The Light of Faith

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March 21, 2010 Tags: Worship & Arts

Today's entry was written by the BioLogos Editorial Team. You can read more about what we believe here.

The Light of Faith

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. - C.S. Lewis

Alister McGrath, Professor of Theology at King’s College, London, expands upon Lewis’s quote in the introduction of his 2004 book Creation :

These words help us understand why faith in God is so important to seeing and understanding the world, and our place within it…Neither the world, nor we ourselves, are accidental or pointless. Nor do we simply inhabit God’s creation as if we could be indifferent to its beauty.

As Christians, we believe the orderliness and consistency of God’s world are the foundations for the success of the natural sciences. In turn, the exquisite beauty of Creation, brought to light by the methods of science, gives us an expanded view of God’s character and leads us to praise.


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Dan Lioy - #7284

March 21st 2010

Just to clarify, it is important not to make the notion of “faith” a vague, ill-defined, end in itself. Faith always has an object. For believers, it is the triune Creator-King of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.

In this regard, Hebrews 11:6 declares that a basic starting point for faith is believing that God exists. And, according to verse 3, a related belief is that He formed the universe by means of His powerful command (regardless of whether, from a modern-day scientific viewpoint, the process of creation involved evolution).

To put an even finer point on the above, Christianity asserts that it was through the divine-human Word, Jesus of Nazareth, that all things were made (John 1:3). This includes everything throughout the cosmos, whether visible or invisible (Col. 1:16). Indeed, He sustains all things by means of His powerful word (Heb. 1:3), including, it would seem, the eons-long process of evolution.


Kathryn - #7287

March 21st 2010

Amen, Dan.  I think Lewis’s quote and McGrath’s commentary point to the power of the Christian worldview to make sense of the world, not to some squishy faith-in-whatever-you-want.  Certainly by common grace non-believers can discover and know truth about our world, but faith *informed by Christian theology* is what allows us to make sense of all things.  God himself is the starting point: “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10).


Karl A - #7310

March 22nd 2010

It seems appropriate to mention a bit of my story again, in case it is helpful to someone. 

I became convinced I couldn’t anymore deny the reality of evolution and common descent after years of reading articles and books on the subject by non-Christians (as far as I knew anyway).  This was a reluctant change in mind after holding to young-earth, then old-earth creationist positions.  When I finally came to this position, I felt real grief, because I assumed that meant I was concurrently being forced to abandon any teleological (purposeful) understanding of the universe.  So a flower was no longer a “love letter” of beauty from God, it was just an artifact of unthinking, unfeeling, unloving evolutionary processes.  When I was introduced to Francis Collins’ book and later BioLogos, it began to dawn on me that accepting evolution and God’s purposes in creation are not necessarily mutually exclusive.  For that I rejoice, and am again receiving God’s love letters!

Thanks, BioLogos, for getting the good word out.


Douglas S - #7311

March 22nd 2010

With a bit of trepidation, I too will add to the Lewis quote - “Even if my eyes are closed, or if I am blind, I know the Sun has risen because I can feel it on my face.”


Charlie - #7319

March 22nd 2010

I think this is the main problem, everyone has their own personal definition of faith.  Seeing the sun, feeling it on your face - that is direct observation and evidence.  I always thought faith in something was independent of evidence.  If not, how do you distinguish faith from science?


Douglas S - #7327

March 22nd 2010

Charlie - you make a good point, but I do not see it as a problem.  I believe that faith is ultimately an individual endeavor whereas science is necessarily communal.  For example, nearly everyone accepts the current model for the structure and function of DNA, but among people who identify themselves as Christian, there will always be varied, and perhaps idiotypic, understanding of the spirit of God.  As someone said - “There are no final proofs for the existence of God; only witnesses.”  My students have to accept the definition that I give to them for neoplasia, but no one has to accept my understanding of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.


pds - #7332

March 22nd 2010

Charlie,

It is question of how certain you can be based only on the evidence.  Acting without complete certainty requires “faith”:

CS Lewis:

Now just the same thing happens about Christianity. I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of the evidence is against it. That is not the point at which Faith comes in. But supposing a man’s reason once decides that the weight of the evidence is for it. I can tell that man what is going to happen to him in the next few weeks. There will come a moment when there is bad news, or he is in trouble, or is living among a lot of other people who do not believe it, and all at once his emotions will rise up and carry out a sort of blitz on his belief. Or else there will come a moment when he wants a woman, or wants to tell a lie, or feels very pleased with himself, or sees a chance of making a little money in some way that is not perfectly fair: some moment, in fact, at which it would be very convenient if Christianity were not true.


pds - #7333

March 22nd 2010

cont.

And once again his wishes and desires will carry out a blitz. I am not talking of moments at which any real new reasons against Christianity turn up. Those have to be faced and that is a different matter. I am talking about moments where a mere mood rises up against it.

Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.

More here:

http://merelewis.com/CSL.mc.3-11.Faith.htm


Charlie - #7353

March 22nd 2010

pds,

There is no such thing as complete certainty.  The more evidence, the more likely something is to be the truth.  That’s why evolution (along with every other conclusion we consider to be fact) is just a theory.  If there is a little evidence to support a conclusion and no evidence to refute it, then that explanation is our best one so far.

Faith, however, needs to be defined as a belief independent of evidence, that’s what distinguishes faith and science.  If you think faith is required for instances where there is not complete certainty, then your definition means we have faith in everything (I have faith that the sky is blue, I have faith that the earth revolves around the sun, etc).  I don’t think this definition of faith is really practical as it cannot distinguish a belief supported by, unsupported by, or refuted by evidence.


John VanZwieten - #7421

March 23rd 2010

Charlie,

The only reason to demand that faith “be defined as a belief independent of evidence” is to support a polemic against faith—and particularly religious faith.  That is the purpose of the rationalists who insisted on a dichotomy between faith and evidence.

You exhibit faith (belief & trust w/o certainty) all the time in your own life.  Every time you accelerate your car to 60 miles an hour you show your faith that the cars breaking mechanism will be able to slow you down.  As you well know, it’s not a 100% certainty that the breaks will work, yet you still entrust your life to the vehicle.

Just look what has happened to Toyota owners.  All of a sudden their faith in their vehicles has been shaken, and many of them worry about driving even though the chance of unintended acceleration is actually very small.

That you have faith in something (or not) says nothing about whether your belief is “supported by, unsupported by, or refuted by evidence.”  It only speaks about your commitment to that belief.


Charlie - #7448

March 23rd 2010

There is plenty of evidence to support the notion that the car brakes will work: direct observation of the brakes working yesterday, other cars of the same model have functional brakes, etc.  Yes it is not 100% certain.  Please tell me anything that is 100% certain.  From what it sounds like, your definition of faith is just believing something.  If that’s your definition then fine.  I’m just saying that definition is personalized to mean something different than what dictionary.com’s definition is.

Again, your definition means we have faith in everything (I have faith that the sky is blue, I have faith that the earth revolves around the sun, etc).  I don’t think this definition of faith is really practical as it cannot distinguish a belief supported by, unsupported by, or refuted by evidence.


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