Is the Bible’s definition of faith opposed to logic and evidence?

Probably the biggest misconception that I encounter when defending the faith is the mistaken notion of what faith is. Today we are going to get to the bottom of what the Bible says faith is, once and for all. This post will be useful to Christians and atheists, alike.

What is faith according to the Bible?

I am going to reference this article from apologist Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason in my explanation.

Koukl cites three Biblical examples to support the idea that faith is not blind leap-of-faith wishing, but is based on evidence.

  1. Moses went out into the wilderness and he had that first encounter with the burning bush, and God gave him the directive to go back to Egypt and let his people go. Moses said, Yeah, right. What’s going to happen when they say, why should we believe you, Moses?God said, See that staff? Throw it down.Moses threw it down and it turned into a serpent.God said, See that serpent? Pick it up.And he picked it up and it turned back into a staff.God said, Now you take that and do that before the Jewish people and you do that before Pharaoh. And you do this number with the hail, and the frogs, and turning the Nile River into blood. You put the sun out. You do a bunch of other tricks to get their attention.And then comes this phrase: “So that they might know that there is a God in Israel.”
  2. [I]n Mark 2 you see Jesus preaching in a house, and you know the story where they take the roof off and let the paralytic down through the roof. Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.” And people get bugged because how can anyone forgive sins but God alone?Jesus understood what they were thinking and He said this: What’s harder to say, your sins are forgiven, or to rise, take up your pallet and go home?Now, I’ll tell you what would be harder for me to say : Arise, take up your pallet and go home. I can walk into any Bible study and say your sins are forgiven and nobody is going to know if I know what I am talking about or not. But if I lay hands on somebody in a wheelchair and I say, Take up your wheelchair and go home, and they sit there, I look pretty dumb because everyone knows nothing happened.But Jesus adds this. He says, “In order that you may know that the Son of Man has the power and authority to forgive sins, I say to you, arise, take up your pallet and go home.” And he got up and he got out. Notice the phrase “In order that you may know”. Same message, right?
  3. Move over to the Book of Acts. First sermon after Pentecost. Peter was up in front of this massive crowd. He was talking about the resurrection to which he was an eyewitness. He talked about fulfilled prophecy. He talked about the miraculous tongues and the miraculous manifestation of being able to speak in a language you don’t know. Do you think this is physical evidence to those people? I think so. Pretty powerful.Peter tells them, These men are not drunk as it seems, but rather this is a fulfillment of prophecy. David spoke of this. Jesus got out of the grave, and we saw him, and we proclaim this to you.Do you know how he ends his sermon? It’s really great. Acts 2:36. I’ve been a Christian 20 years and I didn’t see this until about a year ago. This is for all of those who think that if you can know it for sure, you can’t exercise faith in it. Here is what Peter said. Acts 2:36, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” There it is again. “Know for certain.”

What is faith according to Bible-based theologians?

I am going to reference this article from theologian C. Michael Patton of Parchment and Pen in my explanation.

Patton explains that according to Reformation (conservative, Bible-based) theologians, faith has 3 parts:

  1. notitia – This is the basic informational foundation of our faith. It is best expressed by the word content. Faith, according to the Reformers must have content. You cannot have faith in nothing. There must be some referential propositional truth to which the faith points. The proposition “Christ rose from the grave,” for example, is a necessary information base that Christians must have.
  2. assensus – This is the assent or confidence that we have that the notitia is correct… This involves evidence which leads to the conviction of the truthfulness of the proposition… This involves intellectual assent and persuasion based upon critical thought… assensus… says, “I am persuaded to believe that Christ rose from the grave.”
  3. fiducia – This is the “resting” in the information based upon a conviction of its truthfulness. Fiducia is best expressed by the English word “trust.”… Fiducia is the personal subjective act of the will to take the final step. It is important to note that while fiducia goes beyond or transcends the intellect, it is built upon its foundation.

So, Biblical faith is really trust. Trust(3) can only occur after intellectual assent(2), based on evidence and thought. Intellectual assent(2) can only occur after the propositional information(1) is known.

The church today accepts 1 and 3, but denies 2. I call this “fideism” or “blind faith”. Ironically, activist atheists, (the New Atheists), also believe that faith is blind. The postmodern “emergent church” denies 1 and 2. A person could accept 1 and 2 but deny 3 by not re-prioritizing their life based on what they know to be true.

How do beliefs form, according to Christian philosophers?

I am going to reference a portion of chapter 3 of J.P. Moreland’s “Love Your God With All Your Mind” (i.e. – LYGWYM).

J.P. Moreland explains how beliefs form and how you can change them.

  1. Today, people are inclined to think that the sincerity and fervency of one’s beliefs are more important than the content… Nothing could be further from the truth… As far as reality is concerned, what matters is not whether I like a belief or how sincere I am in believing it but whether or not the belief is true. I am responsible for what I believe and, I might add, for what I refuse to believe because the content of what I do or do not believe makes a tremendous difference to what I become and how I act.
  2. A belief’s strength is the degree to which you are convinced the belief is true. As you gain ,evidence and support for a belief, its strength grows for you… The more certain you are of a belief… the more you rely on it as a basis for action.

But the most important point of the article is that your beliefs are not under the control of your will.

…Scripture holds us responsible for our beliefs since it commands us to embrace certain beliefs and warns us of the consequences of accepting other beliefs. On the other hand, experience teaches us that we cannot choose or change our beliefs by direct effort.

For example, if someone offered you $10,000 to believe right now that a pink elephant was sitting next to you, you could not really choose to believe this… If I want to change my beliefs about something, I can embark on a course of study in which I choose to think regularly about certain things, read certain pieces of evidence and argument, and try to find problems with evidence raised against the belief in question.

…by choosing to undertake a course of study… I can put myself in a position to undergo a change in… my beliefs… And… my character and behavior… will be transformed by these belief changes.

I think definition of faith is important, because atheists seemed to want to substitute their own definition of faith as blind belief for this Biblical definition, but there is no evidence for their view that faith is belief without evidence. I think this might be another case of projection by atheists. Blind faith is how they arrive at their views, so they are trying to push it onto us. But the Bible is clearly opposed to it.

9 thoughts on “Is the Bible’s definition of faith opposed to logic and evidence?”

  1. On the three elements that the article indicates make up Biblical faith, this assessment appears: ” A person could accept 1 [notitia] and 2 [assensus] but deny 3 [fiducia] by not re-prioritizing their life based on what they know to be true.” So, this person, have they believed? The answer seems to “yes”, for the description says that they have come to “know [something] to be true”. Yet if this is the case, then faith (believing) only has two elements (notitia & assensus) and not three.

    Am I correct or incorrect?

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    1. Well, the problem here is that this particular question is going to be answered by how you live, necessarily. If true, it would affect how you live in the same way as believing in the evidence that believing that you should not drive while intoxicated should cause you to not drive while intoxicated. Because if you listen to all the evidence and yet still do it, then you are denying the obligation that is suggested by the evidence that you claim to assent to.

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      1. So then the article is in error. For it says specifically that “the person is “not re-prioritizing their life based on what they know to be true”. From what your saying, then, they really don’t know it to be true because they are not behaving in a certain way. Should it not rather say that the person does not behave in a certain way in accord with what they only claim to know is true?

        I’m not sure your example of the dui person really solves the problem either. For instance, their are plenty of smokers who know for certain that smoking causes lung cancer. Yet they continue to smoke anyway. Is it because they really don’t know about the link between smoking and cancer? Do they smoke because they doubt the link? Not at all. They smoke because they simply enjoy smoking to the point that they ignore what they know to be true and smoke anyway.

        My main problem with the article’s 3 part make up of faith/belief is that it seems to try to incorporate guaranteed behavior into belief. I think the concept of belief is much simpler than that. If you have come to be persuaded that something is true, then you have believed it. No more, no less. It’s true your behavior SHOULD be in accord with your belief, but if that were the case, then we’ve got a lot of exhortations in the NT epistles toward good works on the part of believers that are very much unnecessary if an inevitable change in their behavior in accord with their belief is expected without exception.

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        1. Well, I think that the article is right in that you can say something is true with just 1 and 2, but the putting it into action is necessary for “faith” which is a step beyond truth. J. Warner Wallace makes a distinction between “belief that” vs “belief in”. I would say “belief that” is 1 and 2. And 3 adds “belief in”. But the concept of faith seems to me to require all three parts (“belief in”), because of the kind of thing faith is.

          Wallace:
          http://coldcasechristianity.com/2013/when-belief-that-becomes-belief-in/

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          1. [J. Warner Wallace makes a distinction between “belief that” vs “belief in”. I would say “belief that” is 1 and 2. And 3 adds “belief in”. ]

            I do enjoy and respect folks like Wallace, but the problem with trying to make such a distinction is that not only does scripture often use “belief that” and “belief in” interchangeably, in many instances, it only uses “belief that” in definite soteriological contexts.

            A few examples:

            [Jhn 8:24 ESV] 24″ I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you BELIEVE THAT I am he you will die in your sins.”

            [Jhn 20:31 ESV] 31 “but these are written so that you may BELIEVE THAT Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

            [Rom 10:9 ESV] 9 “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and BELIEVE in your heart THAT God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

            I think it important to avoid “Christianizing” words. The words that by divine inspiration were selected from the Koine Greek of the first century were selected because they most accurately portrayed what God wished to communicate through the writings.

            Belief then and now simply means to be persuaded or convinced that a proposition is true. What marks the difference between belief in general and belief which saves is not the kind or degree of belief that is present, but rather the difference lies in the divine sanction of a particular proposition as being a salvific one when it is believed to be true.

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  2. “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” John 9:25 Now THAT is evidence-based faith – and the type that I can relate to.

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    1. James’ point is not that faith without works is not faith, but that faith to which works are not added is barren and unfruitful.

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