“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” — Richard Dawkins
Is Dawkins right? Do Christians believe in spite of evidence?
But Dawkins isn’t just referencing some Christians, he’s talking about everyone who has faith, and indeed, faith itself. This should lead us to ask, “What does Dawkins mean by ‘faith’?” AND “What does the Bible mean by ‘faith’?”
Richard Dawkins thinks that “faith” describes belief that isn’t based on fact, or belief that even contradicts fact. So, if you believed that the earth was flat, after seeing images of its spherical shape from space, that would be “faith” to him.
This is not how the Bible speaks of faith, though.
1. Faith is not a way of knowing
The first problem with Dawkins' concept of faith is that he speaks of faith like it’s a way of knowing. Specifically, that it describes how you “know” or believe, in an area where he doesn't think you can know anything.
But, how did Jesus describe coming to “faith” in Him?
“Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up, take your stretcher, and walk’? But so that you may > know> that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” – he said to the paralytic – “I tell you, stand up, take your stretcher, and go home.” Mark 2:9-11 (NET)
Jesus provided evidence to support his claim to deity. He wanted people to be convinced, to know. He did not expect people to believe blindly because of a lack of evidence.
How did Peter approach this type of thing?
[Peter makes a case for the gospel, then he says,] “…Therefore let all the house of Israel > know> beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.’
No blind faith here either. You won’t find Dawkins’ straw-man concept of Christian faith demonstrated anywhere in scripture.
Time after time, “knowing” and changing your mind are how the biblical writers describe part of what is involved in becoming a Christian.
But, to be fair, Dawkins is more likely describing the daily life, actions, and beliefs of Christians, not just their decision to become a Christian. So, what can we say about those other areas?
2. Faith is a way of acting
The best biblical definition of faith I’ve heard is:
“Active trust in what you have good reason to believe is true.” — Greg Koukl
Faith is active trust, but faith requires good reasons as a foundation. This is what the previous point was demonstrating. (It’s beyond the scope of this post to discuss what makes reasons “good” enough.)
True faith isn’t passive, it’s active. “Active faith” is as redundantly repetitive as saying “wet water”. Faith describes how we act, not the type of our belief.
This is what James was getting at when he wrote “Faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself” (James 2:17) In other words, faith is alive, only to the extent that it is active!
James was arguing against a school of thought that said “faith” was something you could just sit around and think about — it didn’t matter what you did. James says that this is as wrong as the Monday night arm-chair quarterback who claims to be a real quarterback, because he knows about the game.
Quarterbacks have to be on the field making plays, or they aren’t quarterbacks. Christians need to be in the world taking godly action in trust, or they aren’t exhibiting faith.
Make no mistake, this increasingly secular culture wants you to be the “arm-chair quarterback” of Christianity, to just have religious beliefs that don’t influence how you vote, spend your time, or give your money.
Faith — as Active trust — gets out of the chair, takes the field, and gets in the game!
I pray that you will act out, in trust, your Christian convictions this week, because there are certainly good reasons to believe they are true!
What are some areas where you have exhibited biblical faith in your life? I’d love to hear from you below or on Facebook.
For more on this topic: Is Biblical Faith Blind?