our lives. Biblical literalism, IMO, is unworkable, undesirable, and unnecessary.

  41. You are misconstruing evidence and here say. Obviously they had gone looking for Jesus because they had heard stories, but stories are not compelling evidence.

    As others have already pointed out, you are incorrect – stories are often extremely compelling evidence, and certainly can’t be dismissed.

    If faith was believing with evidence, the more evidence you had the stronger your faith would be. Being on the boat to see Jesus jump the side, calm the storm and walk on water would fill you with ultimate faith no matter who you were.

    It is probably true that stronger evidence generally results in stronger faith, all other things being equal (which they are not).

    Here say is the weakest form of evidence, so two blind men will have equally low faith. There is no way one of them can have stronger evidence. They are both blind. Both heard the same stories. Both have exactly the same level of evidence, and therefore have the same level of faith. If the definition of faith is belief based on evidence.

    You are misinterpreting the definition. Just because faith is based on evidence does not mean it is directly proportional to the evidence. The same level of evidence does not mean the same level of faith. People interpret evidence through the lens of their experiences, and some choose to disregard it, and others believe it.

    Take Thomas for example – he had access to the same evidence as many of the other disciples, but would not believe until he saw Jesus himself.

  42. The only way two people with the same amount of evidence can have different levels of faith is if the definition of faith is not tied to the amount of evidence you have. Then two people with the same amount of evidence can have different levels of faith.

    No, what you are missing is that evidence is one ingredient in what determines someone’s faith. It is not the sole constituent.

    The extension of that is you can have faith with no evidence at all. Ergo, faith is belief without evidence.

    Even if you could have faith with no evidence at all (unlikely in my opinion), it is not a logical conclusion that faith is belief without evidence. At best you could say some people appear to have faith without evidence.

  43. Jenna Black –

    I am very familiar with both the Jewish and Christian faith traditions. The Jewish faith does not make the claim or interpret Jesus as the son of a deity. The Christian faith tradition interprets Jesus as being the son of a deity. This is a very real contradiction in both claim and belief.

    Can both claims/interpretations be correct? (By correct I mean true in our shared understanding of reality)

  44. A couple of quick points. It looks to me like Jenna is perilously close to espousing a postmodernist view of truth in which truth is socially constructed. (Sorry if this isn’t your intent, Jenna, but it sure looks that way to me.)

    I think that we can have a good understanding of what was the intended meaning behind a text – be it a Biblical text or non-Biblical text. For example, the parable of the good Samaritan plays on ancient hatred between two peoples – the Jews and the Samaritans. When Jesus cast the lowly Samaritan in the role of a kind an compassionate saviour he was really saying more then “just be nice”. For more on this please listen to this lecture by Ben Witherington. (The whole series is worth a listen to.)

    But let’s say that parables are by their nature open to some level of interpretation and that there is intentionally some fuzziness around the edges of the core message. This is perhaps why Augustine considered that the good Samaritan to contain allegorical shadows of Christ’s salvific purpose while others didn’t. That still leaves me pondering over statements like below.

    Christianity is about the pursuit of righteousness, not rightness.

    Now perhaps you meant something else by this statement. And if this is the case then your correction will be a good example of how one can demonstrate the intended meaning of a text. However, in lieu of this correction I admit that I find it very strange that you have set up a dichotomy. Can the righteousness of God be found in a falsehood?

    I am very familiar with both the Jewish and Christian faith traditions. The Jewish faith does not make the claim or interpret Jesus as the son of a deity. The Christian faith tradition interprets Jesus as being the son of a deity. This is a very real contradiction in both claim and belief.

    There are, of course, Jewish traditions like Messianic Judaism that do affirm the divinity of Jesus. Additionally, it seems odd to me to characterise Jesus as “the son of a deity” when talking about orthodox Christianity. This phrase doesn’t begin to do justice to what Christians mean by the the Son of God. You make it sound like you are describing one of the demigods of pagan worship or perhaps the Jesus of Mormonism. Very strange wording.

    Still, I am interested to see how Jenna answers your last question.

  45. Tom, if you wish to make point 3, you need to show an example of Christ giving evidence AND using the word faith in the way you understand it. The fact that he performed miracles AND spoke about faith does not mean the two are related.

    I think Shane’s point here is valid, and deserves answering.

    For me personally it’s point 4 that is strange:

    for a great proportion of humanity for thousands of years, faith meant belief according to evidences: that’s how the word was used.

    Thousands of years? You mean God performed miracles for thousands of years so people used to have empirical evidence to go on? If God does not provide empirical evidence in the form of miracles any longer, how can it be said that this definition of faith is applicable in a modern context? (I hope fortunate coincidences aren’t gonna be used here as miracles, just in case). Further, you make this claim on the back of Jesus providing evidence for his claims, yet he only lived for 30-odd years, I don’t see where the thousands of years fit into the picture whatsoever.

    I think there are flaws in this new picture you are presenting us with, Tom, if you can put ideas back together in any old way you like, then surely you can put them back together in a way that would convince the people who value empirical evidence to the degree that the sceptics do? If not, why not? Why is your nature almost like a foreign language when it comes to translating these ideas to non-believers, to people who form beliefs based on the strength of the evidence?

  46. #33

    Hi Toddes. Good to be speaking to you.

    “not compelling evidence” != “no evidence”

    So testimony on the witness stand may be “not compelling evidence” but it is most definitely “evidence”.

    Well … if you’re willing to say that the people are visiting the Enugu river because they have evidence it will heal them I’ll have to concede that no-one ever lacks evidence for anything. Which makes the word somewhat meaningless.

  47. For me personally it’s point 4 that is strange:

    for a great proportion of humanity for thousands of years, faith meant belief according to evidences: that’s how the word was used.

    Thousands of years? You mean God performed miracles for thousands of years so people used to have empirical evidence to go on?

    For thousands of years, faith meant belief according to evidences. The definition has remained constant. What’s that got to do with miracles?

    Why is your nature almost like a foreign language when it comes to translating these ideas to non-believers, to people who form beliefs based on the strength of the evidence?

    Why do people with no faith in God insist they understand the definition of faith better than people who do? That sounds like ignoring evidence.

  48. Billy Squibs and Jenna Black

    Thank you for your reply.

    Admittedly a strange choice of words on my part but my question stands. I was trying to be as direct and concise as possible. I think long questions or long answers to questions are sometime an intent to obfuscate.

    There are two possible ways my question can be answered with the exception of possibly some relativist view that any claims/beliefs are equally valid.

    Either one claim/belief is outright wrong or both are.

    My question seeks an answer to this in plain terms.

  49. #34

    Hi Billy

    Don’t worry about the lack of time. I’m going to have to rush through these myself. I hope the life changing decisions are exciting ones for you and that things work out for the best.

    Shane, you can’t on one hand declare that hearsay (testimony) is the “lowest form of evidence” (says who exactly?) and later declare that the correct definition of faith is “believing without evidence”. Do you not see the contradiction in your statement?

    (BTW, in legal systems hearsay doesn’t have the pejorative connotations that you imply. Hearsay is admissible evidence that is subsequently vetted for accuracy. An interesting article here that is somewhat related. )

    Heresay is not testimony. Testimony is a first hand account. Heresay is second hand or worse. The blind men can’t have personal experience of Jesus prior miracles. They could have first hand evidence if they were present in the form of the testimony of someone else there telling them what they had seen. They could also receive testimony if a friend told them they had seen Jesus perform miracles. But if a friend told them something their sister had seen that would be heresay. Heresay is not admitted as evidence in court.

    If you’re saying I can’t testify about something because it’s a bad form of evidence, again that is different to testimony. And I’m not offering testimony, I’m working through evidence to a conclusion. Maybe I didn’t explain it as well as I should have. I’ll restate my position through questions that have been answered in the affirmative by people here.

    Do you think people can have different amounts of faith on the same evidence?
    If yes, do you think people can have faith with no evidence?
    If yes, then faith is independent of evidence and the definition of belief based on evidence is incorrect.
    If that definition is incorrect the correct definition is belief without evidence.

    “Additionally, while I agree that people can believe without they type of evidence that I would deem to be sufficient, I can also state that my faith has grown after I began to look at the general evidences for a creator and the specific evidence for God. Indeed, making a case for the existence of God (and thus bolstering confidence) is the point behind the apologetic enterprise. Whether you think the enterprise suceeds is besides the point. I regularly listen to apologetics podcasts and it’s not unheard of somebody writing in to state something along the lines of “your ministry has been a tremendous source of strength” etc. So I’m not sure how either my experience or those of others fit into your categorical statement that “if faith was believing with evidence, the more evidence you had the stronger your faith would be”.”

    I think you are misusing the word faith in that sentence. I think the word you mean is “belief”. Your belief has grown as you have looked at the evidence. A detectives belief that he has found the guilty party grows as the evidence stacks up. He does not have more faith that he has found the guilty party.

    “One other thing

    stories are not compelling evidence

    I disagree. Strongly. So do legal systems. The link I provided expands more on this.”

    Thanks for the link. It was an interesting read. Again, I was using the word stories to be heresay not testimony, which is a different thing. I also think there are problems with that post which I don’t really have time to get into now.

  50. Shane,

    If yes, do you think people can have faith with no evidence?
    If yes, then faith is independent of evidence and the definition of belief based on evidence is incorrect.
    If that definition is incorrect the correct definition is belief without evidence.

    The idea that anyone believes anything on the basis of no evidence is ludicrous. The real question is whether the evidence is sufficient to conclude one way or the other. Face facts, no one believes anything for which they don’t have evidence unless you define evidence to exclude the particular evidences a person gives for their particular belief.

    I think you are misusing the word faith in that sentence. I think the word you mean is “belief”. Your belief has grown as you have looked at the evidence.

    He has only misused it if faith means belief without evidence but if you substitute trust in God which is a common way Christians think about faith then tou can see there is no misuse. Since he is talking about his faith and what he means by his faith and this definition is entirely consistent with the Christian use of the word faith historically, you don’t get to override that with your definition that biases the discussion from the outset towards your point if view. Anyway, that’s my 2 cents, I’m sure Billy can set you straight on this matter anyway.

  51. #42

    Hi Bigbird,

    I’ll try and respond in a different way so as not to repeat myself.

    “As others have already pointed out, you are incorrect – stories are often extremely compelling evidence, and certainly can’t be dismissed.”

    This is my own fault for going with the soft option of using the word “compelling”. Should have just dropped it and stated stories are no evidence. Stories can be compelling, and are not doubt the reason why these people went looking for Christ in the same way the Nigerians are flocking to the “healing” river. This does not make them evidence. They are here say. And this is exactly why they are not admissible in court.

    “It is probably true that stronger evidence generally results in stronger faith, all other things being equal (which they are not).”

    You will need to expand on this as I’m not sure what you are saying here.

    “You are misinterpreting the definition. Just because faith is based on evidence does not mean it is directly proportional to the evidence. The same level of evidence does not mean the same level of faith. People interpret evidence through the lens of their experiences, and some choose to disregard it, and others believe it.

    Take Thomas for example – he had access to the same evidence as many of the other disciples, but would not believe until he saw Jesus himself.”

    You did not say “Thomas had no faith until he saw Jesus” you said, “he would not believe until he saw Jesus”. Belief is grounded in evidence. The other disciples that had greater faith believed in Jesus resurrection before they had seen him. Their faith can be defined as stronger because of the lack of evidence.

    If, as you say, faith is not directly proportional to the evidence, then there is no correlation between the two. They are independent. And if they are independent you can not define faith is being dependent of evidence. Ergo faith does not require evidence.

    But, there is a correlation between the two. An inverse correlation. As said above, Thomas needed more evidence because he had less faith. People that believed without the evidence had greater faith. Therefore perfect faith is believing something with zero evidence.

    #43

    “No, what you are missing is that evidence is one ingredient in what determines someone’s faith. It is not the sole constituent.”

    Tom has put forward that faith is belief based on evidence. If you can give me something that determines someones faith that is not evidence, than surely it just bolsters my argument that Faith is belief without evidence.

    So what are the other constituents of faith?

    “Even if you could have faith with no evidence at all (unlikely in my opinion), it is not a logical conclusion that faith is belief without evidence. At best you could say some people appear to have faith without evidence.”

    As above, I show faith as used in the bible, as a sliding scale inversely proportional to the amount of evidence. So how about this:

    Faith – Belief in something inversely proportional to the evidence.
    Perfect Faith – Belief in something with absolutely no evidence.

  52. #51

    Hi Melissa,

    “The idea that anyone believes anything on the basis of no evidence is ludicrous. The real question is whether the evidence is sufficient to conclude one way or the other. Face facts, no one believes anything for which they don’t have evidence unless you define evidence to exclude the particular evidences a person gives for their particular belief.”

    I don’t know if it’s ludicrous, but it does seem that anything can be put forward as evidence so the word does lose meaning. Thus I have adjusted the definition of faith above to be on a sliding scale, with faith being stronger the less evidence you have. This makes perfect faith impossible because any and everything can be used as evidence.

    “He has only misused it if faith means belief without evidence but if you substitute trust in God which is a common way Christians think about faith then tou can see there is no misuse. Since he is talking about his faith and what he means by his faith and this definition is entirely consistent with the Christian use of the word faith historically, you don’t get to override that with your definition that biases the discussion from the outset towards your point if view. Anyway, that’s my 2 cents, I’m sure Billy can set you straight on this matter anyway.”

    To clarify I wasn’t make a ‘judgement’ in that comment. He asked what I thought and I spelled it out. I was careful to use the words “I think you are” in the post rather than the blunt “You are”.

  53. Martin, RE: #44

    The key word in answer to your question is “messiah.” Jews do not believe that Jesus is/was the messiah, or, in other words accept Jesus as the messiah. Christians believe that he is. This is clearly the point of divergence between Judaism and Christianity and is the reason why the two are separate religions. I don’t understand how this addresses your concerns/questions about different interpretations of scripture since the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament are distinct and different documents.

  54. Jenna Black – Thanks for your response.

    That does not address my question.

    I pointed out that difference in Christian/Jewish claim/beliefs.

    You must on some level agree with me that they are contradictory claims/beliefs.

    My question to you was can both claims/beliefs be correct? (By correct I mean true in how we define our shared reality)

  55. Martin,

    Obviously, Jesus cannot simultaneously both be the Messiah and not be the Messiah. So I don’t understand your question.

  56. The other disciples that had greater faith believed in Jesus resurrection before they had seen him. Their faith can be defined as stronger because of the lack of evidence.

    Thomas was rebuked because he was provided with sufficient evidence – eyewitness testimony – to believe in the resurrection, but did not believe it, even though the testimony was from his own, trusted friends.

    The other disciples who already believed it, did not do so on the basis of no evidence.

    You should also note that faith is not actually mentioned in this account.

    If, as you say, faith is not directly proportional to the evidence, then there is no correlation between the two. They are independent. And if they are independent you can not define faith is being dependent of evidence. Ergo faith does not require evidence.

    What I’m trying to say is that different people require different levels of evidence to believe. People don’t share the same evidential standards for their beliefs. But that’s not to say they believe without any evidence at all.

    For a given individual, faith probably is directly proportional to the evidence they are aware of.

    But, there is a correlation between the two. An inverse correlation. As said above, Thomas needed more evidence because he had less faith. People that believed without the evidence had greater faith. Therefore perfect faith is believing something with zero evidence.

    No-one believed without evidence in this scenario.

    Extrapolating perfect faith to believing something with zero evidence is just fanciful.

    This whole discussion is quite ludicrous. You have a bunch of Christians who claim evidence is an important part of their faith. And then there’s people who don’t even have any experience of the faith being described trying to insist that they are wrong.

    Did it ever occur to you that when a Christian says evidence is an important part of their faith, that this is testimonial evidence (that is not hearsay) that it is indeed the case?

  57. Jenna Black – Thank you for your response.

    I would agree with your statement that Jesus could not simultaneously be the Messiah and not be the Messiah at the same time. This is quite clear as it contradicts logic.

    Christians claim/interpret/believe that he was.

    Jews claim/interpret/believe that he was not.

    Since you agree with me that he can and cannot be the Messiah at the same time, this confirms that one of these competing/contradictory claims must be wrong by definition.

    So it seems we agree on that.

    Which claim do you think/believe is correct? (Again by correct I mean a true claim based upon our understanding of shared reality)

  58. Jenna Black – Let me follow up with the statement that I really don’t know the answer to my questions.

    I am sincere in my desire to learn not just what you or anyone here knows but how they/I/we have come to know what we know.

  59. Shane,

    As above, I show faith as used in the bible, as a sliding scale inversely proportional to the amount of evidence.

    No you have not.

    The Thomas story does not use the word faith but talks about Thomas not believing even though he had evidence that was sufficient for others. Therefore this story does not establish anything about how faith is used in the bible.

    I would suggest that the stories that Tom, and subsequently you have referenced highlight the importance of action. People who are described as having faith were willing to act on their beliefs about Jesus. Little or more faith has nothing to do with whether they believed based on less or more evidence but about how willing they are to act on the basis of the evidence that they do have.

  60. Melissa – Interesting post. Do you think acting on the basis of someone’s personal evidence is virtuous?

  61. Martin, RE: #58 and #59

    First, let me address this statement of yours: “I am sincere in my desire to learn not just what you or anyone here knows but how they/I/we have come to know what we know.” I am assuming that you are using the word “know” in the sense of “having a conviction about” as in a statement such as “I know that Jesus is Lord.” I come to my convictions about what are called “articles of faith” in my Christianity through the customary ways of knowing that we all use to live our lives effectively as we interact with our reality: personal direct experience, testimony of others about their experiences, reading, study, analysis and interpretation through reasoning, critical thinking and problem-solving. Here is an example of how I interpret Holy Scripture to arrive at my belief about the universality of Christ’s teachings:

    John 14:6 says, “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

    In arriving at my own interpretation of the passage, I pay close attention to the pronouns in this verse. Jesus says, “I am” and then says “the way, the truth and the life”. He is speaking as the Son of God, not as a simple carpenter from Nazareth. He then says that that we must go through him (“the way, the truth and the life”), using the pronoun “me” to get to the Father, meaning God. To me, this means that in order to get to God we must seek the way (a definite path, not wandering around all over the place), seek the truth (no falsehoods that lead us into sin) and live our “life” seeking the Father God. I believe that there are many ways to the truth and many paths through truth to find God. The truth of the Gospel is universal and can have different manifestations in different languages, cultures and social contexts and still be God’s truth. Of course, this requires love of/for God and love for our neighbors as our selves. This interpretation leads me to affirm the universality of Christ’s teachings and my understanding that God judges us according to our righteousness in seeking Him, the Father. This includes the righteous followers of any true way and path, however it is expressed through a religious tradition and spiritual practice.

    Keep in mind that this interpretation is my own and I do not claim to represent or speak for all Christians or for any other Christian whose interpretation may be different from mine.

  62. @Jenna:

    How did you come to know that the Bible is true, and the claims of Christianity are true (Jesus is God, etc.)?

    How do you know know that the claims of other religions (e.g. Judaism or Islam) are false?

  63. How did you come to know that the Bible is true, and the claims of Christianity are true (Jesus is God, etc.)?

    Evidence and reason.

    Oh hang on, Christians apparently don’t use that …

  64. @ 40, Billy Squibs.

    “The conclusion that you reach is not itself a scientific conclusion. It therefore fails its own standard.”

    Yes, I know. My point was to demonstrate the lack of validity of an argument, using Tom’s original form, when made by a naturalist.

    I was concerned that I had made an error in the construction of the argument after the substituting terms in Tom’s original, and Tom was kind enough to critique it.

  65. Yes, I see that, John. Perhaps I wasn’t adding anything to your post but I thought I would speak up all the same.

  66. #57

    Hi bigbird,

    “Thomas was rebuked because he was provided with sufficient evidence – eyewitness testimony – to believe in the resurrection, but did not believe it, even though the testimony was from his own, trusted friends.

    The other disciples who already believed it, did not do so on the basis of no evidence.”

    My mistake for using “lack of evidence”. I meant lesser evidence than Thomas demanded.

    “You should also note that faith is not actually mentioned in this account.”

    I did not look up this bible verse. I was entirely going on your post which was

    You are misinterpreting the definition. Just because faith is based on evidence does not mean it is directly proportional to the evidence. The same level of evidence does not mean the same level of faith. People interpret evidence through the lens of their experiences, and some choose to disregard it, and others believe it.

    Take Thomas for example – he had access to the same evidence as many of the other disciples, but would not believe until he saw Jesus himself.

    You talk of different levels of faith based on the same evidence then mentioned Thomas as an example.

    “What I’m trying to say is that different people require different levels of evidence to believe. People don’t share the same evidential standards for their beliefs. But that’s not to say they believe without any evidence at all.”

    Again you are talking about beliefs here. When you use that word I agree with everything you say. But none of us here have put forward the notion that the words faith and belief are interchangeable.

    “For a given individual, faith probably is directly proportional to the evidence they are aware of.”

    Bible verse(s) to back up that definition, please. This is the same thing I asked of Tom. Any indication that more evidence results in stronger faith.

    But, there is a correlation between the two. An inverse correlation. As said above, Thomas needed more evidence because he had less faith. People that believed without the evidence had greater faith. Therefore perfect faith is believing something with zero evidence.

    No-one believed without evidence in this scenario.

    Extrapolating perfect faith to believing something with zero evidence is just fanciful.”

    Yes, if any form of heresay, or gut feeling, or anything at all can be used as evidence, than no-one can believe anything without evidence, and no-one can have perfect faith. I actually thought the idea that no sinful man could be perfect in their faith would appeal to Christians. The inability to reach perfection on their own. Anyway, let’s get rid of the idea that you can believe anything without any form of evidence.

    Do you now wish to dismiss the story of Thomas as evidence in the argument on the definition of faith because there is no mention of that word? Or do you want to address the idea of faith in this story and how it applies to the players?

    “This whole discussion is quite ludicrous. You have a bunch of Christians who claim evidence is an important part of their faith. And then there’s people who don’t even have any experience of the faith being described trying to insist that they are wrong.”

    I was a born again Christian for nearly 40 years. I had absolute faith in the knowledge that Christ died on the Cross to save me from my sins and I was going to spend eternity in heaven. I knew it to be so having none of the evidence you might bring up about the historical accuracy of the life of Christ. I knew it to be so because I read it in the bible and that was all I needed. And again, I referred to this knowledge as faith. It was what I was taught from before I was old enough to go to school. Faith was believing that the bible was true because it was the word of God.

    Now if you want to tell me that the idea of faith I have held for essentially all my life is wrong, then offer up good evidence to do so. But don’t try and tell me that I don’t have any experience in the faith you are describing. You have no idea what my experiences are and it is condescending in the extreme to suggest you do.

    “Did it ever occur to you that when a Christian says evidence is an important part of their faith, that this is testimonial evidence (that is not hearsay) that it is indeed the case?”

    Did it ever occur to you that if a Christian says evidence is not an important part of their faith that it is indeed the case?

    Can they both be right?

  67. #60

    Hi Melissa,

    “The Thomas story does not use the word faith but talks about Thomas not believing even though he had evidence that was sufficient for others. Therefore this story does not establish anything about how faith is used in the bible.”

    You are absolutely right. As I said above bigbird was talking about different people having different levels of faith based on the same evidence and bought up Thomas as an example. I didn’t check the bible verse myself.

    “I would suggest that the stories that Tom, and subsequently you have referenced highlight the importance of action. People who are described as having faith were willing to act on their beliefs about Jesus. Little or more faith has nothing to do with whether they believed based on less or more evidence but about how willing they are to act on the basis of the evidence that they do have.”

    This is an interesting point. I think the problem with it is that for the sake of the story it would be impossible to show someone having faith without them physically acting. How could you describe someone having great faith with no action?

    Or is your point that action is part of the definition of the word? There is probably evidence for that, because as I said, there are probably no stories of faith being used that didn’t require an action. How about something like.

    Faith – the willingness to act on a belief based in (or with little) evidence

    Then we are back to is the Faith based action rooted in evidence or in a lack of it?

  68. #64

    Hi bigbird

    How did you come to know that the Bible is true, and the claims of Christianity are true (Jesus is God, etc.)?

    Evidence and reason.

    Oh hang on, Christians apparently don’t use that …”

    Assuming this is aimed at the discussion we are having, the disagreement we have is over the definition of the word faith, and whether evidence and reason add to or diminish it. Not whether Christians have and use them. If you can read any of my posts as a personal attack against you or against Christianity as a whole I sincerely apologise.

    Cheers
    Shane

  69. #69
    Hi Tom,

    Sure. But that doesn’t help us with a definition. Either faith in that verse means belief because of the evidence or belief without the evidence. Either of those fits but they can’t be both right.

    Cheers
    Shane

  70. Since we are talking about definitions…from the OED:
    Faith

    I. Belief, trust, confidence.
    1.

    a. Confidence, reliance, trust (in the ability, goodness, etc., of a person; in the efficacy or worth of a thing; or in the truth of a statement or doctrine). Const. in, †of. In early use, only with reference to religious objects; this is still the prevalent application, and often colours the wider use.

    b. Belief proceeding from reliance on testimony or authority.

    Unless, Shane, you have a better authority or source for the definition of faith (and whether it is or is not related to belief) why should we accept your definitions?

    By the way, there is a term for faith without proof or evidence. It is blind faith (from the OED again). It seems odd that if faith means what you are trying to make it mean that a separate term (that means exactly what you are trying to prove faith means) would exist.

    I also find it interesting that you keep changing the qualifications for evidence as it relates to faith. Is it no evidence, not compelling evidence, or lesser evidence?

  71. Martin Ludecke @ #26

    Belief revision, for me, begins with thinking about how I might be wrong. This then leads me to examine the process I used to come to a particular belief or set of beliefs.

    Here is a set of beliefs, I’ve shared here before, which I presently have on my work bench. Notice that each belief rests on a number historical claims. If any of these claims can be demonstrated to be false, or even weakened, it begins to undermine the basis for the Christian faith, which would then, of course, cause me to reconsider my personal beliefs.

    1. An itinerant Jewish preacher/teacher, known as Jesus of Nazareth, emerged as a public figure around 30 AD.

    2. Jesus was arrested and tried by the Jewish high priest Joseph Caiaphas who then turned him over to the Roman procurator Pontius Pilate who also tried him and sentenced him to death. Jesus was crucified by the Romans on Friday April 3, 33 A.D. (Note: Many scholars argue that Jesus was crucified on April 6, 30 A.D. I think better historical arguments can be made for the later date. Also, I have converted the dates to the Roman calendar.)

    3. Jesus was given an honorable burial by Joseph of Arimathea, in Joseph’s own unused tomb.

    4. This tomb was discovered empty on Sunday April 5th, 33 A.D. by a group of Jesus’ women followers.

    5. Afterwards, beginning with the women, Jesus’ disciples had experiences which they believed were physical appearances of Jesus.

    6. Paul and other Christian writers of that time interpreted these appearances to be the result of the physical resurrection of Jesus.

    7. It is this belief, along with other a few other basic beliefs, which accounts for the rapid rise and spread of Christianity in the first century.

    These are all historical claims which can be supported, or not, by circumstantial evidence (for example, Roman history and archaeology). To be impartial an investigator needs to set aside his or her personal biases and look at the evidence objectively. This evidence has nothing to do with personal feelings or the claims of other religions.

    By the way this approach completely falsifies the claim that faith is belief without any evidence. I happen to have faith because of some specific historical evidence. Falsify that evidence and you falsify my faith.

  72. Martin,

    What I attempt to point out is that the word “know” has different meanings. Sometimes it is used to express a strong conviction about something, as in a wife saying to her husband, “I know you love me.” But please note, this meaning or usage of the word “know” does not mean that what the speaker holds a strong conviction about is knowledge that is not based on evidence. The wife “knows” that her husband loves her because his love has been demonstrated and tested over time in their relationship. That’s why the wife could also say, “I have faith that you love me” and convey the same meaning using different words. That’s the beauty of language! In this discussion of the term “faith” and of attempts to alter its meaning, IMO, it is important to look at the meaning (semantics) of all the terms we use.

  73. Jenna Black – Let’s run with your definition of knowing something.

    Question.

    Why do you suppose people of the Jewish faith or any faith other than Christianity don’t know Jesus was the Messiah?

  74. Martin, RE: #77

    I do not feel comfortable speculating as to why Jews do not accept Jesus as the Messiah. I prefer to let Jews (or followers of other religious traditions) speak for themselves about their reasons for believing or not believing what they do or don’t believe. Perhaps there is a rabbi you can ask this question, or you can do some research on the subject.

  75. Jenna – Fair enough. I have both asked and researched this. Everyone has access to the same evidence but have drawn different conclusions about it.

    Let me ask the question this way:

    Jews and Christians have access to the same evidence but interpret the evidence differently.

    People of Jewish faith have concluded Jesus was not the Messiah and are awaiting the Messiah.

    People of Christian faith have concluded Jesus was indeed the Messiah and will return.

    You have stated in a previous post that Jesus cannot be the Messiah and at the same time not be the Messiah.

    Do you think that the people of the Jewish faith simply don’t know something as you defined knowing things?

  76. Martin,

    You say this: “…as you defined knowing things.” I don’t think that I have done this. I merely pointed out how the term “know” has different meanings. Let’s not play games with these word meanings. The way a person knows things (epistemology) is a process. Knowledge is the product.

    It also appears to me that you are merely asking me to speculate as to why Jews do not accept Jesus as the Messiah using different words, but it is still the same question and I give you the same answer as above in Comment #78.

  77. Jenna – Defining what words mean is significant in understanding how we conceptualize ideas. Our definition of faith and knowledge (more specifically faith) is part of the conversation that started here. As these definitions tend to be dynamic to support one thought or another I must conceptualize my thoughts and queations based upon what someone else’s definition of a word means to them as they use it.

    At bottom , I am interested how evidence that is plainly reviewable to all has lead to three faith traditions – each claiming to be the only real truth. The only way this can happen, in my estimation, is if the evidence is not strong enough to support one conclusion knowable to all as a universal truth.

    You have reviewed this evidence, it would seem, and have drawn the conclusion that Christianity is correct, dismissing the other conclusions.

    Question.

    Are the other conclusions false/wrong?

  78. Martin,

    I wonder if you have seen my comments where I use the analogy of how we are peers on a jury in a trial of the God yes/no question. The point I make with this analogy is that each juror in any trial hears the same evidence, which comes in the form of forensic evidence presented to the court through expert witness testimony and the testimony of witnesses called by the prosecution or defense. Each juror, individually, is charged with considering the evidence, all of the evidence presented, using their reasoning as ordinary citizens who are considered to be “reasonable people” to arrive at his/her verdict. The standard of truth that the juror applies in arriving at his/her verdict (at least in a criminal trial) is if the evidence convinces him or her “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The juror arrives at his/her judgments about the verdict using his/her reasoning skills based on his/her knowledge and experiences, which gives each juror a perspective or paradigm for analyzing the evidence.

    At the end of the presentation of evidence, the jurors retire to the jury room to deliberate. During this process of deliberation, a juror may change his/her thinking about the evidence and change his/her final verdict, but once the trial is over, no juror is asked to or required to justify his/her verdict to anyone. It is assumed that s/he has reached his/her verdict ethically and reasonably.

    IMO, this is the same process that we use in arriving at our “verdict” about meta-physical, transcendental, spiritual, religious questions. My “verdict” about the truth of Christianity is the basis for my commitment to Christianity, which is/was expressed and symbolized in my baptism and confirmation (at age 16) in the Episcopal Church, my chosen spiritual “home.”

    I think that this concept of how people see their own religion or spiritual practice as the “one true faith” is highly overblown. In fact, none other than Richard Dawkins through the Dawkins Foundation conducted a research study in England among the general population in which he found this: Only 17% of the survey’s respondents who self-identified as Christians expressed a belief that “Christianity is the only true way to knowing God.” The responses might be different in the USA, of course, and there might be a Pew Center on Religion study where this question was asked that I don’t know about. Nonetheless, I merely suggest that the sort of dogmatism about exclusivity as a path to the truth and to God of one’s own religion that you describe may not be as ubiquitous as you might think.

  79. As for me, I am quite convinced of the exclusive truth of Christianity. I cannot see how the Cross of Christ makes the slightest sense at all unless it were God’s only solution for mankind’s deepest problem. If there were a halfway decent Plan B, then the Cross would have been a horrific Plan A.

    So I think it makes a whole lot more sense to reject Christianity completely than it does to include it on a list of potentially true religions. You know I don’t reject it; I think it’s the truth about how God has reconciled the world to himself.

    Still I think that in terms of honoring God, to follow Christ alone honors him the most, to place Christ on a list of good religious options dishonors him the most, and to reject him completely is somewhere in between—because of the Cross.

    Sociological analysis is interesting, but I don’t see how it addresses Martin’s question.

  80. Therefore, Martin @#44, of the Jewish and Christian claims about the identity of Christ, one or the other is wrong, or both of them, by necessity of logic. They cannot both be correct.

  81. Jenna @43: How do you define “biblical literalism”? That term itself has a range of interpretations in the literature. More simply, do you believe the Scripture is true in all it affirms, with grammatical, historical, and genre-related context taken in to consideration?

  82. At bottom , I am interested how evidence that is plainly reviewable to all has lead to three faith traditions – each claiming to be the only real truth. The only way this can happen, in my estimation, is if the evidence is not strong enough to support one conclusion knowable to all as a universal truth.

    Given that some philosophers believe in solipsism and think every other person is a zombie, it seems that there is no conclusion about anything that is knowable to all as a truly universal truth.

    We have imperfect evidence for every one of our beliefs. We might all be brains in vats, or maybe there is just one brain in a vat.

  83. By the way this approach completely falsifies the claim that faith is belief without any evidence. I happen to have faith because of some specific historical evidence. Falsify that evidence and you falsify my faith.

    I have a friend who is a lawyer who converted from atheism to Christianity because of this historical evidence.

  84. Jenna –

    The problem with your example is that all of the jurors must come to a unanimous decision or there is no verdict.

    In a trial so important, how come so many jurors have such wildly conflicting conclusions? IMO this is an exactly correct analogy – there is no verdict, and never will be and all the jurors walk out of the God court with their own subjective view which they then use to navigate our collective objective reality.

    Question then becomes:
    How can this possibly help us shape a better world?

  85. Tom, RE: #85

    In answer to your question, what I mean by the term “biblical literalism” is when, for example, people attempt to read parts of the Bible that are clearly allegorical or mytho-poetic as if they are, or should be, historical fact. It is also the assumption that each text, at the sentence or passage level, has one and only one interpretation that everyone should grasp simply by reading the words (and that one true interpretation is usually what they say it means).

    Yes, I do believe in the truth of the Bible as read, interpreted and studied holistically, with attention to historical, cultural and linguistic context, including the careful scrutiny of translations. For instance, I was amazed when I learned that the Hebrew Bible is written without vowel letters, which means that the Hebrews had to mentally insert the correct vowel sounds into the words in order to decode the text. This hardly lends itself to a “literal” interpretation of the text itself since in some cases, the words are different depending on what vowels the reader inserts.

    I have had my faith in the Bible greatly enhanced through my close association with my Jewish friends in the community where I live. Their veneration and love for the Torah and their practice of the tradition of “midrash” in studying and applying the teachings of the Torah to their lives has given me a deeper understanding of the origins, history and value of the Old Testament in my own Christian journey.

    A book I highly recommend for those who seek to understand the Jewish context of the New Testament is Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler (Ed.) (2011) The Jewish Annotated New Testament, available through Oxford University Press.

    I don’t know if the meaning of the term “Biblical literalism” is what is commonly meant by the term among Christian scholars. Please enlighten me. JB

  86. Martin, #88

    Perhaps you interpret the term “verdict” to mean the collective vote of the jury and not the individual decision of each juror. The dictionary definition I found allows for both meanings. You are correct that unless there is unanimity in the “verdict” (judgment, vote) arrived at by all of the jurors, there is no conviction. In the case of a mistrial, the individual jurors cast their votes toward the verdict but there was no “verdict” to either convict or acquit.

    I believe that justice is served when the result of a trial is a “hung jury.” A hung jury is simply part of the search for the truth. It is my belief that there will always be a hung jury in the trial of the God yes/no question. This is simply evidence of the existence of free will. Faith in God is more than simply an intellectual assent to the truth. It is also a commitment. If we are not free to not love God, we are not free to love God, since love is a commitment.

  87. Assuming this is aimed at the discussion we are having, the disagreement we have is over the definition of the word faith, and whether evidence and reason add to or diminish it.

    No, it’s aimed at people who think faith is believing without evidence.

    If you can read any of my posts as a personal attack against you or against Christianity as a whole I sincerely apologise.

    No, I haven’t read your posts that way, and I don’t mind honest attacks on Christianity in any case.

  88. Yes, if any form of heresay, or gut feeling, or anything at all can be used as evidence, than no-one can believe anything without evidence, and no-one can have perfect faith.

    It’s hearsay.

    I don’t understand what you are talking about when you say “perfect faith”.

    You seem to want to create a formula for faith and extrapolate to an edge case of “perfect faith” where no evidence applies.

    I don’t think the “perfect faith” you are talking about exists, and I think it is a red herring in this discussion.

    I actually thought the idea that no sinful man could be perfect in their faith would appeal to Christians. The inability to reach perfection on their own. Anyway, let’s get rid of the idea that you can believe anything without any form of evidence.

    Given that this whole thread was about faith being believing without evidence …

    But don’t try and tell me that I don’t have any experience in the faith you are describing. You have no idea what my experiences are and it is condescending in the extreme to suggest you do.

    Unless people reveal their experiences, obviously no-one has any idea what their experiences are.

    But generally, the people promulgating the “faith is believing without evidence” line appear to be atheists with little direct experience with Christianity. You are obviously an exception. Sorry.

    Did it ever occur to you that if a Christian says evidence is not an important part of their faith that it is indeed the case?

    Of course. As I’ve said in this thread, different people require different levels of evidence for their faith. Perhaps you relied on your parents, at least initially, as most children do.

    In any case, it seems that you are happy to concede that faith is not believing without evidence, which was my main reason for joining the discussion.

  89. Tom, RE: #83

    I am attempting to address an argument that I hear used frequently among atheists that the fact that there is religious diversity in the world is somehow “evidence” that God doesn’t exist based on the assumption that God’s existence depends on unanimity and uniformity of religion among all humanity.

    The question here IMO is religious diversity, which does have a sociological, cultural, and demographic explanation. This is why I don’t feel comfortable speculating about why Jews do not accept Jesus as the Messiah. I cannot speak for their reasons. I am keeping in mind Matthew 7:1-2, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” I believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that what Jesus accomplished, he accomplished for the whole of humanity.

    Perhaps I am attempting to address Martin’s questions based on atheistic arguments he may not in fact espouse, so I will defer to you to address his questions. JB

  90. Jenna and Tom – I make no assertion that God does not exist nor am I attempting to use the lack of unanimity as support against the existence of a divine creator.

    I am simply trying to understand the claims of those who not only proclaim to know for a certainty that God does exist but also assert knowledge of a host of attributes God possesses along with a knowledge of how He wants them to organize their entire lives.

    People of different faiths profess to know specific details, many conflicting ones, and I want to understand how they know these things since they are not universally known.

    Is it possible that any of your theology is incorrect or that you are missing something?

  91. Martin,

    You are speaking in such generalities about abstract and non-specific cases and concepts. Could you give a specific case or example of what you mean by something that is “universally known” versus “specific details” that a particular believer knows?

  92. In a trial so important, how come so many jurors have such wildly conflicting conclusions?

    Each juror has different presuppositions and biases. Each juror ignores some evidence and concentrates on other evidence.

    It’s the same with religious belief (or lack thereof), except that presuppositions and biases are more deeply engrained because the verdict has a direct impact on the “juror”‘s life, unlike in a legal trial. For example, it’s not the case for all atheists, but many clearly do not want Christianity to be true. That makes it difficult to be objective. Similarly, Christians who have invested their life in their faith no doubt do not want Christianity to be false.

    In the end, it’s up to you what you believe Martin. But ask yourself honestly: do I want it to be false? What would I lose if I changed my mind? Is it possible this is making me less than objective?

    I admired Antony Flew for publicly changing his mind, given his long public history of atheism.

  93. bigbird,

    I love this quote from Antony Flew (2008, p. 163) in his autobiography, “There is a God: How the world’s most notorious atheist changed his mind”

    “… we have all the evidence we need in our immediate experience [of the existence of God] and … only a deliberate refusal to ‘look’ is responsible for atheism of any variety.”

  94. BillT. I stand corrected as a result of your reply.

    You can know at least one thing.

    I am horrible at paraphrasing or references on the fly but someone once said something along the lines of ‘the wisest of men are keenly aware of their own ignorance’.

  95. Jenna Black

    Universally known – we all are born and we all will die at some point. Everyone should understand these things; they are universally understood or known.

    Specific details a believer claims to know – Jesus walked on water or Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse.

    In either case, I am still curious about how these conflicting claims amoung believers help us build a more viable global civilization?

  96. Martin,

    Again, you are using the word “know” to mean having a strong conviction or belief about something. The examples you give are claims made in the holy scriptures of their respective religions. they are not claims of knowledge made by believers. Please see the work of Professor James W. Fowler on the role of “logical certainty” or a “logic of conviction” in faith development:

    James W. Fowler (1981) Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning. New York: HarperCollins.

  97. Jenna –

    I am not understanding this then.

    You state that my examples of specific details I cite are knowledge claims in scripture but not knowledge claims of believers? In other words the scriptures make the claim not the believer.

    I don’t want to misrepresent your statement. Does the way I phrase it accurately describe your idea?

  98. Tom Gilson – I cannot believe that my perspective is not plainly obvious in the discourse contained within this thread; it is possible, more likely even probable given your response citing my twitter profile. My apologies if my perspective is indiscernible to you or anyone here. I will attempt to clarify as I can with each response.

    I have learned quite a lot as a result of the interactions on this thread.

    Let’s continue to deconstruct our respective arguments.

  99. Martin, RE: #103

    Yes, it is important to make the distinction between claims made by/in the holy scriptures of any religion and the “claim” (IMO, a misuse of the term) of a follower of a religion to accepts the claim from holy scripture as truth (believes the claim). The point I am attempting to make is that “faith claims” are just that: statements of belief made on the basis of faith. The use of the word “know” in stating what one believes, when meant as to know in to have strong convictions about a belief, does not magically or linguistically convert a claim based on faith into a knowledge claim.

    Part of sharing our faith among Christians is witnessing, also called testifying, which is based on our own experiences (which we have authoritative and direct knowledge of, a perceptual experience) in/of our relationship with God. What I know based on my own experience can be stated as a claim. What I cannot know because I was not an eyewitness or not present when the event occurred but accept the testimony of those who were competent witnesses to the events as reliable and true, is not something I can make a knowledge claim about. However, what I perceive, experience, have direct knowledge of/about, I can testify to or give competent testimony about.

    In the attempts among members of the atheist community to give faith a bad name ( a la Peter Boghossian), there is a lot of co-opting of the Christian lexicon for the purpose of advancing an ideological agenda going on. I think that it is of great importance to examine and clarify the meaning (semantics) of the language we use in this context. This is how we “deconstruct” arguments. JB

  100. Jenna – Thank you for your response. Your reply to this, for me, is probably the most interesting and thought provoking so far.
    As an aside, I am intimately familiar with witnessing but this is digressing from the focus of our conversation.

    I think Boghossian’s objective is nothing more than an attempt to identify potentially bad epistemic systems. I do not detect any causitry in his arguments; but I could be wrong about this.

    For me, the strongest point of contention is as follows: (note: I will attempt to do this step by step so we can tease out meaning at any point.)

    Question.
    Do you make decisions? (Albiet a simple question; it probably only deserves a simple answer of yes or no.)

  101. JB – clarification of my last question as it may have been obscure.

    Do you make decisions on a day-to-day basis such as what to wear, who to vote for, what to eat, how you will get to work, etc..

  102. @Martin

    I am still curious about how these conflicting claims amoung believers help us build a more viable global civilization?

    I am curious: how are your postings and your tweets helping us build a more viable global civilization?

    Have you investigated the considerable body of evidence that shows that people with a religious faith live longer, happier lives than those who do not?

    If you agree with that evidence, why is it important to you to attempt to undermine other people’s faith? If successful, won’t that reduce people’s happiness, amongst other things?

    I’ve never understood the evangelism of many atheists …

  103. #73

    Hi toddes,

    Thanks very much for trying to clarify the issue. I couldn’t view the OED online without subscribing so I would appreciate it if you could copy and past the entirety of the definition.

    I. Belief, trust, confidence.
    1.

    a. Confidence, reliance, trust (in the ability, goodness, etc., of a person; in the efficacy or worth of a thing; or in the truth of a statement or doctrine). Const. in, †of. In early use, only with reference to religious objects; this is still the prevalent application, and often colours the wider use.

    b. Belief proceeding from reliance on testimony or authority.

    “Unless, Shane, you have a better authority or source for the definition of faith (and whether it is or is not related to belief) why should we accept your definitions?”

    All my definitions have come from other dictionaries. I have no idea how you would rank them in odder of authority. I believe lawyers use the Macquarie as standard for legal definitions, but I may be totally off base about that.

    If the Oxford English Dictionary is the pinnacle of definition and is to be trusted for the meaning of any word, then I have to ask you, what do you think it actually says? It says belief and confidence in something based on testimony or authority. That is believing something because someone tells you it’s true, not because of physical evidence.

    “By the way, there is a term for faith without proof or evidence. It is blind faith (from the OED again). It seems odd that if faith means what you are trying to make it mean that a separate term (that means exactly what you are trying to prove faith means) would exist.”

    Not in the slightest. Adding a descriptor to a word is usually about adjusting degrees of the noun in question. Like ‘tired’ and ‘dead tired’. Blind faith means believe with no evidence, which is impossible if we take any word or feeling to be evidence.

    “I also find it interesting that you keep changing the qualifications for evidence as it relates to faith. Is it no evidence, not compelling evidence, or lesser evidence?”

    You find it interesting that I will concede a point to an opponent and adjust my argument accordingly? You think I should keep doggedly to my first statement even if it would render the argument pointless? I think it’s interesting that you can’t see a point where you might change your thoughts on a matter.

    If the definition of evidence is open to include absolutely anything that can be interpreted to support a particular belief, I am willing to concede that no one believes anything without evidence. Therefore I adjusted the definition be belief in something inversely proportional to the evidence.

    Cheers
    Shane

  104. Shane, I’m having trouble parsing your last comment. Is it your position that belief based on testimony rather than physical evidence is evidence-free belief?

  105. #92

    Hi big bird

    “Yes, if any form of heresay, or gut feeling, or anything at all can be used as evidence, than no-one can believe anything without evidence, and no-one can have perfect faith.

    It’s hearsay.”

    Thanks for that. Obviously it is. I had no idea why my autocorrect was constantly trying to change it to “heresy” … other than that it was taking your side of the argument. 🙂

    “I don’t understand what you are talking about when you say “perfect faith”.

    You seem to want to create a formula for faith and extrapolate to an edge case of “perfect faith” where no evidence applies.

    I don’t think the “perfect faith” you are talking about exists, and I think it is a red herring in this discussion.”

    Are their different levels of faith? In the same way there is different amounts of evidence? Not that it can be rated on a scale, but can the amount of faith that someone holds change? Is someone’s faith better than another’s?

    “I actually thought the idea that no sinful man could be perfect in their faith would appeal to Christians. The inability to reach perfection on their own. Anyway, let’s get rid of the idea that you can believe anything without any form of evidence.

    Given that this whole thread was about faith being believing without evidence …”

    Yeah a lot of time could have been saved if someone had said, “We’re actually arguing about the definition of ‘evidence’, not the definition of ‘faith’.

    “But don’t try and tell me that I don’t have any experience in the faith you are describing. You have no idea what my experiences are and it is condescending in the extreme to suggest you do.

    Unless people reveal their experiences, obviously no-one has any idea what their experiences are.

    But generally, the people promulgating the “faith is believing without evidence” line appear to be atheists with little direct experience with Christianity. You are obviously an exception. Sorry.”

    No problems. Appreciate the apology.

    “Did it ever occur to you that if a Christian says evidence is not an important part of their faith that it is indeed the case?

    Of course. As I’ve said in this thread, different people require different levels of evidence for their faith. Perhaps you relied on your parents, at least initially, as most children do.

    In any case, it seems that you are happy to concede that faith is not believing without evidence, which was my main reason for joining the discussion.”

    Well like I say, if you’re going to accept, hearsay or gut feelings as evidence then I can’t argue against that. No one has ever believed anything without being told about it or without having an idea and thinking it’s right. It makes it a pointless definition and makes faith a pointless word.

    Cheers
    Shane

  106. Tom in 114:

    Does that mean it’s evidence-free?

    Is the assertion, “There is a purple invisible, untouchable elephant in my pocket”, evidence-free?

    You trust me as an honest person, you have received communication from me asserting that it is true. You have reliable testimony, and the testimony is coming from someone who has an extra type of sense that perceives these elephants, though no-one else can.

    This is hearsay, based on no facts, and yet you are saying that this is a type of evidence?

    Even if the claim were less ridiculous, hearing the claim from someone would not be enough to call it evidence, as you well know in areas of your life not concerning religion. Please notice this double-standard.

  107. Oisin, thanks for sharing.

    Have you never believed any information anyone has ever told you?

    Do courts accept testimony as evidence?

    You trust me as an honest person, you have received communication from me asserting that it is true. You have reliable testimony, and the testimony is coming from someone who has an extra type of sense that perceives these elephants, though no-one else can.

    I may trust you as an honest person, but in this instance I know you have reason to be making this up, so I consider this bit of communication not trustworthy. And I have no reason whatsoever to believe you have this extra type of sense. Both of those are non-analogous to the testimony in the Gospel accounts and other NT documents.

  108. This is hearsay, based on no facts, and yet you are saying that this is a type of evidence?

    I think you should investigate the fairly extensive literature on the epistemology of testimony.

    The majority of our beliefs are derived from testimony, spoken and written.

    The entire scientific enterprise depends on testimony – people trust what other people say about their experiments – that they performed them and that they have faithfully represented the results.

  109. #116 & #117

    Hi Tom and bigbird,

    Personal Testimony is admissible in court. Hearsay (second hand or further from the source) is not. But you say hearsay is worthy evidence when it is used to justify the faith that the blind men had when they sought out Jesus to heal them.

    Scientific endeavour is repeatable. Not only do we have the testimony of the first person to do/discover something. Others will follow in their footsteps and confirm or refute their claim.

    Cheers
    Shane

  110. No, Shane, you can think this through too.

    First-hand personal testimony and historical investigation characterize the Gospel accounts. These are both perfectly acceptable as evidence provided they meet certain tests, which I’ll be detailing later on, and which they do in fact meet.

  111. Shane,

    Hearsay may be admissible as evidence in certain cases.

    From Black’s Law Dictionary:

    A term applied to that species of testimony given by a witness who relates, not what he knows personally, but what others have told him, or what he has heard said by others.

    Hearsay evidence is that which does not derive its value solely from the credit of the witness, but rests mainly on the veracity and competency of other persons. The very nature of the evidence shows its weakness, and it is admitted only in specified cases from necessity.

    Hearsay

    You might also read this: Hearsay rule

  112. Tom:

    I may trust you as an honest person, but in this instance I know you have reason to be making this up, so I consider this bit of communication not trustworthy. And I have no reason whatsoever to believe you have this extra type of sense.

    You cannot make claims about the veracity of my claim by reference to the claim alone. You need to consult with outside sources, your own experience of the world, etc., to figure out that I do not have this sense. This is perfectly acceptable and reasonable.

    However, with the Bible, you refer only to its contents to justify its claims.

    Jesus lived, he is mentioned in passing by some historians, but the only record of his miracles is in the stories told by the followers of his cult who already believed he was God incarnate. You call this evidence, but as has been repeatedly said here, this is the claim that requires external evidence from people not indoctrinated into a cult for years (it was a cult until it was large enough to be called a religion, it’s semantics, apologies if it offends). You are merely saying that, in this case, the claim itself is all the evidence you need. Do you have some idea of why this is unconvincing to outsiders?

    bigbird:

    I think you should investigate the fairly extensive literature on the epistemology of testimony.

    I think you should consult the fairly extensive literature on false memory syndrome.

    And also please send links when referring to things outside the discussion, it just seems rude to me to essentially say “go read some books why dontcha!”, I will read some things on this area of epistemology if you wish to send me them. Be aware that I have been studying memory formation and retrieval for the past few months, and while I haven’t studied the creation of false memories within cults specifically I know Tom has taken a look into it, and could provide some links if he had the inclination?

    In summary:

    People can have false memories created, and are especially suggestible to figures in positions of authority, when in hypnotic states, and in high-stress cult situations when social influence is driving them to remain in the cult despite a huge strike against its truth claims. Because we know these things, when making claims about members of a cult you have to appeal to evidence outside of their testimony to back it up. Otherwise their testimony cannot be used as evidence. To use it as evidence anyway is what we call faith.

  113. toddes, RE: #121

    My understanding of hearsay evidence is that it is inadmissible in a trial in a criminal case (with some exceptions) because the defendant has the legal right to confront the witnesses against him/her. Hearsay is when the witness tells what someone who is not present in court (unavailable, deceased, etc.) said regarding a matter in the trial. The person who allegedly said whatever it is cannot be cross-examined as to what s/he observed or experienced first-hand. Therefore, hearsay testimony violates the rights of the defendant.

    We need not be so concerned about hearsay in regard to testimony in/from the Holy Scriptures. In the case of the gospels and other books of the New Testament, IMO, the competency of the evangelists to testify truthfully to what they tell us is of much greater importance.

    I recommend that you read the book by Simon Greenleaf (1879), “The Testimony of the Evangelists: The Gospels Examined by the Rules of Evidence.” It is a classic on the credibility and veracity of the gospel accounts of Jesus’ miracles and resurrection. People who reject the gospels as credible testimony from competent witnesses are what Professor Greenleaf calls “objectors” and as such, the burden of proof in opposition to “ordinary presumptions of law” falls on them to impeach the evangelists’ testimony.

  114. Jenna:

    People who reject the gospels as credible testimony from competent witnesses are what Professor Greenleaf calls “objectors” and as such, the burden of proof in opposition to “ordinary presumptions of law” falls on them to impeach the evangelists’ testimony.

    Loads of the things they claimed were true and loads of the predictions they made have been shown to be wrong; the science was wrong, the morals were wrong, the history was wrong, the book is extremely self-contradictory. We have good reasons to doubt, and bad reasons to trust. Faith guides us through the difficult sections, nothing more.

  115. Jenna @ 124,

    Not sure if you intended this response to me specifically since I agree with your response (the latest as well as those I have encountered previously). I am (as are others) trying to get Shane (and Oisin) to realize that hearsay can be used in certain instances.

    Thank you for the recommendation. May I suggest J. Warner Wallace’s Cold Case Christianity to you?

  116. Loads of the things they claimed were true and loads of the predictions they made have been shown to be wrong; the science was wrong, the morals were wrong, the history was wrong, the book is extremely self-contradictory.

    Just making this stuff up as you go along? The reality is that the Bible (NT) stand uncontroverted by any other historical or archeological discovery. The more that has been discovered the more the Bible has been confirmed. Further, the idea that the Bible is self-contradictory is another piece of fiction brought to us by “atheism.com”. The Bible is not self-contradictory and the claim that it is has been debunked quite thoroughly. And what can you even mean by the morals were wrong? You mean the morals that brought to Western Civilization the end of slavery, the civil rights movement and the underpinnings of democracy and science. You need to get better informed.

  117. @BillT:

    And what can you even mean by the morals were wrong?

    My suspicion is that Oisin is saying that the biblical moral framework by which we have come to see that the biblical moral framework is wrong is wrong.

    But I could be wrong.

  118. Moral problems the Bible got wrong:

    Slavery.
    Witches.
    Sodom and Gomorrah.

    Scientific problems the Bible got wrong:

    Dualism and the existence of spirits.
    Evolution.
    The origin and age of the universe.

    Historical problems the Bible got wrong:

    The Exodus.
    The Massacre of the Innocents.
    The Story of Jesus’s Death. (earthquakes, eclipses, etc.)

    I stuck to the biggest problems for effect, the smaller ones are too numerous. These problems are simply inexplicable in light of the fact that these books were written under the direct inspiration (intervention too?) of an omniscient, omnipotent being, who loves each and every human equally, and more than any of us could possibly love each other.

    How can you possibly live with this notion that non-believers are simply being silly when they doubt the veracity of the Bible??

  119. Wow, Oisin. Well that’s it then. I’m done with religion, Christianity, the Bible, all of it.

    I mean to actually write down a list like that! Unbelievable! Must have taken you years. The thought you’ve put in, the reasoning and argumentation, the logic, the historical findings, the scientific facts, the philosophical rigor, the archeological discoveries, the entire wealth of Biblical history all undone by a list. Who’d have believed it! Who?

  120. The reality is that the Bible (NT) stand uncontroverted by any other historical or archeological discovery. The more that has been discovered the more the Bible has been confirmed… And what can you even mean by the morals were wrong?

    Your question has been answered, Bill.

    Now tell me about evidence outside of the Bible that corroborates your claims.

  121. Oisin,

    It’s not my job to educate you on the veracity and historicity of the Bible. There are quite literally libraries full of that information and a combox is hardly the place to repeat it (though it seems your information fits nicely in one). If you’re really interested (which I doubt) read a book. J. Warner Wallace’s “Cold Case Christianity” has gotten good reviews and contains at least the basics on this subject.

  122. @Oisin

    And also please send links when referring to things outside the discussion

    I did. And the epistemology of testimony is not outside the discussion – it’s an important part of what this discussion is really about – is testimony a valid way of knowing things?

    People can have false memories created, and are especially suggestible to figures in positions of authority, when in hypnotic states, and in high-stress cult situations when social influence is driving them to remain in the cult despite a huge strike against its truth claims.

    Are you suggesting that’s what happened in the period after the crucifixion?

    When Jesus’ disciples abandoned their centuries old Jewish faith and practices against strong social influence?

  123. Hi all 🙂 Still here, just too busy to spend a lot of time posting…

    For the earthquake(s) that occurred around the time of Jesus’ death and resurrection, see here

    There is this
    http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/crucifixion/jesus%E2%80%99-crucifixion-reflected-in-soil-deposition/

    I think you have to be a member of BAR to see the entire article – try the link. If you can’t see it all, let me know and I’ll copy over some of the salient details for you.

    As for the eclipse, well the NT only says that it grew dark for 3 hours or so – it was another writer, not a NT author, who attributed the darkness to an eclipse – I’m too busy at the moment to track down the reference.

  124. Tom in 134:

    Lots and lots of red herrings there Tom, don’t think anyone disputes that Christianity began in the 1st century and spread, the claims within the Bible need justification. Just because it is a successful religion doesn’t mean we should take its claims seriously.

    BillT:

    It’s not my job to educate you on the veracity and historicity of the Bible.

    Well you are doing a good job of doing your not job, then.

    J. Warner Wallace’s “Cold Case Christianity” has gotten good reviews and contains at least the basics on this subject.

    To my knowledge the book doesn’t refer to evidences outside of the Gospels themselves.

    Nor does it deal with the possibility that the members of the original Christian cult may have created false memories during their grieving at the passing of Jesus due to the pressure of their indoctrination, their social ties and highly emotional state. Tom, would you mind helping out with the link you sent before on the rationalization processes cult members employ to avoid cognitive dissonance? I’ve sent the link to the wikipedia page on false memories above, I believe.

    We cannot trust the Bible because it is stand-alone, and corroborating evidence for many of the biggest claims within (moral, scientific, historic) does not exist.

    Your belief in the Bible is not due to your wide knowledge of the various evidences and proofs of its claims, it is because you have faith. Otherwise you could not ignore the massive weight of evidence against it.

  125. @Oisin

    Let’s take a quick look at one category.

    Scientific problems the Bible got wrong:

    Dualism and the existence of spirits.

    Where’s your scientific evidence that the Bible has got it wrong on dualism? You just happen to disagree, that’s all.

    Evolution.

    Are you familiar with the many theistic evolutionists out there?

    The origin and age of the universe.

    Really? Science has determined the origin of the universe?

    I don’t recall the Bible stating the age of the universe. It does say there was a beginning to it – something that science has only discovered in the last 100 years.

  126. Your belief in the Bible is not due to your wide knowledge of the various evidences and proofs of its claims, it is because you have faith. Otherwise you could not ignore the massive weight of evidence against it.

    There is no massive weight of evidence against it. We’ve been over this ground here many times. The historicity of the Bible makes it the most reliable ancient historical document in existence. If we can’t know about Christianity from it you can’t know anything about any ancient culture Greek, Roman or otherwise and that is just a foolish position to hold.

    You attempt to invoke special pleading to eliminate the Bible from the discussion speaks to your lack of knowledge of the subject and your inability to come up with anything substantive to counter it as a source. Further, Tom has already supplied a long list of outside sources as well.

    The false memories idea is a complete non-starter given the fact that the early church was made up of the eyewitnesses to the events that the Bible records and new believers who had access to eyewitnesses both believers and non believers. A church based on false memories could not have survived and grown as did the Christian Church of the 1st century. There were far too many people available to corroborate Christ’s miracles, life, death and resurrection. And yes, the church was based on those facts from it’s very inception.

    You’ve brought nothing to the table here Oisin except an attempt to invoke special pleading to eliminate Biblical sources for no valid reason and a false memories fantasy that holds no water whatsoever.

  127. #120, #121, #123 & #124,

    Hi Tom, toddes and Jenna,

    I’m not arguing about the truth of the Gospels. As Tom has said, whether they are true or not does not affect how it defines the word faith. I’m trying to establish the definition of evidence as you use it to justify your definition of faith as “Belief based on evidence”.

    The blind men that sought out Jesus to cure them are more likely to have done so on second hand information (or worse). The woman who touched Jesus garment believing it would heal her, despite there being no example of that happening in the past, was making an unsubstantiated inference. Yet these things are put forward as evidence, though they would not be admissible in a court of law as such, because it helps back up your claim that faith is based on evidence. You claim that you can know the Holy Spirit because of something as ethereal as “a feeling” and put that forward as evidence.

    If evidence can be anything, than your definition of faith becomes “Believing because of anything”. This is a nonsensical definition and makes the word “faith” empty of any meaning.

    Cheers
    Shane

  128. #140

    Hi BillT,

    “A church based on false memories could not have survived and grown as did the Christian Church of the 1st century. There were far too many people available to corroborate Christ’s miracles, life, death and resurrection.”

    Here’s a handful of other religions that have membership of at least seven figures and their approx start date.

    Buddhism – ~520BC
    Confucianism – Confusious lived 551–479 BC
    Hinduism – at least 1900BC
    Islam – ~622AD
    Jainism – ~550BC
    Judaism – ~1300BC
    Taoism – ~550BC
    Zoroastrianism – ~550BC

    Because these are contradictory to Christianity, you must accept that falsities can also enjoy longevity and growth.

    Cheers
    Shane

  129. Which falsities, Shane?

    You have to understand that Christianity is different from all these religions in that it’s based in actual historical events. Suppose the Buddha were right in his philosophies. Suppose he were wrong. What person living at that time could point at which event and say which was the case?

    Christianity is a philosophy, to be sure, but its truth stands or falls with the historical event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There were people there who knew whether that happened or not. They could say whether Christianity was true or not, and they could say so on the basis of a very objective fact. (See 1 Corinthians 15 on this.) Their memories of the events were entirely relevant, in a way that applies to no other religion.

  130. Shane, RE: 141

    I detect a major misunderstanding and fallacy in your argument here. You have taken examples of people’s faith from the gospels, proclaiming that you do not find the evidence for their faith in the verses that are given in the testimony, and therefore conclude that since the reasons for their faith are not articulated, there were none. Remember that the faith that brought these people to Jesus was not faith in Jesus alone, but faith that Jesus possessed God’s power to heal them, so their faith was in God. We have no way of knowing the evidence on which they based their faith in God. Furthermore, you may not even believe that there is such a thing as evidence for belief in God, so you wouldn’t believe their testimony anywhere. Could this perhaps be what is called confirmation bias?

  131. Because these are contradictory to Christianity, you must accept that falsities can also enjoy longevity and growth.

    It’s obvious that many different religions enjoy longevity and growth.

    That’s not the point, though.

    Take Islam. What did Muhammed teach his followers that was contradictory to immediate historical fact? Nothing – he was simply relating messages he claimed were from God.

    The early church’s entire message was based on a historical incident that only occurred weeks or months prior – one so outrageous and contrary to common sense, and one with so many witnesses that anyone wanting to join the early church could easily ask someone who actually witnessed the death and resurrection of Christ if it was true.

  132. Shane,

    As has been explained already, your point would be a great one if any of the religions you mentioned were based on the validity of their historical underpinnings, as Christianity is, and the historicity of their holy book. However, they’re not so your point is quite moot. Cheers!

  133. Yet these things are put forward as evidence, though they would not be admissible in a court of law as such, because it helps back up your claim that faith is based on evidence.

    Actually, no they aren’t. Two things regarding the blind men and the woman who touched Christ’s hem. We don’t know why they did what they did and we don’t care. We’re not told their motivations and whatever they were, all we can say is we’re glad they did what they did. We can say this because we don’t base our faith on what they believed, we base it on what they did.

    What they did created an opportunity for a miracle that was observed and recorded. Based on that observation we have record of these miracles that were performed in public for all to see and were later corroborated and written down. These corroborated, historical facts are the evidence that underpins our faith. We don’t use the reasons these people did what they did as evidence. We use the miracles that were the result of their acts.

  134. #143, #145 & #146

    Hi Tom, bigbird and BillT

    So your argument is that Christianity would have died before it started in the 1st century AD if it wasn’t true because any false claims it made would have been debunked by the actual witnesses?

    I will point again to the story of the healing river in Nigeria. More pictures in this link.

    http://www.nairaland.com/1555218/people-bathing-unclad-healing-river

    By your logic this must be a healing river. These miraculous claims have happened in the very recent past and there are plenty of people to verify it’s healing properties. And there are plenty of people alive from when it last visited in 1992 and the time before in 1971 to remember and testify about it’s healing properties, giving more weight to the story. And there will be plenty of people looking forward to it’s return in another 2 decades and the healing it will bring, when its legend has grown even stronger.

    “Christianity is a philosophy, to be sure, but its truth stands or falls with the historical event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

    I don’t think this is strictly accurate. It is possible that Jesus actually died and was resurrected without their being truth to the philosophy of Christianity.

    Cheers
    Shane

  135. #144

    Hi Jenna,

    “I detect a major misunderstanding and fallacy in your argument here. You have taken examples of people’s faith from the gospels, proclaiming that you do not find the evidence for their faith in the verses that are given in the testimony, and therefore conclude that since the reasons for their faith are not articulated, there were none.”

    No. All I proclaim is that since the reasons for their faith are not articulated you cannot claim their faith is based on evidence. If you want to claim it is you need to show me an example. If you want me to accept that the dictionary definition of a word is not only wrong, but is the opposite of what it says, you need to provide the bible verse that shows it.

    “Remember that the faith that brought these people to Jesus was not faith in Jesus alone, but faith that Jesus possessed God’s power to heal them, so their faith was in God.”

    And as we move further from Jesus who lived in the real world to God, of whom they cannot have first hand knowledge, faith is removed further from evidence.

    “We have no way of knowing the evidence on which they based their faith in God. Furthermore, you may not even believe that there is such a thing as evidence for belief in God, so you wouldn’t believe their testimony anywhere. Could this perhaps be what is called confirmation bias?”

    No. As Tom has mentioned, whether I believe the story or not is irrelevant. Share a verse which gives a clear definition of the word faith as you believe it and it will end this discussion.

    Cheers
    Shane

  136. #147

    Hi BillT,

    “Actually, no they aren’t. Two things regarding the blind men and the woman who touched Christ’s hem. We don’t know why they did what they did and we don’t care. We’re not told their motivations and whatever they were, all we can say is we’re glad they did what they did. We can say this because we don’t base our faith on what they believed, we base it on what they did.”

    I’m not interested in your faith or how you define it. I’m interested in their faith and how Jesus defines it. The bible is the source of the word faith as used by Christians and Jesus uses it in relation to these people. Why they did what they did is of the utmost importance to explaining the definition of the word.

    Cheers
    Shane

  137. Shane, supposing your point in #148 is true. What does it demonstrate?

    And going back to #2 and #25, you say, “Simon/Peter being called to be a “fisher of men”
    You give examples that Peter had good reason to follow Christ. But the word ‘Faith’ is not used wen Jesus calls upon him so that example doesn’t add to your argument.”

    This is by every Christian theologian’s understanding a demonstration of faith. You ask for a definition of faith, and here it is, demonstrated and displayed. It is trusting Christ enough to follow him. In this case there were clear evidences for it.

    There is no analytical definition of faith in the Bible. but there are multiple and varied demonstrations of faith. Hebrews 11 supports the viewpoint that faith is best understood by display. The page I quoted in #2 is also one of those displays.

  138. Eerdman’s Dictionary (a standard source) defines Faith,

    FAITH
    A central theological concept representing the correct relationship to God. Heb. }mn and Gk. pisteuíein demand a variety of renderings besides belief, faith, and trust, especially faithfulness. They may be used for God or human beings. A continuing question involves distinguishing personal faith with which a person believes and “the faith” with an objective content, something to be believed.
    Biblical theology usually roots NT faith in the OT, and some speak of a Judeo-Christian concept, even of a “fundamentally identical” OT and NT notion. Actually, Hebrew lacks a word for “faith” (}eïmu®na® is rare and equals “fidelity”). This, plus other factors, caused Martin Buber to distinguish two types of faith: OT/Judaic (}eïmu®na®), which was tribal, national, communal trust and fidelity, based on the covenant; and Christian (Gk. piístis), which was individualistic persuasion or faith, belief in something.
    In the OT, along with }aœman, terms like baœt√ahΩ (“trust; be confident, secure”), qaœwa® (“hope”), yaœhΩal and hΩaœk≈a® (both “wait in hope”) come into consideration. The basic idea of }aœman is “constancy,” something that is lasting (Isa. 33:16) or someone who is reliable (8:2). More important is the hiphil he}eïmiîn, “become steadfast, acquire stability,” used of a person or of God. Applied to human beings, the term often has a negative connotation: “do not believe or rely on. . . (a person)” (Jer. 12:6; Mic. 7:5; Job 4:18) or a message (Gen. 45:26; 1 Kgs. 10:7; Isa. 53:1).
    Three nouns from }mn appear in the OT: (1) }eïmet◊, originally meaning “stability” (Isa. 38:8; NRSV “security”), comes to denote faithfulness or truth (Gk. aleäítheia), on the part of a person (Exod. 18:21; NRSV “trustworthy”) or God (Ps. 31:5[MT 6]; 146:6) and God’s word (Ps. 119:43; 142; 160). God’s works are faithful (Ps. 111:7), and the promises express faithfulness (Zech. 8:8); on this God, worshippers rely (Ps. 40:11[12], with hΩesed≈). This reliability makes it possible for mortals to trust in God. (2) The noun }eïmu®na® suggests conduct that grows out of a relationship, faithfulness, especially in inner attitude and conduct on the part of an individual (Prov. 14:5; 20:6; 1 Sam. 26:23) or of God (Ps. 89:2, 5, 8, 49[3, 6, 8, 50]; Deut. 32:4; Isa. 33:6). (3) Heb. }aœmeän was used in response to God in prayer (Neh. 8:6), or with ritual curses (Deut. 27:15, 16; Neh. 5:13).
    Following God’s call to Abram and promise to make him and Sarah a great nation and a blessing (Gen. 12:1-3), the vision and word of the Lord present God’s promise about posterity (15:1–5), followed by a covenant binding God (not Abram) to the promise (vv. 7–21). As a result, Abram acknowledged God’s power to fulfill it.
    In Isaiah the prophet will wait for the hidden God and hope in him during crisis times when Israel withheld faith (cf. Isa. 7:9; 30:15).
    Some stress Jesus’ call to faith and recognition of it in individuals; others find in Jesus only a Cynic sage, or little that is recoverable. There is some agreement that, according to the Synoptics, Jesus taught faith in God (Mark 11:12 par.) as a basis for “prayer faith” (Mark 11:24 par.) and “mountain-moving faith” (11:23 par.; 1 Cor. 13:2). Unlike the Fourth Gospel, where miracles can produce faith (John 2:11; 4:52-54; 20:30-31), for Jesus in the Synoptics “supplicating faith” leads to miracles (Mark 9:24-27; 2:5, 12 par.; 6:5–6 par.).
    A new and specifically Christian use of piístis comes in terms of acceptance of the keäírygma or apostolic proclamation about the crucified and risen Jesus (Gal. 3:2, 5). Gk. piístis becomes a technical term for reaction to gospel preaching, an act of faith with regard to the story about Jesus coupled with the promise of future salvation (Acts 4:4, with 3:19–26; 13:48, with vv. 38–39, 46–47; Rom. 10:9-14). This future hope was part of the kerygma (1 Thess. 1:9-10). Christians are “believers” (Acts 2:44; Rom. 1:16; 3:22), “members of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10).
    Paul inherits and exhibits much of this early Christian understanding. The personal faith that comes from hearing the word and confessing Jesus’ lordship includes “the obedience of faith” or commitment (Rom. 1:5; cf. 16:26). Hence faith relates to ethics, in close relationship to its expression toward the future as “hope” and toward others as love (1 Thess. 1:3; Rom. 12:1-2, 9-10; 13:8-10).
    Paul’s contribution involved relating faith to righteousness and justification (cf. Gal. 3:6-14; Rom. 4). He connects faith with “gospel” for salvation (Rom. 1:16), “peace” and “access to God” (5:1–2), the Spirit (Gal. 3:2, 5,14), “in Christ” (Gal. 3:25-26). “Reconciliation” parallels justification by faith (Rom. 5:9-11), “redemption” (3:24–25). “Fellowship” (koinoœniía) is connected with God’s being faithful (1 Cor. 1:9) and our participation in Christ (Phil. 3:9-10), and “grace” is frequently linked with “faith.” For Paul faith becomes the criterion, not “works of the law” such as circumcision and regulations involving clean and unclean, which marked Jews off from others and so precluded a universal mission.
    Some Christians may be “weak in faith” (Rom. 14:1), while others can be regarded as “strong” or enabled (15:1). Faith is something that can grow (2 Cor. 10:15) or be lacking in some aspects (1 Thess. 3:10) but then become strong in its conviction (Rom. 4:20-22; 14:5). It is not static in the face of threats but dynamic, showing itself in action (1 Thess. 1:3), through love (Gal. 5:6).
    Hebrews has 32 instances of Gk. piístis, mostly in ch. 11, about what people in Israel did “by faith.” God is the object of faith (6:1; cf. 11:6). Those addressed have come to faith in the gospel message (4:2–3; 6:12). Faith means “full assurance” (10:22), but there is grave danger of those addressed falling away into unbelief (3:12; cf. v. 19). In 11:3—12:2 piístis can be trust in God’s promise (11:11), accepting what God said (v. 8), or denote what motivated Abraham to sacrifice Isaac (vv. 17–18) or moved Moses (vv. 24–25) or how we understand the world’s creation (v. 3; cf. 1:2).
    Luke-Acts stress coming to faith as conversion, to “hear the word, believe, and be saved” (Luke 8:12-13; Acts 10:43; 13:19; 16:31; 20:21; 24:24). In miracle stories, faith saves (Luke 7:50; 17:19). “The apostles” can ask “the Lord, ‘Increase our faith’” (Luke 17:5). Mary is a model of faith in the beatitude at Luke 1:45. Questions appear as to the existence of faith on the part of the disciples (Luke 8:25; 18:8). Jesus prays that Peter’s faith not fail (Luke 22:32). In Acts “the faith” becomes a term for Christianity (Acts 6:7; 13:8; cf. Luke 18:8).
    Faith arises out of confrontation with Jesus’ word(s) (John 2:22; 4:41, 50; 5:24) as well as his deeds (miracles) and testimony to Jesus (1:7; 4:39; 17:20). Such encounter calls for decision, leading to faith or judgment (John 3:36; 5:24). The Johannine concept of believing also involves “keeping” or “remaining in” Jesus’ word (John 14:23; 15:20; 8:31; 15:4), with a considerable emphasis on “knowing” (17:3, 7, 21; 16:27–30; 6:69; 1 John 4:16). The Fourth Gospel also explores the relation of “seeing” and “believing,” notably in the story of Thomas (John 20:25-29; cf. 4:48).
    Bibliography. A. Dulles, The Assurance of Things Hoped For: A Theology of Christian Faith (Oxford, 1994); J. D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids, 1997); W. Henn, One Faith: Biblical and Patristic Contributions Toward Understanding Unity in Faith (New York, 1995); H.-J. Hermisson and E. Lohse, Faith (Nashville, 1981); J. Reumann, Variety and Unity in New Testament Thought (Oxford, 1991); W. H. Schmidt, The Faith of the Old Testament (Philadelphia, 1983); I. G. Wallis, The Faith of Jesus Christ in Early Christian Traditions. SNTSMS 84 (Cambridge, 1995).

  139. Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines it,

    Faith: Faith is in general the persuasion of the mind that a certain statement is true (Phil. 1:27; 2 Thess. 2:13). Its primary idea is trust. A thing is true, and therefore worthy of trust. It admits of many degrees up to full assurance of faith, in accordance with the evidence on which it rests.

    Faith is the result of teaching (Rom. 10:14-17). Knowledge is an essential element in all faith, and is sometimes spoken of as an equivalent to faith (John 10:38; 1 John 2:3). Yet the two are distinguished in this respect, that faith includes in it assent, which is an act of the will in addition to the act of the understanding. Assent to the truth is of the essence of faith, and the ultimate ground on which our assent to any revealed truth rests is the veracity of God.

    Historical faith is the apprehension of and assent to certain statements which are regarded as mere facts of history.

    Temporary faith is that state of mind which is awakened in men (e.g., Felix) by the exhibition of the truth and by the influence of religious sympathy, or by what is sometimes styled the common operation of the Holy Spirit.

    Saving faith is so called because it has eternal life inseparably connected with it. It cannot be better defined than in the words of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism: “Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel.”

    The object of saving faith is the whole revealed Word of God. Faith accepts and believes it as the very truth most sure. But the special act of faith which unites to Christ has as its object the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ (John 7:38; Acts 16:31). This is the specific act of faith by which a sinner is justified before God (Rom. 3:22, 25; Gal. 2:16; Phil. 3:9; John 3:16-36; Acts 10:43; 16:31). In this act of faith the believer appropriates and rests on Christ alone as Mediator in all his offices.

    This assent to or belief in the truth received upon the divine testimony has always associated with it a deep sense of sin, a distinct view of Christ, a consenting will, and a loving heart, together with a reliance on, a trusting in, or resting in Christ. It is that state of mind in which a poor sinner, conscious of his sin, flees from his guilty self to Christ his Saviour, and rolls over the burden of all his sins on him. It consists chiefly, not in the assent given to the testimony of God in his Word, but in embracing with fiducial reliance and trust the one and only Saviour whom God reveals. This trust and reliance is of the essence of faith. By faith the believer directly and immediately appropriates Christ as his own. Faith in its direct act makes Christ ours. It is not a work which God graciously accepts instead of perfect obedience, but is only the hand by which we take hold of the person and work of our Redeemer as the only ground of our salvation.

    Saving faith is a moral act, as it proceeds from a renewed will, and a renewed will is necessary to believing assent to the truth of God (1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 4:4). Faith, therefore, has its seat in the moral part of our nature fully as much as in the intellectual. The mind must first be enlightened by divine teaching (John 6:44; Acts 13:48; 2 Cor. 4:6; Eph. 1:17, 18) before it can discern the things of the Spirit.

    Faith is necessary to our salvation (Mark 16:16), not because there is any merit in it, but simply because it is the sinner’s taking the place assigned him by God, his falling in with what God is doing.

    The warrant or ground of faith is the divine testimony, not the reasonableness of what God says, but the simple fact that he says it. Faith rests immediately on, “Thus saith the Lord.” But in order to this faith the veracity, sincerity, and truth of God must be owned and appreciated, together with his unchangeableness. God’s word encourages and emboldens the sinner personally to transact with Christ as God’s gift, to close with him, embrace him, give himself to Christ, and take Christ as his. That word comes with power, for it is the word of God who has revealed himself in his works, and especially in the cross. God is to be believed for his word’s sake, but also for his name’s sake.

    Faith in Christ secures for the believer freedom from condemnation, or justification before God; a participation in the life that is in Christ, the divine life (John 14:19; Rom. 6:4-10; Eph. 4:15, 16, etc.); “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1); and sanctification (Acts 26:18; Gal. 5:6; Acts 15:9).

    All who thus believe in Christ will certainly be saved (John 6:37, 40; 10:27, 28; Rom. 8:1).

    The faith=the gospel (Acts 6:7; Rom. 1:5; Gal. 1:23; 1 Tim. 3:9; Jude 1:3).

  140. The Holman Dictionary says,

    FAITH, FAITHFULNESS Contemporary English word “faith” derived from the Latin fides. Today faith denotes trust. Faith does not function as a verb in contemporary English; the verb “to believe” has replaced the verb “to faith.” The English noun “faithfulness” denotes trustworthiness or dependability.

    The Biblical Concept The concept of faith has been radically redefined in some philosophical and theological circles during the past century. Those definitions rarely address the complexities of the biblical concept, a concept in which the whole person, the physical world, God’s Word, and God Himself play crucial roles. Those alternative definitions often do not grasp the objective and subjective characteristics of biblical faith.
    Throughout the Scriptures faith is the trustful human response to God’s self-revelation via His words and His actions. God initiates the relationship between Himself and human beings. He expects people to trust Him; failure to trust Him was in essence the first sin (Gen. 3:1-7). Since the fall of humanity God nurtures and inspires trust in Him through what He says and does for the benefit of people who need Him. He provides evidence of His trustworthiness by acting and speaking in the external world to make Himself knowable to people who need Him. Thus, biblical faith is a kind of limited personal knowledge of God.

    Hebrew Terminology The most significant Hebrew word for faith is aman, a root word that denotes reliability, stability, and firmness. Aman concretely meant to support or to uphold, as for example the strong arms of a parent would uphold an infant. Those arms are sure, certain, and firm. Forms of this root were used metaphorically to describe faith (a human response to God) and faithfulness (a virtue of God and his servants). When employed to describe relationships between God and people, aman is used to express a complex concept. It describes both the subjective and objective nature of trust in God and an objective quality of God Himself. God, who exists objectively outside of human beings, receives trust generated from within individuals (Deut. 7:9). He and His words are objectively faithful, constant, and reliable (Ps. 119:86). God enables people to possess these objective virtues, faithfulness and reliability (Josh. 24:14; Isa. 7:9).
    Another significant Hebrew word used to convey the idea of faith is yare’, usually translated “to fear.” Yare’ occurs more often in the OT than aman, although the two express very similar concepts. To fear God is to believe Him with a reverential awe, even to the point that emotional trepidation occurs. To fear Him is to maintain a firm conviction that the Lord’s directives are reliable (Ps. 119:89-91), protective (Ps. 33:18-19), and beneficial to the believer (Ps. 31:19). Someone who fears God dreads disappointing Him, but the fear of the Lord produces joy and fulfillment in the life of the one who fears (Eccles. 12:13). “To fear the LORD” is used synonymously with “serve Him in sincerity and truth” in Josh. 24:14. An element of human responsibility resides in this fear; “choose for yourselves today whom you will serve” (24:15). God does not force faith upon unwilling people. He presents His expectations and promised benefits to people, but their freedom to choose and to receive the consequences of their choices remain (Deut. 30:19). Refusal to choose Him can be followed by God’s hardening the unbeliever’s resistance (Exod. 10:20).
    Like aman, the Hebrew root yare’ reveals much about the objective and subjective characteristics of genuine faith. Old Testament authors used “the fear of the LORD” to underscore the importance of submission to God through what He has revealed objectively; this submission should occur subjectively in the minds, wills, and emotions of people who trust God’s word. This submission results in objective behavior that reflects God’s character.
    As the OT period progressed, God gave more information about how He planned to empower more people with genuine faith or “the fear of the LORD.” Through Jeremiah, for example, God predicted that He would make an everlasting covenant through which he would enable people to fear him forever (Jer. 32:40). God describes a covenant in which He will write his law on the hearts of His people and allow them all to know Him personally (31:33-34). God’s description reveals that to fear Him is to know Him personally. Such a relationship empowers people to please Him. OT prophets decried human inability to maintain this kind of fear toward the Lord.

    Theme of Faith in the Old Testament The OT provides a clear definition of faith in the context of the unfolding purpose of God to redeem. God makes faith possible by providing for human beings verbal information about Himself and His plans; this information is connected to His redemptive actions in the world. These words and actions combine to offer an objective basis for the faith (Exod. 4:29-31). His words interpret and explain His saving acts so that people may receive from Him the blessings that the acts make available (Exod. 12:21-28; Deut. 11:1-11; and Isa. 55:1-3). Just as one may know another human by the words and actions of that human, so God has chosen to become knowable through His words and actions.
    A consistent theme of salvation by faith can be traced through God’s acts and deeds in the OT. People were saved by faith in God’s self-revelation during that period, just as they would be saved through faith in His self-revelation during the NT period and beyond. God has always required faith as the proper response to His self-revelation.
    Two pivotal OT passages reveal the theme of salvation by faith. Abram was proclaimed “righteous” by God when Abram believed God’s promise (Gen. 15:6). In this verse a form of aman is used to describe Abram’s response to what God said He planned to do for Abram. Abram linked himself to God through that promise, becoming convinced internally of the reliability of the promise-maker. Abram’s confidence prompted God to label Abram “righteous,” completely acceptable in relationship to God. Abraham would go on to prove God’s label was accurate. After years of seeing God’s faithfulness, Abraham would obey God’s call to sacrifice Isaac, to which Yahweh said “now I know you fear God” (Gen. 22:12). Abraham’s faith was the kind of faith that withstood a serious test, showing therefore that Abraham’s faith was synonymous with the fear of the Lord.
    A second thematic statement appears in Hab. 2:4, “the righteous will live by his faith.” The nation of Judah was facing an enormous threat to its future existence, the Babylonian army, sent by God to judge Judah. But God offered a promise that the righteous will survive and thrive through the judgment. Because they believe the God who promises, they are “righteous.” Habakkuk 2:4 would be interpreted as a scriptural thematic statement by the Apostle Paul in the NT and seen as a hermeneutical key to understanding how God consistently relates to people. He justifies them by faith.
    Genesis 15:6 and Hab. 2:4 unveil a grand soteriological principle: God saves people (whenever or wherever they may live) who trust sincerely both Him and what He says about how they can properly relate to Him. Both verses reveal that saving faith in the OT is viewed as a response to a verbal revelation from God about Himself, about His plan for the future, and about the accessibility of God and His future to a human in need. This verbal revelation is propositional; it is communicated in statements made by God. Those statements contain claims about the present and the future. God’s modus operandi during the OT and NT periods was to make Himself knowable through words about how people can relate properly to Him. Those words are not the object of the believer’s faith; God is the object. But His words mediate faith in Him. His words guide people to Him. Without the words, no one would know how to respond properly to Him. Old Testament believers praised God for revealing His word of salvation (Ps. 56:4).

    New Testament Amplification The dominant NT term for faith is the Koine Greek word pistis, usually translated “faith.” It conveys the idea of trust, a firm internal conviction regarding the truthfulness of someone or some claim. The verb form, pisteuo, is usually translated, “I believe” or “I trust.” Pistis and pisteuo in the NT correspond to the OT terms aman and yare’. Pistis also appears in the NT with the definite article to describe particular Christian beliefs, termed “the faith.”
    New Testament writers often show continuity with the OT’s concept of faith. Paul argues that Abram’s experience provides a model for how God continues to save by faith (Rom. 4). Paul’s citation of “the righteous will live by faith” (HCSB) supports his arguments in his letter to the Romans (1:17) and the Galatians (3:11). Just as was true prior to the coming of Christ, it is impossible after the coming of Christ for someone without faith to please God (Heb. 11:6).
    Faith in the NT continues to be a personal trustful response to God’s self-revelation, although the content of that self-revelation has increased dramatically with the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Christ. In the NT faith toward God responds to that which God has revealed verbally and actively in Jesus Christ. As the incarnate Son of God, Jesus is the perfect means by which one may know God (John 17:3).
    In words and in actions God the Father made available in Christ His personal and propositional revelation. In the death and resurrection of the Son, the Father communicated His love, His justice, and His mercy (Rom. 5:8). These events, especially the resurrection of Christ, were interpreted by the NT writers as evidence that God had declared that Jesus is the unique Son of God (Rom. 1:4).
    God communicated not only through His actions in Christ; He also communicated verbally. Jesus appointed apostles as His personal representatives (Matt. 10:2-4). In the power and under the leadership of God’s Spirit, the apostles broadcast through their teachings and/or writings this propositional revelation. For example, John states plainly that his Gospel was written to help people believe (John 20:31). God provided actions and words to enable people to understand what He had done and can do for them in Christ.
    Underscoring the objective nature of Christian faith, “the faith” was used by NT authors when referring to the essential Christian doctrines or propositions to which believers held (Acts 6:7; 14:22; Gal. 1:23; 3:25). Those doctrines help to mediate the object of the faith, God in Christ. Paul calls upon his readers to examine whether their beliefs are consistent with “the faith” (2 Cor. 13:5).

    Role of Faith in Justification The euangelion or gospel, embodies the core beliefs by which saving faith in Christ can be mediated and whereby He can be known. According to 1 Cor. 15 the euangelion’s objective veracity was evidenced by Jesus’ postresurrection appearances. The Apostle Paul challenged readers to examine eyewitness evidence for the resurrection of Christ (2:7). God makes an enormous amount of evidence available from historical witnesses to the resurrection. Jesus did pronounce a blessing on those who believe without seeing His resurrected body, but eyewitnesses to that resurrected body were made available by Him (John 20:29; Acts 1:8). See Justification.
    Paul was even willing to concede that, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then Christian faith is meaningless and useless (1 Cor. 15:14-19). Christ’s resurrection would be evidence that God wants people to believe that Jesus is the solution to human sinfulness, but without the resurrection people cannot rightly draw such a radical conclusion. Thus, the resurrection of Jesus serves at the primary historical basis for Christian faith.
    Faith in Christ is based on the evidence of the testimony of eyewitnesses, but the evidence is not an end in itself. The gospel must be heard and understood before faith can happen; faith occurs when someone moves through the words and the evidence and “calls upon” or asks Christ to save (Rom. 10:9-13). To ask Christ to save is to trust what God says the death of Christ makes available, particularly regarding forgiveness and freedom from sin’s power. When God saves, the believer internally identifies Christ’s death as the death of his or her own sin (Rom. 6:1-14), making genuine and consistent obedience to God possible for the future. This is the kind of faith that will prove its genuineness by the transformed life God produces through it, as occurred with Abraham (James 2:14-26). Saving faith is never merely a superficial or verbal response. Nor is it merely an intellectual acceptance of the claims of the gospel. The kind of faith by which God justifies sinners moves through acceptance of those claims to Christ Himself.
    An element of subjective personal choice is retained in the NT concept of faith (Luke 13:34). People still must choose, but this subjective choice should be understood in light of the objective elements that guide and empower the choice. Underscoring the subjective nature of the choice, saving faith occurs within the person’s “heart,” where the Holy Spirit illuminates the person’s need of what Christ has done and can do for the person (Rom. 10:9-10; 1 Thess. 1:5). Recognition of need always precedes saving faith. God’s Spirit enables someone to understand how Christ’s death and resurrection were for the hearer. God gives the unbeliever the capacity to choose to trust God through what He says through His human witnesses about Christ. God’s Spirit also bears witness by personally applying the words of the gospel internally to the hearer. The Spirit activates, guides, and empowers the choice.
    If God left humans totally untouched by the work of the Spirit, then humans would naturally choose against God (Rom. 1–3). The Spirit “gives” Christian faith, enabling people to trust what God says He has done and will do to save. Faith, therefore, is a spiritual gift (Rom. 12:3). No one will be able to boast of self-produced saving faith; God chooses to enable some people to believe (Eph. 2:8-9). He alone deserves praise for producing faith within people. A paradoxical tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility is maintained in the NT’s depiction of saving faith.

    Role of Faith in Sanctification God allows the testing of faith in order to sanctify the believer, as occurred with Abraham (James 1:2-8; 2:14-26). God uses trials to test and to grow the quality of the faith of believers, to prove that His justification of them was an accurate appraisal. He desires that they grow in their relationship to Him that He might produce Christ’s virtue of faithfulness within them (Matt. 25:21). As Christians learn to trust what God says they possess in Christ, they can discover freedom from sin and the power to glorify God as Christ produces his character in them (Eph. 1:15-23). God’s Spirit enables sanctification in the same way that He enables justification, through faith in what God says He has done and will do in Christ (Gal. 3:1-5; 5:25).
    Faith yields in the believer a confidence or sense of assurance as he or she continues to trust God through His promises (Heb. 11:1). This confidence becomes possible when a believer can identify with the help of the Spirit of God ways God has transformed him or her (Rom. 8:13-16; Phil. 3:10; 1 John 2:3; 3:14; 5:18-20). New Testament authors unashamedly refer to this confident faith as a knowledge of God, albeit a partial knowledge (1 Cor. 13:9). Only when Christ returns and consummates His kingdom will faith be unnecessary for the Christian. Then this knowledge of God will not be partial.
    The Holy Spirit gives to some Christians a special charisma or grace-gift of faith whereby they discern God’s will and trust God accordingly in particular situations where His will has not been objectively revealed (1 Cor. 12:9). For example, some Christians have been given the ability to discern God’s will to heal a sick person and to pray successfully for the healing (James 5:15). All Christians have a gift of faith (Rom. 12:3) but not the gift (charisma) of faith, given to some for the purpose of ministry.

    Conclusion The God of the Bible has consistently related to people via trust in what He says and does. Biblical faith is a complex idea; God, His word, His actions, the whole human being, and the physical world all play critical roles. When saving faith occurs, God has enabled someone to know Him through His revelation of Himself in words and actions in Christ. God Himself activates faith in the hearer of His word, enabling that hearer to become faithful in Christ, just as He is faithful (Rev. 19:11).

  141. #151

    Hi Tom,

    “Shane, supposing your point in #148 is true. What does it demonstrate?”

    Which point are you referring to in that post?

    Thanks for all the references. Will read and respond when I get time to work through it.

    Cheers
    Shane

  142. The one about the healing river.

    I”m curious, too, though, how you think this would be possible:

    I don’t think this is strictly accurate. It is possible that Jesus actually died and was resurrected without their being truth to the philosophy of Christianity.

    Consider as you answer that the resurrection happened in a context, and that context was Judaism followed by the planting of the church, as reported by the followers of Jesus who (after him of course) were the founders of Christianity.

  143. If I understand correctly, Shane is asking for specific statements from the New Testament that describe why people put their faith in Jesus. John 4:39-42, specifically “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” then “They said to the woman, ‘We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.’” John 4:46-53, with the concluding statement: “Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son shall live.’ So he and all his household believed.” Their faith was based on things they themselves saw and heard. The Samaritans and the “father” had no belief in Jesus before these events. The evidence before them convinced them to believe.

  144. So your argument is that Christianity would have died before it started in the 1st century AD if it wasn’t true because any false claims it made would have been debunked by the actual witnesses?

    Yes. In fact the New Testament records that it was dying immediately after the crucifixion. Some of his disciples had already gone back to their fishing when they encountered the risen Christ.

    I will point again to the story of the healing river in Nigeria. More pictures in this link. By your logic this must be a healing river. These miraculous claims have happened in the very recent past and there are plenty of people to verify it’s healing properties.

    Shane, there is no cost to claiming that it is a healing river. No-one is going to kill you for making the claim. People probably pass it on to sick friends or relatives just in case it helps.

    The early disciples were killed for making the claim about the resurrection of Jesus. They went to their deaths maintaining that it was true. And they were immediate witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection. That’s why their testimony is to be believed.

  145. #160

    Hi bigbird,

    “Shane, there is no cost to claiming that it is a healing river. No-one is going to kill you for making the claim. People probably pass it on to sick friends or relatives just in case it helps.

    The early disciples were killed for making the claim about the resurrection of Jesus. They went to their deaths maintaining that it was true. And they were immediate witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection. That’s why their testimony is to be believed.”

    This last point is quite different to what BillT originally said which was a claim that nothing with a supernatural element could have survived as a story and spread if it wasn’t true.

    People go to their deaths all the time sticking with their beliefs, particularly if their belief will lead to a life after death. How many pagans, heretics and Muslims kept their beliefs whilst being put to the sword during the crusade? Suicide bombers do so as a matter of course. This doesn’t make their testimony true.

    Cheers
    Shane

  146. #159

    Hi MikeH. Glad to be conversing with you.

    “If I understand correctly, Shane is asking for specific statements from the New Testament that describe why people put their faith in Jesus.”

    Close. The bible is the basis for the use of the word faith as Christians use it. I’m looking for the definition that disproves faith has an inverse connection to evidence.

    In the verses you mention, the word faith is not used, however the Samaritans believed in Jesus, because the woman told them the words he said, not even performing any miracles, but simply that he confirmed that he is the Christ. This seems to me to be the weakest kind of evidence there is. If it could be said the Samaritans had great faith that Jesus was the Christ based on this second hand telling of his words, then it shows that less evidence leads to greater faith.

    Conversely the stories of the people being accused of having little faith are generally his followers who have been shown lots of evidence and still don’t believe. So less faith requires greater evidence.

    Cheers
    Shane

  147. #158
    Hi Tom,

    My point is that the growth/spread/acceptance of miraculous stories does not in any way lend to their credibility. In fact, outlandish stories probably spread faster due to their nature. I don’t have any stats to hand, but we have all heard of crop circles, alien abduction and the Loch Ness monster. They’re more interesting stories to tell.

    Regarding Christianity, your assertion is that if Jesus died and was resurrected then He must be the son of God, part of the trinity, creator of everything and our saviour. The first events do not have to be connected to the second belief.

    Cheers
    Shane

  148. Shane,

    People go to their deaths all the time sticking with their beliefs, particularly if their belief will lead to a life after death. How many pagans, heretics and Muslims kept their beliefs whilst being put to the sword during the crusade? Suicide bombers do so as a matter of course. This doesn’t make their testimony true.

    They die for something they believe is true, not something they know is false.

    The bible is the basis for the use of the word faith as Christians use it. I’m looking for the definition that disproves faith has an inverse connection to evidence

    Actually we don’t. You’re the one making the claim that biblical faith has an inverse connection to evidence so you are the one needing to back that up.

    Conversely the stories of the people being accused of having little faith are generally his followers who have been shown lots of evidence and still don’t believe. So less faith requires greater evidence.

    The followers were shown lots of evidence but their trust (faith) in Jesus was not as great as it should have been given the evidence they had seen. More evidence does not necessarily lead to less faith, but you can have less faith than the evidence you have seen warrants. Do you understand? Their response was not what it should have been given the evidence they had.

  149. Shane, “Bible” is a proper noun in this context. We’ve had that discussion before.

    Regarding Christianity, your assertion is that if Jesus died and was resurrected then He must be the son of God, part of the trinity, creator of everything and our saviour. The first events do not have to be connected to the second belief.

    Yes, they do. I reminded you previously of the context. Have you read it? I recommend the Gospel of Mark and Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. (Be aware there’s some messy church stuff in the middle of that letter–real people, you know.)

    As to the healing river, you also need to bear context in mind. Was the populace superstitious? Were they inclined to believe in it? Are there other credible explanations? (These are questions skeptics ask Christians all the time, and which we answer all the time.) What kind of theoretical background preceded, surrounded, and followed the event? What is it understood to mean? Have the claims stood up over time to hard testing? What effect has it had over time on the lives of the persons involved?

    I’m very happy to apply these tests to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  150. And Shane, Melissa has already said something to you about this, but I’m concerned about your statement here:

    Conversely the stories of the people being accused of having little faith are generally his followers who have been shown lots of evidence and still don’t believe. So less faith requires greater evidence.

    There is no conceivable way to derive that conclusion from the stories you refer to. This hints to me that you aren’t reading in context, but grabbing stories here and there.

    I really do recommend you do some solid reading in the original documents.

  151. People go to their deaths all the time sticking with their beliefs, particularly if their belief will lead to a life after death.

    Of course. But you only go to your death for a belief that leads to life after death if you are convinced it is true.

    So the early disciples were convinced the resurrection happened.

    But their belief is not like my belief. They were actually there. They were witnesses. They knew it happened.

  152. #164 & #167

    Hi Melissa and bigbird,

    I’m not suggesting that they were lying. My example of the river shows how easy it is for people to believe what is miraculous. I have no doubt that if there was belief that the river also cleansed the soul in a spiritual baptising kind of way AND a faction in Nigeria were going to kill people that made the claim as a blasphemers, there would be people happy to go to their deaths secure in the belief they would be safe in the afterlife. They are convinced the river has healed them or others. They know it. But this does not make it so, nor add any credibility to the claims made of the healing river.

    But I can see how it would strengthen the belief in the healing river by others, in exactly the same way that your belief inChristianity is strengthened by the execution of believers. It must be true because why would they die if it wasn’t? Again, Suicide bombers must do wonders for the credibility of Islam, because their willingness to die adds “evidence” to their faith.

    Cheers
    Shane

  153. #164

    Hi Melissa,

    The bible is the basis for the use of the word faith as Christians use it. I’m looking for the definition that disproves faith has an inverse connection to evidence

    Actually we don’t. You’re the one making the claim that biblical faith has an inverse connection to evidence so you are the one needing to back that up.”

    I think you misread my post as asking for you to supply bible verses. I actually said I was looking for them. And I am posting my reading of the verses to show the inverse correlation.

    “The followers were shown lots of evidence but their trust (faith) in Jesus was not as great as it should have been given the evidence they had seen. More evidence does not necessarily lead to less faith, but you can have less faith than the evidence you have seen warrants. Do you understand? Their response was not what it should have been given the evidence they had.”

    Here’s what I understand:

    1. There is a correlation between faith and evidence.
    I don’t believe anyone here disputes that faith is related to evidence in some way.

    2. This correlation is different for everyone.
    People in the Bible are said to possess little or great faith based on the same evidence.

    3. People that are said to have “little faith” have been given enough evidence for a belief but still doubt.
    As you say, “Their response was not what it should have been given the evidence they had.”

    4. People that are lauded for having “great faith” have not been given enough evidence for a belief but have no doubts.
    To paraphrase your words, “Their response was above what it should have been given the evidence they had.”

    5. People with “regular” faith (not a pejorative use here, just using the descriptive to be between “great” and “little”. Usually this would just be referred to as “faith”) have been given enough evidence and do not doubt.
    “Their response is what it should be given the evidence they had.”

    Is any of this incorrect?

    And if not, this indicates an inverse relationship between faith and evidence.

    Cheers
    Shane

  154. #165

    Hi Tom,

    “Shane, “Bible” is a proper noun in this context. We’ve had that discussion before.”

    Yes sir, we have. As I said at the time it was not a deliberate action of mine, and not was it this time. Have you spotted me misusing the apostrophe? 🙂 I am sure you can tell from my posts that I mean no disrespect to anyone. I apologise unreservedly if I have offended.

    Regarding Christianity, your assertion is that if Jesus died and was resurrected then He must be the son of God, part of the trinity, creator of everything and our saviour. The first events do not have to be connected to the second belief.

    Yes, they do. I reminded you previously of the context. Have you read it? I recommend the Gospel of Mark and Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. (Be aware there’s some messy church stuff in the middle of that letter–real people, you know.)”

    I read 1 Corinthians 15 as you suggested. I fear reading two whole books without knowing what you’re trying to show me will muddy the waters rather than clear them. (I should say reread them. I have read the scriptures previously.) That chapter is full of references to how the death and resurrection of Christ fulfils Old Testament scripture. That maybe true, and yet the whole, thing could still be false. I don’t see how any earthly events, no matter what context they are in, can show absolute spiritual truth.

    To clarify; your original comment that the truth of Christianity rests solely on the truth of the resurrection of Jesus. But it also rests on The Fall and the spiritual consequences of it AND on Christ being God in the form of man. If the Fall isn’t true than there is no necessity for our souls to be saved. If Christ was not a perfect “sacrifice” then his sins preclude him from being the stand in for our own.

    Cheers
    Shane

  155. Shane, anything is possible, yes. It’s possible that Christ died and rose again without the event having any theological significance. The thing is, there is a great deal of theory (to use the contemporary term) attached to the event, theory that explains the event: how it happened, what it means, and so on. Take away the theory and you have nothing except a man who was resurrected from death! It’s possible, but it’s vanishingly implausible.

    Not only that, but the event did not end with his resurrection, but with his ascension to heaven (See Acts 1) and the coming in power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2) as Jesus had promised in John 16.

    For more on how this ties together, you could also read Romans chapters 3 through 6 and the book of Hebrews, chapters 1 through 10. (I don’t mean to overwhelm you with reading, but simply to show that there’s a lot there.) These passages detail how forgiveness for sins was accomplished while also maintaining justice, through Christ’s death on the Cross. The 1 Corinthians passage explains further how Christ obtained victory over death through his resurrection.

    Forgiveness and justice specifically have to do with our reconciliation with God. I could point you to passages on that, but then you might become really overwhelmed–it’s all over the Bible. Christ’s role was heavily foreshadowed in the OT and carried through explicitly in the NT, with explanation.

    That’s a very, very brief and inadequate overview of how the Resurrection points toward the reality of God. I’ll share more on that when I write on it in my reasons to believe series.

  156. You say,

    To clarify; your original comment that the truth of Christianity rests solely on the truth of the resurrection of Jesus. But it also rests on The Fall and the spiritual consequences of it AND on Christ being God in the form of man. If the Fall isn’t true than there is no necessity for our souls to be saved. If Christ was not a perfect “sacrifice” then his sins preclude him from being the stand in for our own.

    That was in reference to this, I think:

    Christianity is a philosophy, to be sure, but its truth stands or falls with the historical event of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    That’s actually another pretty good statement of the theory I was just speaking of. There’s another way of looking at it though. You seem to be saying that the theological significance of the cross depends on the truth of the Fall. You’re right. On the other hand, that seems to indicate that the Resurrection, in all its uniqueness and its theoretical situatedness vindicates the truth of the Fall—and also all the rest of what you speak of in that paragraph as well.

  157. Shane, did you really say, “In the verses you mention, the word faith is not used”? Are you being serious? If you are, there’s no point in addressing your interpretation of Biblical passages.

    Faith is not a monolithic commodity. It’s an attitude of the human mind, will, and spirit. Therefore it fluctuates, ebbs and flows, advances and regresses. When you say “people being accused of having little faith are generally his followers who have been shown lots of evidence and still don’t believe” you’re referring to particular incidents when the people involved did not act in faith, like the disciples in the storm. Their fear overwhelmed them and their actions showed it. In that instance, for what was happening at the time, they did not have faith. This is just normal human nature.

  158. @ Shane

    Suicide bombers must do wonders for the credibility of Islam, because their willingness to die adds “evidence” to their faith.

    No, they don’t add credibility, because they are not dying for a belief in a historical event that they personally witnessed.

    Just like if I die for my faith, I don’t add any credibility either.

  159. Shane,

    Working on your numbered points our disagreement is at 4:

    People that are lauded for having “great faith” have not been given enough evidence for a belief but have no doubts.

    That has not been established, in fact there is no evidence in the texts that the authors or anyone else in the stories thought that these people did not have enough evidence for belief. This pretty much sinks your argument that there is an inverse correlation between faith and evidence.

  160. #173

    Hi MikeH,

    “Shane, did you really say, “In the verses you mention, the word faith is not used”? Are you being serious? If you are, there’s no point in addressing your interpretation of Biblical passages.”

    Yes, this was a hold over from earlier posts in this thread. Thomas was bought up as an example regarding faith, and then bigbird and Melissa both bought up the fact that the word faith was not used by Jesus in the actual verses when he appeared to him after the resurrection. It led to an “unwritten” rule that only verses with the word “faith” were eligible to be used. Happy to dismiss that rule for our discussion. And thus I said

    “… the Samaritans believed in Jesus, because the woman told them the words he said, not even performing any miracles, but simply that he confirmed that he is the Christ. This seems to me to be the weakest kind of evidence there is. If it could be said the Samaritans had great faith that Jesus was the Christ based on this second hand telling of his words, then it shows that less evidence leads to greater faith.”

    “Faith is not a monolithic commodity. It’s an attitude of the human mind, will, and spirit.”

    That’s a pretty cool definition, or addendum to a definition. What scriptures back that up?

    “Therefore it fluctuates, ebbs and flows, advances and regresses. When you say “people being accused of having little faith are generally his followers who have been shown lots of evidence and still don’t believe” you’re referring to particular incidents when the people involved did not act in faith, like the disciples in the storm. Their fear overwhelmed them and their actions showed it. In that instance, for what was happening at the time, they did not have faith. This is just normal human nature.”

    This is a tremendous explanation. Thanks very much. But it does seem to indicate that faith is more rooted in a persons psyche, like the emotions love and fear. These two emotions can be quite separate from any evidence. Love can be based on desires and is often unrequited, and fears can certainly be irrational.

    Cheers
    Shane

  161. #172

    Hi Tom,

    “You seem to be saying that the theological significance of the cross depends on the truth of the Fall. You’re right. On the other hand, that seems to indicate that the Resurrection, in all its uniqueness and its theoretical situatedness vindicates the truth of the Fall”

    Well other people performed miracles, including resurrections, before Christ was born, and 2 ascended into heaven before he did, so I don’t know if uniqueness is accurate. But how can you make the leap that physical actions 2000 years ago vindicate spiritual beliefs 4000 years before that?

    Cheers
    Shane

  162. Ummm…

    Who are your referring to that did that? And what reason is there to believe it actually happened?

    If you think the Resurrection is nothing but a story, we have some good information to share with you on that.

  163. #174

    Hi bigbird,

    “No, they don’t add credibility, because they are not dying for a belief in a historical event that they personally witnessed.

    Just like if I die for my faith, I don’t add any credibility either.”

    But if the people were willing to die for the healing river that would add to the credibility of its powers?

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to say by “historical event”? All events are historical. They happen in the past.

    You say that your death could not add credibility in the same way as the disciples because of miracles they witnessed. Have you not witnessed events that you were sure were the work of God? Faith Healing? Speaking in tongues? Tom has mentioned a couple of times that he has witnessed a woman healed of epilepsy as she was being prayed for. I think he would argue that this was a miracle and the work of God. Hypothetically if he was put to death would this add credibility to Christianity because he was dying for a belief in an historical event he had witnessed?

    Cheers
    Shane

  164. #178

    Hi Tom,

    1 Kings 17 NIV

    17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

    19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

    22 The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.

    2 Kings 2:11

    11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.

    I’m sure I have heard that Ezekiel ascended as well, though I can’t find the bible verse at the moment. It’s possible I am thinking of someone else. The story as I remember it is that he went walking with God, and at the end of their talking he realised he had walked a long way from home. God gave him the option to take him up to heaven and he took it.

    Cheers
    Shane

  165. Those were resuscitations, Shane, not resurrections. The people eventually died and were buried. Jesus rose as conqueror over death forever.

    Not all events are historical. Voldemort’s battle with Harry Potter is not/was not historical.

  166. Hi Tom,

    “Those were resuscitations, Shane, not resurrections. The people eventually died and were buried. Jesus rose as conqueror over death forever.”

    Po-tay-to … Po-tar-to. They were living. Then they weren’t. Then they were again.

    Was Ezekiel the other man who ascended without dying? It’s bugging me.

    “Not all events are historical. Voldemort’s battle with Harry Potter is not/was not historical.”

    Nor was it witnessed. So it wasn’t an event as such. It was a fictional story.

    Cheers
    Shane

  167. But if the people were willing to die for the healing river that would add to the credibility of its powers?

    Let’s say someone who claimed to be healed from the river was given the option to deny it and live or maintain that and die. If they chose to take the latter option, yes, that would certainly add to its credibility. We would have a reliable witness. If it was a spectacular and obvious healing, that would add to its credibility further.

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to say by “historical event”? All events are historical. They happen in the past.

    That really depends on your view of the nature of time, something I don’t want to get into here as it’s irrelevant to the thread. Are you really saying you didn’t understand what I meant by “historical event”?

    You say that your death could not add credibility in the same way as the disciples because of miracles they witnessed. Have you not witnessed events that you were sure were the work of God? Faith Healing? Speaking in tongues? Tom has mentioned a couple of times that he has witnessed a woman healed of epilepsy as she was being prayed for. I think he would argue that this was a miracle and the work of God. Hypothetically if he was put to death would this add credibility to Christianity because he was dying for a belief in an historical event he had witnessed?

    If I was killed for maintaining that certain miracles were the work of God, then that would add some credibility. But of course it can be argued that I might have been wrong – perhaps they weren’t really healed and I just thought they were, for example.

    In the case of Jesus’ resurrection, we have certain historical facts that most historians agree on – the crucifixion, the empty tomb, and the disciples so convinced of a resurrection that they died for it. They were reliable witnesses.

    There are important differences in the two cases here. Healing isn’t necessarily obvious unless it is really spectacular. Resurrection is, so it seems unlikely they made a mistake. And in the latter case, there were multiple witnesses, so that is far more credible than the testimony of one person.

  168. @Shane Fletcher

    That would be Enoch, I think.

    Also, the earliest Christians made a big distinction between a restoration to life (what Tom calls resuscitation) and resurrection. The first is being brought back to life in the old order (a fallen creation) while the second was the the first fruit of new creation. “Po-tay-to … Po-tar-to” doesn’t begin to address the distinction and is frankly a rather dismissive way of representing a rather complex series of beliefs.

    I would recommend some of Tom Wrights writings on this if you want to know more. Surprised by Hope is a good place to start.

  169. Shane at #182:

    I’m just curious whether you realize how demeaning that sounded, and how you’ll revise it in light of what Billy Squibs just explained–accurately, by the way. In fact, it seems odd you would have said the difference between (a) dying eventually and being buried, and (b) rising as conqueror over death, was a trivial one. Think about it: death has been defeated! That’s what Jesus Christ did for you!

  170. #185,

    Hi Tom,

    “I’m just curious whether you realize how demeaning that sounded,”

    My goodness no. I am truly sorry for being so flippant. I didn’t realise you were trying to highlight a difference between the two, which is why I said they were both Life followed by Death followed by Life. Apologies again.

    So the question then is how do you know Christ was bought back in a different manner to Lazarus, say? If Christ ascended like Elijah and Enoch (thanks Billy) how do you know that his resuscitation was actually resurrection?

    Cheers
    Shane

  171. #183

    Hi bigbird

    “Let’s say someone who claimed to be healed from the river was given the option to deny it and live or maintain that and die. If they chose to take the latter option, yes, that would certainly add to its credibility. We would have a reliable witness. If it was a spectacular and obvious healing, that would add to its credibility further.”

    This doesn’t follow. We have someone that is willing to die for something they believe. That doesn’t make them more or less likely to be mistaken in their belief. Likewise if people recant to save their lives, lying but still believing what they think, it would not make what they believe more or less likely. Peter denied Christ thrice, but it doesn’t change what he believed, nor whether it was true or not.

    “That really depends on your view of the nature of time, something I don’t want to get into here as it’s irrelevant to the thread. Are you really saying you didn’t understand what I meant by “historical event”?”

    To me historical event reads like a redundancy when talking about the past. I’m assuming you used the descriptor for a particular reason but I’m not sure what it is. It’s obvious that we’re talking about events that happened 2000 years ago so it seems you used it for another reason. I’m just trying to clarify what that is; if you think that age has given them some more significance, for example.

    “There are important differences in the two cases here. Healing isn’t necessarily obvious unless it is really spectacular. Resurrection is, so it seems unlikely they made a mistake. And in the latter case, there were multiple witnesses, so that is far more credible than the testimony of one person.”

    At least 30 000 people simultaneously saw the sun dance in the sky in at Fatima, Portugal. That’s an awful lot of eye witnesses that saw something obvious and spectacular. They also had the physical evidence of all their clothes and the surrounding land being made instantly dry.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miracle_of_the_Sun

    As no-one else on Earth at the time witnessed these events, and the Earth wasn’t destroyed as it would have been had such a cataclysmic movement of the Sun actually occurred, I can quite comfortably say that this enormous crowd of people at Fatima, who all saw the same thing at the same time, were mistaken.

    Cheers
    Shane

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