“The Christian faith is blind” A reply.


Well, how would biblical theology answer this question?

Multiple times in the biblical text we see illustrations of rational faith that is not blind, so let’s look at an example. Before the event of the exodus Moses was instructed by God to lead out the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Moses was doubtful of his ability to lead God’s people, and he made this known to him. God in turn told him to show a sign in the form of a staff turning into a snake, and he would do this before the Pharaoh “So that they might know that there is a God in Israel” (emphasis added).

Jesus used his miracles as evidence of his deity and proclamation of the Kingdom of God. On one occasion he heals a paralyzed man and then forgives him for his sins. Some people witnessing Jesus were angered because, according to their belief, only God could forgive sins; so who was Jesus to do such a thing? Jesus evidently picks up this tension in the room and gives an explanation, and then the punchline: “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” (emphasis added).

On another occasion in the book of Acts the apostle Peter was speaking about Jesus’ resurrection to a crowd of people. Peter talks through various topics, and he was an eyewitness to the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. But then comes the line: “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” (Acts 2:36, (emphasis added).

The same thread runs through all three of these illustrations, namely, the positive affirmation that seems to be provided in support for rational belief in Jesus and the power of God. In this way biblical theology nowhere instructs people to switch off their senses. In fact, when Jesus is approached and asked what the most important law is, he replies that it is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.“ For Jesus the mind was a very important facet of being a follower. Clearly these examples show that Christianity does not expect blind faith that is opposed to logic and reason.

What about faith, itself? A rationally justified faith involves, and is supported by, evidence which leads to the conviction of the truthfulness of a proposition. For instance, it is rationally justified to believe in the resurrection of Jesus based on historical facts. These bedrock facts are that he was crucified by the Romans under Pontius Pilate (1), then buried in a tomb (2), then three days later his tomb was found empty (3), and his disciples, skeptics (Paul, James) and 500 others experienced the resurrected Jesus of which they were willing to suffer and die for (4). On these four bedrock facts (they are defined as bedrock because they are unanimously accepted by all, if not the majority, of scholars in the field) alone we can posit the physical resurrection of Jesus as the best explanation for what happened in history. Now, we can’t “prove” that Jesus rose from the dead precisely because a historical fact is unlike a scientific fact (this is not to deny that science itself requires faith to operate). We can’t repeat, or re-observe what we know from history like would could do in a lab with some experiment. But we are rationally justified in holding that Jesus’ resurrection is the best explanation of the historical data.

Once we have seen that the resurrection of Jesus is the best historical explanation of the facts we can then accept the truthfulness of its proposition, and this is based on critical analysis and thought. In this case this comes when we are convinced of Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. According to Christian philosopher Moreland:

“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” (1).

So what does biblical theology tells us?  The God of the Bible does not instruct his followers to shut off  their cognitive faculties when we come to belief. Evidently this is the case when God commands Moses to provide a sign to those in Egypt, on Jesus’ short answer to the questioner, and on Peter’s witness to the resurrection of Jesus. The Christian can argue that she is rationally justified in believing that Jesus really did rise from his grave as an act of God. This belief is ground upon the bedrock minimal facts and is the best historical explanation. Although one may not be able to “prove” something (in the mathematical or empirical sense) one can still be justified holding to something if there is supplementary evidence.

One response to ““The Christian faith is blind” A reply.

  1. Pingback: Answering Peter Boghossian – Atheist Hate & the Definition of Faith. | Historical Jesus studies.·

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