Blind Faith Debunked

Commentary on God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... the place where I discuss the thinking that went into this article.)

Skeptics use term “blind faith” as a pejorative, and when they do, it is often aimed at Christians. Now, I’ll agree that all faith is somewhat blind… although that is less than half the story. Faith is also — and necessarily — informed. If it weren’t, then the very concept of faith would be absurd.

This places natural limits on faith's “blindness,” and those who accuse believers of exercising blind faith make their arguments void by ignoring those limits.

Let me commend any skeptics who are visiting this site today. I’m impressed because many people are quick to pick up a phrase to reiterate other people’s complaints about God. But relatively few are willing to do the work of thinking through the arguments for themselves… and I appreciate your diligence.

But if you’ve been dismissing God on the grounds that Christians exercise blind faith, and that you — as a person who does your own thinking — are only interested in the empirical, then you’ve been had… and by a cliché, no less. God calls people to an informed faith, not to a blind one (Isaiah 1:18).

But doesn’t having faith mean that you believe in the non-evidential… sort of by definition? No… and that’s a common error. Faith is object based. So, without something to place your faith in, the concept has no logical standing. Yet, people use the phrase blind faith all the time — like they’ve discovered something profound! ... but it’s a senseless concept.

Think of faith as a handshake. A handshake requires two people — a shaker and a shakee. If the shaker is there with his hand out but the shakee doesn’t show up, you do not have half of a handshake. You have no handshake. Faith works the same way. There is no faith without an object to take its focus just as there is no handshake without another hand to grasp.

Now, the phrase blind faith is in common use, and as such, it is syntactically valid. But many illogical statements are — and you’ll find them all in the dictionary! This is because dictionaries do not police the logic behind language; they just report on its usage. So, no alarm goes off when a term is not sensible  and that’s what we have with blind faith. That phrase has no meaning beyond being an insult. Therefore, it is inflammatory and not probative.

You see, real faith is logical… and it shows up in surprising places. Now, the fact that Christians have faith in God should come as no surprise. But atheists have just as much faith as we do. They have faith that God does not exist — and here's the thing: the postulation God does not exist is no different than the postulation God does exist. They are both statements of faith about what might or might not be true in an extra-physical dimension.

But since science is limited by the methodological constraints of the scientific method, it can only explore the physical universe. Therefore, science cannot speak to conditions outside of that sphere… scientifically... so, whether or not God exists is off the table. That’s the job of philosophy.

I realize that many leading scientists defend anti-theistic theories, though… so the natural question is, don’t they speak for science when they do this?

No. There’s a difference between what science does and what scientists say. So, when even the most highly credentialed scientists say (or imply) that God does not exist, they are not making scientific statements. These statements are outside of their disciplines.

If your washing machine broke, who would you rather listen to about how to fix it? A biochemist Ph.D. or an appliance repair technician? Now, the biochemist has a doctorate… so he'd be bright enough for the task... but he doesn't have that doctorate in appliance repair. So, here's the question: would his credentials cross over into appliance repair?

No. Credentials do not cross over, so a doctorate only applies to its field. Now, if he happened also be good at fixing appliances, then good for him! But that would be an incidental skill... but one not related to his Ph.D. It works that way across the higher disciplines, too  and especially with philosophy.

In the USA, this doctor of biochemistry would have the right to speak on any topic — and this includes whether or not an extra-physical entity exists. But when he is not speaking about the physical aspects of biochemistry, he would be speaking as an amateur, not as a doctor of philosophy.

The science we see in books, periodicals and on TV is popular science… and this is primarily entertainment. So, here’s what we’re up against: no one — and I mean no one — is motivated to alienate their audience. So the entertainment industry hires some winsome scientists to pitch a naturalist religion … but they do it against the backdrop of the newest sciency-looking graphics. And, since there is a scientist at the helm, the public assumes they are learning science.

Now, I’m not calling the data or scientific methodology into question. But I do challenge their conclusions about non-physical reality. When Carl Sagan said back in 1980, “The Cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be” (Cosmos), he was not doing data analysis. He was saying that nothing exists outside of the universe (implying the universe had no cause)… which was a statement of philosophy, not astronomy.

I find it unconscionable that scientifically credentialed people attach physicalist philosophies to their presentations as if they were the conclusion of science. Today’s scientific consensus is that the universe did indeed have, not only a beginning but a transcendent cause! This reverses Sagan’s dated assertion… although much damage remains. This is why I call upon people to do their own thinking… I mean… why listen to what an astronomer has to say about theology? The trick is to do your thinking on this side of the empirical border.

In addition to scientific considerations, we should look at a philosophical one before moving on. Is the non-existence of God a “properly basic” understanding of life? … because some things are just assumed to so and not proven.

For example, we perceive ourselves as living a real life in real time… and we run with that. But it is possible that we are all plugged into the Matrix (as in the movie) — and that our brains are being stimulated in such a way that we only perceive ourselves as having a real life.

We cannot know which is true because we cannot prove the case either way… although it’s fun to speculate! But here’s the thing: nobody lives as if the Matrix were true — and that is the test. So, is it a properly basic understanding that God does not exist? Let’s explore.

In 2015 about 80% of the world’s population identified as being religious. This tells us that it is neither obvious nor the consensus that some sort of god — or at least some sort of metaphysical reality — does not exist. If anything, believing in extra-physical realities would be a properly basic understanding of life.

Therefore, since the methodological limits of science prevent it from giving any evidential warrant, and since a majority of the world’s population testify that there is no experiential warrant, affirming that no God exists is a statement of faith… and a minority statement of faith at that… and with that in place, we can go back to discussing blind faith directly.

You have a worldview; everyone does. So, what would you say to me if I dismissed your worldview on the grounds that it required me to exercise dark light? Well, you could accuse me of setting up a false dilemma. You could say that, since dark light does not exist, it can’t affect anything… let alone your worldview!

But what if the phrase dark light caught on so well that the general population thought that it was a real thing? The same objection would hold: since dark light only existed as a public perception and not as a fact, it doesn’t matter what people say about it. A thing is either true or it is not… right?

If it were only that simple! What people think is true would have changed… and that’s nearly impossible to undo.

Dark light is an exact parallel to blind faith. Blind faith simply does not exist. Therefore, it is not an element of true Christianity. But some of the world’s most popular scientists object to Christianity on the grounds that it requires blind faith… and we know that’s an invalid objection because it’s based on a false premise!

But this type of thing is lost among the general public… and this is why we assume nothing! The general notions about Christianity are often different from God’s notions about Christianity. So, due diligence is required.

But note this well about dark light: if heaven and hell were in the balance here, I’d be running the risk of consigning myself to hell for not doing first things first — by not making sure that I understood the terms under discussion. This is everyone’s first responsibility when parsing another person’s thoughts — even if they think that they understand the terms.

Now, there is a good chance that people would check out a new term like dark light, but they would be much less inclined to investigate a term like blind faith…. because blind faith has the power of a cliché.

When a phrase reaches cliché status, people feel good about that familiar old friend. So they use it as a placeholder for thinking. And since a cliché is (by definition) a phrase that has lost its vitality, it gratefully accepts meaning from the outside. But… and by definition… faith is never blind. So, not only is the term blind faith nonsense, it blocks critical thinking…. and its use by people who should know better is cowardly.

A person who slips false information into an argument by switching or morphing terms, or who does so by hiding the full contextual understanding of a term, is guilty of equivocation. This makes their argument invalid… but it is also a sneaky behavior… and if something is sneaky, you should find out who’s doing the sneaking.

So ask yourself, who would benefit when a great multitude wrongly assumes that faith is definitively non-empirical? People like the New Atheists. As promoters of Materialist Atheism, they have faith in but no proof of the non-existence of God — and note this well: this is a philosophical stand, not a scientific one.

Now, here’s the irony… and I hope it makes you mad. The notion of blind faith is a ruse… but who does this ruse target? People who see themselves as thinking people! So, if you’ve been side-stepping God on the grounds that he requires blind faith from you, then you’ve been had. You’ve been tricked into validating a meaningless term, steered into making it pejorative and talked into applying a label to a category of people who, by their sheer numbers and variety, makes categorical statements untenable.

By way of comparison, real faith can never be blind because faith requires a focus. As such, the term blind faith cannot be true as it is commonly understood… as if placing the qualifying word “blind” before the word “faith” redefines faith as object-phobic… but nothing’s further from the truth. Faith is object-dependent.

Let’s pause to evaluate now… because this is no common equivocation: the world has accomplished a full reversal of the meaning of faith! Christians understand that faith is not blind — neither by definition nor by experience. Yet faith’s detractors call it a gap filler — a way of dealing with life until science can save us from our self-imposed ignorance.

But unless one hand clapping does make a sound, this is wrongheaded. God wants us to learn as much as we can about anything and everything. Faith is working with the data to rest in God’s provision while we learn more about him. Therefore, faith never encourages ignorance… and if something is doing that, it might be fideism… but it’s not biblical faith.

Unfortunately, this is not faith’s only challenge. Many say that we are in a post-truth age where people see all knowledge as relative — or even better — that nothing is actually knowable… or even worse… that how you feel is more important than what you do or what is objectively true. But common sense tells us the objects are knowable things… or else we wouldn’t even be having this talk, right?

Now, in a world of knowable things, the state of having more knowledge about an object is greater than the state of having less knowledge about the same object. So the more knowledge you have about the object of your faith, the greater your faith! Isn’t that quite a turnaround?

So, if the Bible knows nothing of blind faith… nor does logic, science or philosophy… who does? I’m not sure… but don’t let it be you. As for me, I insist that the facts inform my faith, not the gaps. This is why I fear no data. But how about you? What are you afraid of?

To you believers, I realize that some of you have bought into anti-intellectualism. Drop that stuff! You insult God by not learning everything that you can about everything. God wants us to engage this creation with all our minds as well as our hearts. We were put here as the stewards of creation and stewards have to know things… and since all truth is God’s truth, what would be the problem? Truth will never damage biblical faith.

To you skeptics, you probably came into this teaching assuming that faith opposes the empirical… and perhaps you’ve based that idea on the assumption that faith is blind. But I’ve given you a reasonable refutation of that last challenge. All I’m asking today is that you make up your own mind about things… because only a fool takes up another fool’s chant… and I have more respect for you than that.

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