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The word Faith is commonly used in several ways:
- Being loyal and trustworthy toward a person or idea (e.g. "He had been a faithful husband")
- Strong belief that a person or idea deserves one's loyalty, and will prevail (e.g. "She has faith in her friend to do the right thing.")
- A set of beliefs which cannot be scientifically proven or disproven, but which form one's values and approach to life (e.g. "I have faith that Love conquers all.")
The most detailed definition and description of faith in the Bible is recorded in Hebrews 11. Faith is defined as "being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Examples of faith in the passage include:
- Noah, who was instructed by God to build the Ark, and who obeyed, because he believed that God was going to send a flood as he said he would.
- Abraham, who was instructed by God to leave his homeland and go to the place where he would receive his inheritance, and who did so.
- Moses, who refused his birthright as a prince of Egypt, choosing instead to be mistreated as a Hebrew because of his faith in God.
None of these men of faith believed things without evidence. They believed the promise of God, because they had reason to believe that God would keep his promises. Noah, Abraham, and Moses all spoke directly with God. They didn't just believe God existed. They knew He existed. God spoke to Moses out of a burning bush, and performed a number of miracles in order to convince Moses of his power. It was not faith that made Moses believe in God. Moses's eyes did that. Faith was what caused Moses to take what he knew and had seen -- the acts, miracles, and words of God, and led him to act with courage and resolution for a future he could not yet see -- the promise of God to lead the Israelites to the promised land.
Thus faith is not belief "without evidence." It is faith that takes the evidence one has, and acts with courage and conviction to seek the Truth. The author of Hebrews explains it as such:
13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. Hebrews 11:13-17 (NASB)
Again, none of these men believed "without evidence." They, "saw the things they were promised and welcomed them from a distance." This is empirical faith that informs thoughts and provides epistemic justification or what allows conviction of what is unseen. Faith is in essence seeing in part (which can be referred to as science), and seeking the whole (which can be referred to as philosophy).
As Paul said;
12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 1Corinthians 13:12 (NASB)
Faith and Science
The word faith is also sometimes misused to describe belief that contradicts science (e.g. "Creationism is faith; evolution is science.") This use of the word is deceptive, because it defines faith as belief that has been proven false. Thus, the sentence "I have faith in God" stops meaning, "I have a firm belief that God exists, is worthy of trust, and will prevail" and begins to mean, "I believe God exists, even though the evidence has proven he doesn't."
Biblical faith does not contradict science -- it underlies it, complements it, and sustains it. Following the application the scientific method as the only source of knowledge about reality is empiricism. As a theory of knowledge (epistemology) it is established by language and thus is philosophical. Language, or more specifically, statements about the scientific method, as a concept, require faith. Faith is not empirical or physical like the external world measured by science, but it is non-physical or immaterial, more like a thought or like logical concepts. Both thoughts and more specifically logical thoughts are not empirical but taken for granted, presupposed, within the biblical and scientific framework for knowing reality. Empiricism cannot explain or justify knowing a thought, or knowing logic to even function as a rational human person because they are not experienced by the sensory system. Likewise empiricism cannot verify the propositional content of statements like this; "the scientific method is the only way to know reality". That very statement must come before applying the scientific method, the propositions that develop the scientific method for application are dealt with in the mind. Abstract concepts, like propositional content of language, are not physically located within space-time and cannot be verified by the empirical scientific method. This directly contradicts the materialism implied by the restrictive scientific framework for knowing reality atheists adopt.
Consider, for example, the scientific method. Can the scientific method be tested, measured, or proven in a scientific manner? Clearly not. The scientific method cannot be measured; it can't be put into a test tube and observed; no experiment can be devised to prove the scientific method is "true." The scientific method is not, itself, scientific.
Instead, the scientific method is an approach to acquiring knowledge (See: Epistemology). A scientist can choose to accept it or reject it, but cannot "prove" it like water is made of hydrogen and oxygen is shown to be true empirically. Choosing to trust and apply the scientific method through a conceptual approach within the mind is a matter of faith. A person may look to the past successes of the scientific method, examine its premises, and decide; "I will trust the scientific method to bring more truth."
But obviously, if science itself requires faith, then science can never exist by itself. Science cannot function without faith.
- Main Article: Logic
Logical concepts are also presupposed in order for the scientific method to work. Likewise to faith within science itself cannot be measured by the scientific method. The atheist worldview consists of these glaring difficulties, and what is usually done is that they usually do not define the word faith properly. Creationists and Christians do not rely on such a restrictive epistemology to know reality and thus do not lack coherence like atheism. Faith within the biblical framework is considered evidence of the unseen or, more philosophically stated faith is evidence of what is not empirical. Empirical is experience given by the external world through the sensory system of a human being. Logic also, much like faith is not physically located in space-time and thus will not produce empirical data for either sense experience or scientific measurement. This is precisely why Hebrews defines faith as what a person believes with deep and strong conviction having not seen it. Faith is the evidence of the unseen. Logic is not seen, or in other words it is not empirical, much like the essence of faith. Faith and logic are more like the substance of thoughts and more generally the mind. Thoughts are the containers of abstract concepts like logical laws, and premises and philosophical argumentation.
Thus biblical faith is thoughts of the mind about something. The relationship between logic and thoughts and faith is that what they spawn in the mind is actual evidence of the unseen and thus is actually faith. Faith is thought life of an individual. But more precisely it is deep thought life held with strong and authoritative conviction about Christ according to the Bible. This seems to be what the author of Hebrews is trying to say about faith is in chapter 11.
1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
Although the word conviction is used within the NASB literal rendering of the Greek language within the footnotes it does state that, substance or expected or evidence could be used. It would then read "the evidence of things not seen."
- Faith in an employee is trusting them with a job because you believe they can do the work right;
- Faith in science is believing that science is a good way to effectively solve human problems;
- Faith in reason is believing that humans can resolve problems through logic and analysis;
- Faith in yourself is believing that you can accomplish what you set out to do;
- Faith in God is believing that God exists, is good, and will keep his promises to those who seek him;
- Faith that there is no God is believing that no God exists, and that one can live life without worrying about His judgment;
What Deserves Faith?
When recognition of faith is understood as necessary for humans to function, another question can be asked; What should we have faith in? If humans have faith or deeply convicted beliefs that are true and good (in other words in relation to a devoted life to Jesus Christ) they become Christians and reap eternal life. But if rational human persons have faith in things that are False or Bad, they will reap eternal death and suffering. For example, if you put your faith in a bad employee to do his job right and he doesn't, then you have trusted the wrong person, and have been hurt by it. If, on the other hand, you have faith in an good employee, and he does his job right, then you benefit.
The Christian creationist worldview is that humans don't have a choice about whether to have faith. All persons must have faith in order to function on Earth. We've also established that it's important to put our faith in the right things, to hold beliefs with conviction in only the things that deserve our faith: things that are good and true.