There’s this really annoying thing that I see many atheists do. Not to overgeneralize, but I’ve heard it far too often. And it’s that they will persist in defining faith as belief without evidence.
Here are some notable examples:
“Faith is pretending to know what you don’t know” – Peter Boghossian
“Faith is belief without evidence and reason; coincidentally that’s also the definition of delusion.” — Richard Dawkins
“Faith is generally nothing more than the permission religious people give one another to believe things strongly without evidence.” – Sam Harris
There’s also this thing annoying thing I see Christians do. And it’s that they’ll basically agree with the atheist.
The famous reformer Martin Luther is noted for saying:
“Reason is a whore, the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but more frequently than not struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.”
That guy sure had a way with words. You’ll see similar sentiments echoed these days, even on church signs.
Blind faith or biblical faith?
Here’s the problem: This notion of faith just ain’t biblical. Faith isn’t believing without evidence. Faith is accepting the evidence you have as true and living accordingly.
Now you might say “Wait a second. Didn’t Jesus say “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed?” (John 20:29)
Yes, he did. But never read a bible verse in isolation to its context. Think about it for a second.
Thomas already had ample evidence. He saw water turned to wine. (John 2) He saw the lame healed. (John 5) He was there when Jesus fed the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish. (John 6) He witnessed the blind see. (John 9) He was present when Lazarus come out of the grave. (John 11)
And he also already heard Jesus predict his own death and resurrection. (John 2:18-21) Or so John tells us.
Furthermore, he heard about the empty tomb from people he knew very well. His friends had already reported that they had seen the risen Jesus. Jesus wasn’t saying we’re blessed if we have blind faith. Jesus was chiding Thomas’ stubborn refusal to believe the evidence he already had.
Let’s look at the next verse:
“Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His Name.” (John 20:30-31)
This is also the same gospel that Jesus refers to his miracles as proof of his divine claims.
“…the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.” (John 5:36)
“If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” (John 10:37-38)
“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” (John 14:11)
Jesus didn’t demand blind faith
Jesus wasn’t asking anyone to just believe blindly. He didn’t say that faith was a leap in the dark.
Jesus was saying have faith in the evidence he was providing through the miracles. He just expected Thomas to believe the testimony of others. Because there was a good reason to do so. There still is good evidence today. It’s what this site outside the blog is all about.
The same John who wrote the gospel penned a letter to a local church. He wrote:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us…”
Seen with our eyes. Looked at. Handled with our own two hands. Does this sound like “believing what you know ain’t so?” Can we please lay to rest this silly strawman?
The witnesses still speak today. We have the records that contain their testimony. God isn’t asking us to check our brains at the church door. Christianity teaches us to “prove all things, hold close to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
Defining faith the way you wish is an easy way to take a cheap shot. It might score some rhetorical points. Christians have all too often accepted the definition their opponents have given. But faith is not a choice made in spite of the evidence but in response to it. And unbelief would be to close your eyes to it. Many did in Jesus’ day. Going back to John one last time: “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him.” (John 12:37) The evidence can stare you in the face and you can still explain it away if you want to.
Therefore, don’t let someone knows nothing about faith tell you what faith is for you. Jesus and John didn’t define faith this way. Neither should anyone else.
Erik is a Reasonable Faith Chapter Director located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He’s a former freelance baseball writer and the co-owner of a vintage and handmade decor business with his wife, Dawn. He is passionate about the intersection of apologetics and evangelism.