Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An Incredibly Poor Defense of Faith

Every once in awhile I come across theistic apologetics so profoundly “circular” that my first reaction is to ignore it. Actually, “circular” isn’t exactly the right word. Nick used the word “pap” in a post yesterday and I really like that word. “Pap” is something that is lacking in “substance or value.” The word also means a “soft food for infants or invalids.” I laughed as I typed that. Faith = pap. Yeah…yeah I like that.

The apologetics in question here is in a blog post entitled “Challenging Atheism’s Definition of Faith” by The Confident Christian. As the title implies, we atheists are apparently unaware of the true definition of faith. We are subsequently schooled on its proper meaning. I’m not going to do a word for word dissection to counter this post, because this is already pretty long and there is way too much irrelevant filler. Pap if you will…


Part 1: Intro - Nietzsche and Faith

The article begins with the author admitting a grudging respect for Nietzsche, who is apparently “an honest atheist.”

So many atheists want to live with one foot in the Christian worldview and one foot out. Not Nietzsche. He took his medicine like a man and followed the atheistic worldview to its logical conclusions. Then he went crazy.

I’m not exactly sure what the author means by having “one foot in the Christian worldview and one out,” but I’ll make the assumption it means nothing and is simply flowery and specious language inserted to get a dig on atheists. Of course any true atheist worth his salt will end up where they belong: insane. That’s not fallacious at all!

Various quotes regarding Nietzsche’s view of faith are given and then we are told that “99% of all skeptics and atheists” would agree. That’s an assumption and mind-reading. We’ll get to a Nietzsche’s quotes later.

Let’s take a look at what real Biblical faith is and see if we can’t redeem the word from the faulty image that’s painted by today’s unbelieving culture.

Oh the “real Biblical faith.” Do tell!

Also, we live in an unbelieving culture? I give you Exhibit A that the author suffers from Christian Persecution Complex (CPC). Not everyone agrees with their particular brand of Christianity so therefore everyone is against their particular brand of Christianity. This statement does nothing to establish the author’s credibility to rationally look at the world since we most decidedly do not live in an “unbelieving culture.” Our culture believes all kinds of crap including a majority that does believe the author’s particular brand of crap.

Part 2: Why Believe Anything At All?

The reason to believe something – the only reason to believe something – is because that ‘something’ is true.

Tell me more!

If atheism is true, then we all need to be atheists. If Muhammad truly is God’s last prophet and the Qur’an represents the true word of God then we all need to be Muslims. And if Christ really did rise from the dead and His words were accurately recorded by the New Testament writers then we all need to be Christians.

This line of thinking is clearly the result of a dualist mind. Yes/no, true/false, black/white, right/wrong. There is nothing in between. No nuance. There are no unanswered questions, or at least, no answers that should be questioned. I’m not saying there is a middle ground with religions and their claims to truth; just that the author must present everything as a false dichotomy because that is what their religion dictates.

The writers of Scripture who talked a lot about faith understood this all too well. They realized that truth matters where belief is concerned because consequences exist for being wrong. For example, the Apostle Paul, in his famous defense of Christ’s resurrection recorded in 1 Corinthians 15, said: “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:16-19, emphasis added).

This isn’t a defense of the validity of the Resurrection so much as it is emotional blackmail from the New Testament.

Notice three key things in Paul’s statement. First, he understood that if Jesus wasn’t resurrected, Christianity is “worthless”, which in the Greek literally means “lacking truth”.

I suspect someone likes C.S. Lewis’ inane apologetics…

Second, Paul shows that consequences exist for Christians if Christ wasn’t resurrected; above everyone else, we are “most to be pitied”. Lastly, Paul provides the primary way to prove Christianity untrue: produce the body of that Jewish carpenter. In other words, Paul showcases the fact that Christianity is founded upon truth claims can be falsified if contrary evidence is presented that shows those claims to be incorrect.

All this statement does is showcase the false belief that they need to be proven wrong instead of the other way around.

Part 3: The Biblical Meaning of Faith

Skeptics are fond of saying that faith is the absence of evidence, but from a Biblical perspective, truth, evidence, reason, and faith all go hand in hand.

We’ll skip a few paragraphs to sum this up: the claim is that biblical faith means ‘to be persuaded’ (from the Greek “pistis”). Synonyms for pistis include: trust, confidence, reliability, etc.

The atheistic concept of blind faith or faith without any reason/evidence is foreign to the New Testament, which is why the book of Acts constantly says Paul “reasoned” with his audiences. In fact, the writer of Hebrews specifically says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1, KJV). Do you see that? “Substance”, which is literally defined as “actual being” and “reality” in the Greek. And there’s the word “evidence” as plain as day.

“Wait”, says the atheist, “See – it says ‘evidence of things not seen’! That’s not real evidence!”

Just because the poetic bible verse justifying your beliefs has the words “substance” and “evidence” in it does not mean it has either. Paul’s “reasoning” with his audiences is based on an uncorroborated premise. Aside from the reader, we have no idea who comprised Paul’s audiences. One can easily fool people that are not skeptical. Once your foot is in the door it just gets easier and easier. Just ask any preacher from a MegaChurch or under a faith healing tent.

Not so fast. Such a claim fails to make an important distinction in how the word faith is used in Scripture. There is a huge difference between faith that and faith in.

What follows is three paragraphs of equivocating the definition of faith by parsing “faith that” and “faith in.” If you are really interested in this I suggest going to the original linked up top because I don’t care about it at all. I’ve gone over this. Faith really is belief without proof or evidence no matter how hard you try and rationalize that it is not. You can call it “trust”, but trust is not absolute.

Christians have nothing to fear from good science and philosophy where the ‘that’ side of faith in God is concerned. True science and philosophy walk in unison together towards a personal Eternality from which everything came. Our faith is in response to a God who is real and true; not one who is imagined, but rather as Francis Schaeffer said: a God who is there. And the more you understand how real God is, and how true He is to His character and His word, the more you will trust Him. But the less convinced you are, the less you will trust Him. In other words, the weaker your faith ‘in’ will be.

I’m not even going to address the science and philosophy line since it is such drivel. There is so much fail here. The author jumps from their less than stellar defense of faith as a religious and biblical concept to make the assumption that god exists and that is the source of faith. How very circular.

Part 4: The Will to Believe the Truth

The Nietzsche quote that the author wishes to base their thesis on is this: “’Faith’ means the will to avoid knowing what is true.”

He didn’t know it, but he actually penned the definition of the faith held by hardened unbelief.

You see, evidence is not enough to make someone a Christian. Atheists will talk themselves hoarse about needing evidence, and how it’s because there’s not enough evidence for God that they won’t believe.

Not enough evidence? Provide any evidence! Any evidence would be a start.

The next paragraph or so explains that evidence is inconsequential since people ignore evidence all the time. Smokers know of the risk of smoking but they do it anyway. This is the example for not needing evidence. Remember that when arguing with people that operate via faith.

The faith issue is a matter of the will, not so much a matter of the mind. This is why you will see Jesus over and over again not address an intellectual deficiency in His detractors, but instead His rebuke to them was: “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?”(Mark 2:8, emphasis added), which is how the Bible refers to the seat of the will. Faith is a gift from God (cf. Eph. 2:8-9) and until it’s given, the only thing anyone does in response to God is turn away.

If only we believed and had faith then we would see! Again, it is all circular pap. In order to have faith in god one needs faith in god so that faith in god can be bestowed upon you.

Like I said in the beginning, I appreciate Nietzsche’s writings because he’s an honest atheist. And what did this honest atheist admit to when it came down to why he really chose to discard Christianity?

“It is our preference that decides against Christianity, not arguments.”

Again, give the man an “A” for honesty.

This entire thought process of “will” and this final Nietzsche quote is lifted straight out of “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.” I guarantee you that the writer of this post and the writers of “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist” have never read the quote in context. They simply got the quote from de Lubac, Chuck Colson and others that use this one quote again and again in Christian apologetics regarding the “Truth” of the Bible and Christianity. Regardless, the elevation of Nietzsche as the ultimate atheist is odd since he is never mentioned in the “pantheon” of atheistic thought. I suspect that his inclusion here is strictly so the author can use this quote.

Through this entire exercise we can see that faith is baseless and a poor method of operating.  It is merely the safety blanket of those that willfully accept, with not a shred of confirming evidence, the existence of a god and the divinity of a deranged rabbi. This is the “real biblical faith.” Remember the statement “The reason to believe something – the only reason to believe something – is because that ‘something’ is true.”? And how is something determined to be true? Faith. That is really all you needed to read here and you could have gotten the point of this post. Sorry for wasting your time.


Andy said...

God in the Old Testament is always providing proof to people: Gideon had the damp clothes, Elijah set fire to the wood, God set the plagues on Egypt. God specifically used those methods to prove He is God. What happened? Where's the proof now?

A skeptic may way there wasn't any proof to begin with.

Steve said...

You just don't have the will to have faith, Andy. The proof is in toast and tortillas.

Adam said...

Don't forget crossbeams from collapsed buildings...that are filled with crossbeams.