Poll shows Atheists and Christians are Using a Different Defintion of Faith

Well no surprise here. The final results of the Boghossian v McGrew straw poll of Christians and non Christians (over 700 votes were cast) on Boghossian’s definition of ‘faith’. Quite a split. The  poll was done on the show Unbelievable about how Christians and atheists are using the word “faith.” What is to be learned here? When you spend no time exegeting the word “faith” from the Bible and rely on dictionary definitions. this is what you wind up with.

This poll shows that roughly 75% of atheists are using a definition of faith that roughly 90% of Christians don’t use (at least of the ones surveyed).

 

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31 thoughts on “Poll shows Atheists and Christians are Using a Different Defintion of Faith

  1. Ed Atkinson September 8, 2014 / 6:58 pm

    I was a Christian and now I lean heavily towards atheism. This poll shows 2 things:

    1) When you ask a slanted question it will affect the answer – “even though it is not supported by …….” is clearly a negative way of saying it so it is not surprising that atheists will comply and Christians will not.

    2) Atheists seem to know their New Testatments better than Christians. OK I’m being provocative. I agree that most NT verses on faith make equal sense either way, (or ‘faith’ means something different as in ‘the faith’, a set of beliefs etc.) However a few do shed light and they all point to faith being beyond what is justified by the evidence. I can do a Bible study on this if challenged.

    • chab123 September 9, 2014 / 12:50 am

      Hi Ed, I think the point is that atheists are not using the word faith in the way it is exegeted in the text. One way or the other, neither atheism nor theism will hit the certitude level that people are looking for. Feel free to see the pdf Faith and Reason here. It discusses the various ways faith is used in the text. http://www.apologeticspress.org/pdfs/e-books_pdf/far.pdf

      • Ed Atkinson September 9, 2014 / 10:43 am

        Thanks Chab. My understanding of the Bible has always been that reason takes you only so far and faith completes it. Thus the survey question fits with this – albeit in a rather harsh way. The atheist uses just reason and concludes that God is very unlikely, in my case this is well beyond the certitude level I need.

        Turning to the Faith and Reason pdf, it is simply incorrect. When I looked at all NT uses of faith in Bible Gateway with the NIV, I found several that clarified the issue. Most are not even referenced in the pdf! Here is a sample of verses that the pdf ignores.

        Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. …” Note that faith is not a result of considering evidence (“of yourselves”) – it by-passes it and comes straight from God

        Acts 3:16 “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see. ….” Again note the source of faith, if it is “supported by evidence” then it does not need to come through Jesus.

        Acts 20:21 “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. ….” Here faith is our choice to have, so it can’t be a result of considering evidence.

        Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. ….” As above note the source of faith, not our reason but directly distributed to us from God.

        Regarding the classic verse on this issue: 2 Corinthians 5:7 “For we live by faith, not by sight.” The pdf lamely says “While faith sometimes is contrasted with sight …. it never is contrasted with knowledge so as to imply a separation.” But the verse is clear that it is not by sight: it is blind faith … eyes closed … don’t look at the evidence.

        I do hope you agree that I have successfully argued that in the Bible, faith is beyond the evidence.

      • chab123 September 9, 2014 / 2:10 pm

        Ed,

        I think we don’t want to confuse reason and evidence. Reason has generallyt been associated with a schoolof thought called rationalism which say the primary way of knowing things is by reason alone. In other words, people think they can fully reason their way to God from the bottom up. That wouldn’t work because while God is not against reason, we would still need revelation to help us. After all, we are finite and fallen, so we need God to reveal himself to humanity and what he has for us. As far as evidence, we have to define that as well. There are different kinds of evidence and all of them will never reach the level of certitude:

        Certitude

        In order for a judgment to belong in the realm of certitude, it must meet the following criteria:

        (1) It cannot be challenged by the consideration of new evidence that results from improved observation

        (2) It can’t be criticized by improved reasoning or the detection of inadequacies or errors in the reasoning we have done. Beyond such challenge or criticism, such judgments are indubitable, or beyond doubt.

        Nor atheism nor theism can provide certitude.

        For example:

        Cornell University atheist William Provine said this)(this is taken from his debate with Phillip E. Johnson)

        “Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.”

        Now Provine will never be able to provide enough evidence to support his claims here that will arrive at certitude.

        Feel free to check our post- “evidence we want and evidence we expect”

        https://chab123.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/a-look-at-evidence-we-want-and-evidence-we-should-expect/

      • jcmmanuel September 10, 2014 / 8:33 pm

        chab123 wrote “I think the point is that atheists are not using the word faith in the way it is exegeted in the text” — Yeah but that’s typically the problem with atheists who read the bible like “bible literalists” in order to defeat all Christians for believing in something ‘stupid’. It’s part of the problem stated in the title here.

  2. Ed Atkinson September 9, 2014 / 8:11 pm

    Hi Chab … this is a reply to your September 9, 2014 at 2:10 pm . The reply link there is missing.

    You make excellent points and I pretty well agree with you throughout. I have my ‘atheist glasses’ and you have your way of seeing things. So as I read your post, I saw it as saying that Christians do indeed believe things that go beyond the evidence, so you should be answering ‘yes’ to the poll. You need God to reveal truth and get you to believe stuff that is inaccessible when merely considering evidence.

    I agree that claiming certitude, especially for an atheist, is bonkers. However I don’t need faith to make up the gap, I just accept the lack of certainty and await more evidence. That said, I do have sufficient evidence already to live as an atheist with no worries on the issue. Or I guess the worries are tiny compared to ones I do fret about.

    Thanks, I’ll look up the link now.

    Cheers, Ed

      • Ed Atkinson September 9, 2014 / 9:12 pm

        Thanks Chab. Yes, I’ve had a browse of that one now. I doesn’t seem to add to the issues here.

        I am getting confused now. How can you say “God is not accessible by the evidence” and also deny that “faith is believing something that is not supported by evidence”? Also what is wrong with my long account above – the post with Bible references – which gives places where the NT does basically say “faith is believing something that is not supported by evidence”.

      • chab123 September 9, 2014 / 9:29 pm

        Ed, yes, you are getting confused. I didn’t mean to confuse you. I mean that the way we define evidence (see the evidence we want vs evidence we should expect post), makes all the difference. The first followers of Jesus based their faith on the resurrection of Jesus, fulfilled prophecy, evidence from God in the natural world. They never said they didn’t have evidence. You seem to still not understand the exegetical use of the word “faith” in the NT. the apostles approach to spreading the message of the Gospel is characterized by such terms as “apologeomai/apologia” which means “to give reasons, make a legal defense” (Acts 26:2; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet 3:15); “dialegomai” which means “to reason, speak boldly” (Acts 17:2; 17; 18:4; 19:8), “peíthō” which means to persuade, argue persuasively” (Acts 18:4; 19:8),

        You can list all the passages with the word “faith” but that doesn’t mean the first followers of Jesus said there was no evidence or reasons for why the proclaimed Jesus as Lord and Messiah. They couldn’t walk into synagogues and preach to Jews without evidence for why Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.

  3. chab123 September 9, 2014 / 8:47 pm

    Also, the point of the survey is to show atheists aren’t using a Biblical definition of faith, They are using a cultural, or Mark Twain definition which is incorrect. See our post here: https://chab123.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/looking-at-a-biblical-defintion-of-the-word-faith/

    The reality is that because atheists don’t know what method to use to approach God’s existence (as I talk about in the other post), that leads to all kinds of problems.

  4. Ed Atkinson September 9, 2014 / 11:04 pm

    Reply to September 9, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    OK Chab, we are getting somewhere now I think. What I am claiming is that yes, Christians think they have evidence (and in 1stC more than us as we now have science to explain the apparent mysteries) but that the evidence is not sufficent in itself. Faith bridges that gap.

    I have looked at the faith definitions in the link, but it seems to be just claims to suit apologists. You know the verses which say faith is ‘not by sight’ … it is ‘assurance about what we do not see’ … ‘by faith (not reason) we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command’ …… ‘faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (not evidence or reason)’ …………. ‘the full assurance that faith brings (because reason and evidence does not),’ …. faith as a gift of the Spirit .

    Also the verses in my earlier post on NT uses of ‘faith’.

    As we are in dispute on what faith means in the NT, we have no choice but to look at actual uses of the word(s) when it is translated to ‘faith’. Just refering to other posts with theoretical claims to suit apologetics is not sufficient. I can refer you to http://www.oxforddictionaries.com – ‘Faith – Strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof:’

    • chab123 September 10, 2014 / 12:41 am

      Ed, let’s stick with the exegetical use of the word in the NT and not online dictionaries.

      What about Hebrews 11:1?

      “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

      First, we don’t want to quote this verse out of context. It has to be read in light of the rest of the chapter.

      Second, we need to know how the verse and chapter fits in the overall context of the book of Hebrews.

      Most of the time this passage is laid out by skeptics in the following way:

      1. If we can’t see God, God does not exist.
      2. We can’t see God
      3. Therefore, God does not exist.

      What is wrong with this argument?

      It must also be remembered to insist that God must be a visible object which can be observed with the five senses is to commit a category mistake. A category mistake is to assign to something a property which applies only to objects of another category. We must not confuse two categories- the made and the Unmade. Obviously, from the Orthodox Christian view, God has no composition. The Hebrew word for one is “echad” which leaves room for a plurality within a unity of substance- but there is no implication of a plurality of beings or parts within a being. Scripture admonishes mankind about making any physical image of God (Exodus 20:4). God is pure spirit ( John 4:24). He has no parts and is an immaterial Being. Hence, the God of the Bible is unmade.

      That is why we have to observe the effects in the world and make rational inferences as to what the cause is of the effect. So while it is true that God is not a material object, we can observe the effects in the world and ask whether they can be explained by a blind, undirected natural processes or intelligence. By the way, this is similar to what Paul says in Rom.1:18-21. We see that Paul lays out the basic principle of cause and effect. Paul says since God is the Designer (God is the cause), His “everlasting power and divinity” are obvious, “through the things that are made” (this is the effect).

      No, apologists are not using a definition of faith to suit themselves. We are showing how it is used in the text. I think the definitions I gave in the post on faith are fine.

      The issue is that skeptics are not understanding the basics of epistemology (the study of knowledge), So they think when they hear the word “faith” that this equates to belief without any or little evidence. Then they don’t define evidence at all or they try to say evidence is what we know in science and this can show God exists or not (which I addressed in the post I left- evidence we want or evidence we expect). So the same objections just go on and on. The key is to define terms. Also, nobody is a skeptic or atheist just because of intellectual reasons or what they consider to be a lack of evidence. There are emotional and volitional factors at work here.

      Make sure you read the entire post evidence we want vs evidence we should expect.

      • Ed Atkinson September 10, 2014 / 11:40 am

        We seem still to be talking past each other. It’s frustrating as we do seem to be in agreement over most of the basics. Here is what I think we agree on:

        We can’t be 100% sure based on reason and evidence either way.

        The best approach to determine whether Christianity is true is to “observe the effects in the world and make rational inferences as to what the cause is of the effect.” These observations are more than science – it includes our experiences, what people tells us and how much we can trust them, history, and also the Bible so long it is taken a source document.

        For the Christian the approach above takes you most of the way, but you still need to ignore the doubts that remain and make a step of faith. … To actually commit, to have a humble attitude to God. The evidence is not so overwelming that you have no choice.

        So please point out where you don’t agree with me, hopefully not at all! Then, if this is still relevant, please give me some indication of how large the uncertainty gap is, or more importantly how large it was for the community who wrote the NT and were the original intended readers (i.e. the Romans, Corinthians etc). A tiny gap meaning near certainty, or a large gap suggesting the evidence was only a bit more than 50:50? Or roughly where in between?

        Once we understand each other on that, we can have a meaningful exchange. Thanks for the effort you are putting into this.

      • chab123 September 10, 2014 / 10:31 pm

        Ed,

        Like I said before, we won’t hit certitude on other side. I had defined certitude.

        The first followers of Jesus were certain they saw him rise. Sure, Thomas had some doubts until he touched his side So there isn’t a huge level of uncertainty for them,

        But for us, we weren’t there and didn’t see it. That’s why we have historical apologetics.

        Probability comes in degrees: Degrees of Probability

        a. Virtual Certainty: Where the evidence is overwhelmingly in its favor( the law of gravity)

        b. Highly probable: Very good evidence in its favor (There was a man named Jesus who lived 2,000 years ago and was crucified)

        c. Probable: Means there is sufficient evidence in its favor (Paul wrote Galatians and 1 Corinthians)

        d. Possible: Seems to have evidence both for and against (The Shroud of Turin is the cloth that covered Jesus when he was in the tomb)

        e. Improbable: Insufficient Evidence in its favor (Life can come from non-life)

        f. Highly Improbable: Very little evidence in its favor (The events in the Book of Mormon took place)

        g. Virtually Impossible: Almost no evidence in its favor (George Bush is a Martian)

        I think it is highly probably (looking at the evidence alone) that Jesus rose from the dead. But I also have a different worldview than atheists. I don’t think nature is all there is (a metaphysical claim) and I don’t think atheism explains reality better than theism. So yes, will there always be questions and possible new evidence that comes in? I suppose. so.

        Both theists and non-theists have the ability to look at the same evidence. However, they take a different set of presuppositions into the evaluation process. So that must be admitted up front.

        The point is that in order to believe in God demands an act of faith—as does the decision not to believe in him. Neither is based upon absolute certainty, nor can they be.

  5. auggie girl September 10, 2014 / 7:43 am

    Wasn’t it Kierkegaard for whom faith was a “leap in the dark”? He’s not exactly the go-to place for discovering Christian orthodoxy. Again, it is an atheistic misunderstanding that when Christians speak of faith, they are claiming a “God of the gaps” for themselves, in which faith “fills up the gaps.” That is an atheist accusation, not the belief of Christians. Generally, Christians understand saving faith to be trust or reliance, over against personal merit or striving.

  6. Ed Atkinson September 10, 2014 / 11:41 pm

    Reply to Chab September 10, 2014 at 10:31 pm

    Thanks. I take it that we do agree to what I thought was our common ground. So the degree of probability is the issue. I am amazed that you think there is high probability for Jesus being raised from the dead! But that is not the point it is the Roman or Corinthian ‘in the pew’ so to speak who matters. They had no NT, just stories told by Paul and other visitors, how could their level of confidence mean the resurrection was highly probable? The very highest we can put them is your (c)

    I’ll let you get back on this

    • chab123 September 11, 2014 / 2:29 am

      Ed,

      First, I suggest reading some of our posts under the resurrection tab on our blog. They will help.

      • Ed Atkinson September 11, 2014 / 7:04 am

        OK. I have read up a lot on this, including N T Wrights book and heard countless debates. I tried to use the evidence for the resurrection to keep me believing about 15 years ago when I was loosing my faith. I’ll have a look at your blogs there.

        Could you point me to your resurrection blogs which cover the point regarding the Roman or Corinthian Christians hearing the message. My point that they had no NT, just stories told by Paul and other visitors, and so how could their level of confidence in the resurrection be so high?

        I am going away for a long week end, so you will be spared me for a few days now!

        Cheers Ed

      • Ed Atkinson September 15, 2014 / 2:58 pm

        Hi

        Back again now …. sorry!

        I’ve had a look at the Resurrection articles/blogs, but not read every word. I could not find anything which covers the point regarding the Roman or Corinthian Christians hearing the message. My point here is that they had no NT, just stories told by Paul and other visitors, and so how could their level of confidence in the resurrection be so high? When they read from Paul statements such as ‘we live by faith and not by sight’, surely they would have taken it to mean to ‘take it on trust’ and not ‘apply the clear certainty you have in your life with God’.

        Cheers Ed

  7. Ed Atkinson September 18, 2014 / 11:47 am

    Thanks Chab. My responses are 1) No, 2) Visions etc, the evidence for physical appearances is weak.

    Now neither question is relevant. I was asking about what the readers of the letters gospels etc that we now call the NT had available to them as evidence. Whether Paul was lying to them, mistaken about the appearances, or whatever …. all they had was his preaching to go on, and others’ preaching as well in some cases. How could their certainty be so high? They had to be taking things on faith, so verses about faith that I keep refering to and you keep ignoring really do mean what they say eg faith is not sight…. you have to take it on trust.

    Now I want to quote from the first link you gave: “For all of these reasons and others, no serious scholar today believes that the resurrection story is a lie—the result of a conspiracy among the apostles. It would take too much faith to believe that.” It winds me up when apologist keep changing the definition of faith to suit their purposes. This apologist author is defining faith in exactly the way atheists do in the poll here.

    • chab123 September 18, 2014 / 8:20 pm

      Ed, you say:

      “1) No, 2) Visions etc, the evidence for physical appearances is weak.

      Now neither question is relevant”–

      Nope, that is not an answer and you have ignored the issue of what accounts for the physical appearances. So you are welcome to do your homework and read my post and give me a detailed explanation for what the disciples saw. I left the link. the burden is on you to give an explanation for what I left there.

      Ed, you can give me all the faith passages you want. But you quote them all out of context. Biblical faith is trusting in what you know to be true. It is based on knowing something, not some blind leap of faith or faith without any evidence that atheists seem to keep assuming.

      You don’t have to have absolute or high certainty to know something. If that’s what you are asking for, then atheists know every little. There are a thousand counterarguments to their claims about reality and we can go back and forth on that. Hence, if they need to have high certainty or absolute certainty to know something, they have faith as well. Or, it could be that the demand for absolute or high certainty allows the atheist to live in his autonomous state before God. He wants to be his own God. Faith involves the intellect, emotion and will. So the will is always in the way.

      • Ed Atkinson September 19, 2014 / 3:12 pm

        Hi Chab. My understanding is that this is a blog on faith, not the resurrection. So my comments on appearances here will be brief. My guess is that Peter in his grief and guilt had a vision of Jesus, it is apparently common for that kind of loss. As he talked about it then the expectation prompted experiences for the others and the meetings became charged with expectation. The experiences they had in these circumstances together with their understanding of Resurrection, and perhaps what Jesus taught on it, produced the stories which eventually came down to us. There was loads of development of the stories in the telling, so the actual events behind them, if any, are lost. So the physical aspect was not in the original experiences.

        My account here could be completely wrong, but to have strong evidence for a miraculous Resurrection all naturalistic accounts must be ruled out as hopelessly implausible. I feel that my account is perfectly plausible. Sorry it’s such a brief response.

        Now moving on to the faith passages, yes we agree – context is important. It is the context that I am trying to discuss. The context includes the situation of the Christians for whom the passages were originally written. I am so keen for you to respond to the point I keep making on this – how could these Christians have any kind of certainty in their faith when all they had was visiting preachers? Please see where I make this point in my posts above.

        Please also respond to where I quote one of your blog articles which takes the atheist’s view of faith. I feel I have been responding to your requests and questions, but I don’t get a response to my points. Even when you dismiss my use of a verse which is not even quoted in a link you sent me to, all I’ve got back from you is the claim ‘out of context’ with no explanation as to how the context changes the obvious straight-up meaning.

        I feel we are largely agreeing regarding the last paragraph of your post. I agree ‘absolute or high certainty’ is setting the bar too high. You said above that you consider your Resurrection belief is at the next level: “(b) Highly probable: Very good evidence in its favor (There was a man named Jesus who lived 2,000 years ago and was crucified)”. That seems a more suitable level.

      • chab123 September 20, 2014 / 12:04 am

        Ed, the vision and grief explanation for the appearances was already answered in my post on what the disicples saw.

        See https://chab123.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/what-did-the-disciples-see-a-closer-look-at-the-resurrection-appearances/

        So no, the vision/grieving hypothesis doesn’t work at all both exegetically and for other reasons as well. That hypothesis has been dealt with well before I typed up my own blog post about it. I already gave a definition of faith at the start of this discussion, I left the links.

        Like I said (and you agree), we don’t have to absolute or high certainty to know something. So did the followers who heard about Jesus rising from the dead need faith? Yes. They trusted in the apostles testimony that Jesus had risen. They believed the apostles were telling the truth. You seem to be agreeing with me that we don’t need high certainty or absolute certainty to know something. How certain were those who heard about the risen Jesus from the apostles? I don’t know. They didn’t have inductive certainty charts back then (like the one I left). But like I said, they probably didn’t think they were being lied to. Given the Apostles were Jewish, they were familiar with the principles of the Torah. As Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology notes, the biblical concept of testimony or witness is closely allied with the conventional Old Testament legal sense of testimony given in a court of law. Its validity consists in certifiable, objective facts. In both Testaments, it appears as the primary standard for establishing and testing truth claims. Uncertifiable subjective claims, opinions, and beliefs, on the contrary, appear in Scripture as inadmissible testimony. Even the testimony of one witness is insufficient—for testimony to be acceptable, it must be established by two or three witnesses (Deut 19:15). It can also be observed that the emphasis on eyewitness testimony was carried on through the early church.

        I looked the link you left here: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/faith

        It says:

        1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something: ‘this restores one’s faith in politicians’

        2. Strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof.

        The #1 here is closer to the Biblical definition.

        #2 is nowhere to be found. The Apostle Paul used the idea of forensic evidence in his speech given in Athens. In Acts 17:31 Paul was speaking to the pagan leaders of this major Greek city. He said, “For he [God] has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man [Jesus] he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” The original Greek word “faith” means “firm persuasion,” or “a conviction based upon hearing.” This carries the meaning of forensic evidence, which is the kind of evidence used in a court of law

        The “proof” Paul referred to was the kind of testimony or facts presented during a court trial. He is saying that the evidence for Jesus rising from the dead is the same sort of evidence used to convince the jury of the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

        My entire point (as I said before), is that atheists don’t know what they mean by evidence for God. They tend to say something like empirical or scientific evidence. And then they say “well, you cant give that to me, so you have faith, and there’s no proof.” That is just overly simplistic and results from a bad epistemology. As I said, I already talked about it here: https://chab123.wordpress.com/2014/02/26/a-look-at-evidence-we-want-and-evidence-we-should-expect/

        For example:

        What about Hebrews 11:1?

        “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

        I hear skeptics quote this passage to support the view that faith is blind and not supported by any evidence. Is this correct?

        First, don’t quote this verse out of context. It has to be read in light of the rest of the chapter.

        Second, we need to know how the verse and chapter fits in the overall context of the the book of Hebrews.

        Most of the time this passage is laid out by skeptics in the following way:

        1. If we can’t see God, God does not exist.
        2. We can’t see God
        3. Therefore, God does not exist.

        What is wrong with this argument?

        It must also be remembered to insist that God must be a visible object which can be observed with the five senses is to commit a category mistake. A category mistake is to assign to something a property which applies only to objects of another category. We must not confuse two categories- the made and the Unmade. Obviously, from the Orthodox Christian view, God has no composition. The Hebrew word for one is “echad” which leaves room for a plurality within a unity of substance- but there is no implication of a plurality of beings or parts within a being. Scripture admonishes mankind about making any physical image of God (Exodus 20:4). God is pure spirit ( John 4:24). He has no parts and is an immaterial Being. Hence, the God of the Bible is unmade.

        That is why we have to observe the effects in the world and make rational inferences as to what the cause is of the effect. So while it is true that God is not a material object, we can observe the effects in the world and ask whether they can be explained by a blind, undirected natural processes or intelligence. By the way, this is similar to what Paul says in Rom.1:18-21. We see that Paul lays out the basic principle of cause and effect. Paul says since God is the Designer (God is the cause), His “everlasting power and divinity” are obvious, “through the things that are made” (this is the effect).

  8. Ed Atkinson September 20, 2014 / 2:33 pm

    Thanks Chab. I take it that you copied and pasted the Heb 11:1 discussion from an earlier post because you did not think I’d answered it fully. So OK. Most of what you say is sensible, but firstly it does assume that the verse is about faith in God (who can’t be seen) when in fact it refers to ‘things hoped for’. So it is not about faith in God. Some of the ‘things hoped for’ later in the chapter can be seen physically, such as a son to an old couple. The NIV has ‘what we hope for’ instead, note that it is not ‘who we hope for’.

    Secondly you seem to be saying that both “faith is ………the conviction of things not seen” and also that reason is the conviction of things not seen (my understanding of your last paragraph), so faith and reason are the same. Surely not. The ultimate faith that moves mountains is just good reasoning ? (1Cor13) … in fact when Jesus speaks of this a mustard seed of faith is sufficient .. is that a tiny parcel of reasoning?

    Using the context of Heb11 as you suggest, v6 “ And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” It does not say “..must have used good reasoning to know that he exists and …” What I am claiming is that reasoning (and religious experience etc) can take a believer so far, but then faith finishes the job. Many characters in Heb 11 could not have had full confidence just by reason and experience, for example Rahab who believed the spies based on nothing much … except faith.

    OK that’s the Heb 11 material. On the resurrection appearances, that is not relevant here. I will reply separately (probably on that blog page). Next, thanks for responding to my request for an account of how the listeners to the apostles viewed the evidence. From what you say the best level we could put their certainty in the resurrection would be (using your scale from the above post here) : “c. Probable: Means there is sufficient evidence in its favor (Paul wrote Galatians and 1 Corinthians)” . As you know, I am claiming that they needed faith to give them sufficient certainty to live as Christians and face possible persecution etc. When Paul writes to them about living by faith not sight, about being given the measure of faith, etc that is what he is talking about. That is the context. It all works without contorted reasoning. It results in something very like the second dictionary definition of faith, the one that they use for religion.

    Finally you have not yet responded on the quote from your other blog that uses my definition of faith. I’d appreciate it if you did.

    • chab123 September 20, 2014 / 4:56 pm

      Ed, Can you post the link again about the question where you think I am not answering.

      Also, I never said those that heard the apostles testimony didn’t need faith. But that doesn’t mean that the second definition the dictionary gave about proof is what they had.

      As I say again:

      The Greek word behind “faith” in the NT is pistis. As a noun, pistis is a word that was used as a technical rhetorical term for forensic proof.

      Examples of this usage are found in the works of Aristotle and Quintiallian, and in the NT in Acts 17:31:

      Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

      This is really a matter of defining words. Proof to many atheists means something they have absolute certainty for or something that can be verified with your five senses. That’s why I prefer giving reasons or evidence for what I think is true. Not proof!

      The Hebrews 11 text- there is a reason we can’t see God directly.

      The skeptic constantly assumes that if they could just see God directly or if God would give them an unmistakable sign that He is there, they would bow their knee and follow Him. Sadly, this is misguided on several levels. God declares, “You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). However, there seems to be other texts that indicate people did see God. Even in Exodus 33:11 Moses speaks to God “face to face.” Obviously, “face to face” is a figure of speech which means they were in close communion or conversation.

      Also, in Genesis 32:30, Jacob saw God appearing as an angel. But he did not truly see God. In Genesis 18:1, it says the Lord appeared to Abraham. Obviously, there are other cases where God appears in various forms. But this is not the same thing as seeing God directly with all His glory and holiness. It is evident that people can’t see God in all His fullness (Exodus 33:20). For if they did, they would be destroyed. One of the most important themes of the Bible is that since God is free and personal, that he acts on behalf of those whom he loves, and that his actions includes already within history, a partial disclosure of his nature, attributes, and intensions. Revelation is a disclosure of something that has been hidden– an “uncovering,” or “unveiling.” There are three things are needed for a revelation to take place: God, a medium, and a being able to receive the revelation.

      Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God and he shows the world who God is (Heb. 1:1).

      • Ed Atkinson September 21, 2014 / 12:43 am

        Hi. I’m getting a bit frustrated. Do you read my posts? I explained how I agree with you about not seeing God ourselves, but most of your reply is how silly us sceptics/atheists are in expecting to see him.

        You say “Also, I never said those that heard the apostles testimony didn’t need faith. But that doesn’t mean that the second definition the dictionary gave about proof is what they had.” That doesn’t make sense. If they needed faith because reason etc was not sufficient, what else is there but the faith “based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof” of the dictionary definition you reject?

        On your point that the word for faith “was used as a technical rhetorical term for forensic proof.” Technical or legal jargon words in English have quite different meanings to their normal usage, eg ‘charge’ as in ‘charges register’.

        You asked “Can you post the link again about the question where you think I am not answering.” Here is the chain I am seeking a response:

        You gave the link: https://chab123.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/did-the-disciples-lie-about-jesus-resurrection/

        I picked you up on it as follows:
        Now I want to quote from the first link you gave: “For all of these reasons and others, no serious scholar today believes that the resurrection story is a lie—the result of a conspiracy among the apostles. It would take too much faith to believe that.” It winds me up when apologist keep changing the definition of faith to suit their purposes. This apologist author is defining faith in exactly the way atheists do in the poll here.

        Then in my next post:
        Please also respond to where I quote one of your blog articles which takes the atheist’s view of faith. I feel I have been responding to your requests and questions, but I don’t get a response to my points.

        Then in the next:
        Finally you have not yet responded on the quote from your other blog that uses my definition of faith. I’d appreciate it if you did.

      • chab123 September 21, 2014 / 2:14 am

        Ed,

        I am sorry if you think I am not answering your questions. I certainly don’t set out to do that.

        Honestly, this is a getting a bit confusing. So I will try to wrap it up in here and if you are left not satisfied, I can’t do a lot else.

        1. I gave you the definition of Biblical faith.

        2. I read the link on the dictionary definition of faith and responded to it.

        3. I looked again at the original blog post here and how both atheists and Christians define faith. I said that Christians don’t think that when they use the word faith they are not saying anything that is not supported by evidence. We went over all the issues of certainty ,etc. I know atheists think that Christians are using the word “faith” and when they use it, it is not supported by evidence. But this is inaccurate because I as a Christian can give all kinds of evidences for Christianity. But the key is the word “evidence.” What is it?

        Atheists try to say evidence has to be something which they can test and then they assume un we can provide evidence that is on that level, then Christians have faith which is based on no evidence. And remember, the apostles approach to spreading the message of the Gospel is characterized by such terms as “apologeomai/apologia” which means “to give reasons, make a legal defense” (Acts 26:2; 2 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet 3:15); “dialegomai” which means “to reason, speak boldly” (Acts 17:2; 17; 18:4; 19:8), “peíthō” which means to persuade, argue persuasively” (Acts 18:4; 19:8), and “bebaioō ” which means “to confirm, establish,” (Phil 1:7; Heb. 2:3).

        What is the point? I said the first apostles that wrote the NT became followers of Jesus based on what they believed was evidence- Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy (that is evidence), and his resurrection (that is evidence).
        For a prophecy to be predictive it must meet the following criteria:
        1. A biblical text clearly envisions the sort of event alleged to be the fulfillment.
        2. The prophecy was made well in advance of the event that was predicted.
        3. The prediction actually came true.
        4. The event predicted could not have been staged but anyone but God.

        As for those that followed the apostles based on their testimony, remember testimonial evidence is a form of evidence. I have yet to see you or anyone else give me any good reasons that their testimony was based on a lie. Let’s look at the use of reason here:

        “As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead.” Acts 17: 2-3.

        The text goes on to say: “Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and quite a few prominent women.”- Acts 17: 4.

        These Jews probably used some reason here. They had to use their critical thinking skills. Did they have absolute certainty that Jesus died and rose? Paul was using Old Testament prophecy here. So they didn’t need to see Jesus rise with their own eyes.

        I could cite all the other texts where the first followers of Jesus evangelized.

        I don’t know what your question is Ed. I said in the original post, the survey said atheists think that Christians are using the word “faith” and when they use it, it is not supported by evidence. I have shown over and over that this is incorrect.

        Does that mean there is no faith involved at all? No, I didn’t say that as well. But the object of my faith is God/Jesus and it is supported by reasons/evidence.

        I have come to the conclusion that when people attempt to discuss the evidence for the existence of God we must remember these five issues:

        1. Proofs are person-relative. While one proof may be a home run for one person it may result in little more than contempt for someone else. Whenever an individual evaluates the evidence for the existence of God, it must be acknowledged that a person’s response to an argument will always be influenced by his/her past and present personal history.

        2. An individual’s presuppositions play a large role in how they evaluate the evidence for God. A presupposition is something assumed or supposed in advance. If someone presupposes that God must not exist or that miracles are not possible, in many cases they will seek out evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and dismiss evidence that might challenge or overturn their position. Likewise, if someone presupposes that God does exist, they will seek evidence to support such a claim as well. This does not mean there is no objectivity involved here. But in many cases, we can’t avoid presuppositions. They are not going away!

        3. Humans are not only intellectual beings, but emotional and volitional (involving the will) creatures as well. Hence, it is folly to divorce the objective and subjective nature of evaluating the evidence for God’s existence.

        4. If the God of the Bible does exist (and I am not dealing with evidence and arguments here), we can’t overlook the fact that sin and a hardened heart can dampen a person’s receptivity to the evidence that is already available to them.

        5. Some people have not had the time to develop their intellectual virtues to the place where they are in a position to understand and evaluate the evidence for the existence of God. This does not mean some people are stupid and some people are just really smart! The reality is that many people don’t have the time or resources that is needed to evaluate the arguments for and against the existence of God. I am not advocating laziness! But in reality, does someone need to master philosophy, theology, history, science, or linguistics to find a relationship with God? No!

        I think we maybe have taken this as far as we can. Sorry for any confusion. I wish you well.

  9. Ed Atkinson September 21, 2014 / 9:07 am

    Great Chab, thanks for the final statement. I’ll do my summary here and then I guess we are done. It’s been good to engage.

    I have been giving the case for faith being defined as “believing something even though it is not supported by the evidence”, which was the wording used in the poll. I have added some nuance by agreeing the Christians do feel they have evidence, but that it only takes them part way and it is faith that completes the task. I feel that you agree with me on this point: there is evidence, but not enough. (Your 5 points in your last post are good sensible stuff and agree with this too).

    My next point has been that the original readers of the letters and gospels in the NT had less evidence, especially for the resurrection, and so really did need faith. Again I feel you agreed.

    When I tried to close the deal and show that the need to add to the evidence, to go beyond it, meant my definition of faith applied, you denied that final step, but I maintain that did not say why. You just claim that it is not the Biblical definition of faith.

    I have given several verses that make sense only when my definition of faith is assumed, and you have only engaged with me regarding one, Heb11:1. Your response there has been ‘we can’t see God’, which I feel is not relevant. On the other verses you have only replied with ‘take them in context’ but have given no arguments why the straight-up meaning should be ignored. I’ll give one verse again here

    Romans 12:3 “……….. think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” Note the source of faith is God and not reason, evidence, experience etc.

    Several verses show faith as coming from God and not generated within. In the absence of getting even a slight answer from you as to why all these NT verses can somehow suggest faith is solely based on evidence etc, I can now confidently maintain that in the NT faith generally means confidence in God beyond the evidence.

    Finally I quoted your own website where my definition of faith is used. (“It would take too much faith to believe that.”) You have still not responded to this point despite three follow-up requests that you should. This is now the 5th time I have had to mention it. Your silence concedes the point to me.

    Thus when all is considered it is abundantly clear that faith does mean believing beyond what evidence can give, and dictionary definitions agree with this for the religious context.

    I rest my case.

    I wish you well too. I really hope we continue the resurrection exchange – you wrote a long quality blog, I have responded on it regarding where I see things differently and now I await replies to my points.

    • chab123 September 21, 2014 / 1:22 pm

      Okay Ed, sounds good. I still don’t think we are in agreement on everything and I think we are still talking past each other on a couple of issues. But other than that, thanks again. I wish you well.

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