March 5, 2007

The Problem with Faith

Do you know what the problem with faith is?

You can't prove it.

No matter how much evidence is acquired, you cannot possible provide enough of it to push belief beyond a shadow of a doubt; especially in spiritual things.

Last night, James Cameron's The Tomb of Jesus aired on the Discovery Channel. For those of you who have not heard (and are living under a rock!) a tomb was discovered several years ago with several mini-coffins that contain the bones of the deceased. Carved on them are the names of the person in the box. One says, "Jesus son of Joseph." Other names seem to indicate a "Mary" is also present. For some, this indicates that Jesus was not resurrected. For others, it proves that more than one person names Jesus lived in Jerusalem.

To be honest, I did not watch the show. I only saw a few minutes before deciding to watch something else. (I did see one expert say something like, "Either you believe that Jesus somehow magically ascended into heaven, or you are historical and realistic." No one said the documentary was unbiased.) Because of this, I will not make any comment on how well James Cameron did or did not prove his point. For more see Ben Witherington's post here.

What I want to point out is that people from all points of view will watch that documentary and look at the same evidence and it will prove their point. Each of us starts with an assumption. We either believe that Jesus is the Son of God come in human flesh and we see all that evidence in support of it. Or, we don't believe Jesus is the Son of God or that he resurrected, and we see all the evidence for that too. No amount of evidence seems to persuade either side to change their viewpoint.

The assumption that we start with is our point of Faith.

I think we all have faith. Even when we are trying to be objective, there are certain presuppositions that color the way we interpret the data from the evidence. If we believe there is no God or that Jesus was not resurrected, the evidence confirms that the bones are Jesus'. If we believe that Jesus was resurrected, then we do not even entertain the thought that the bones belong to Jesus. Even when trying to be objective...we are not.

If we believe the Bible is God's Word, then we believe that the words we have were inspired by and the message guarded by God through the Church. If we do not believe the Bible is God's Word, then we see all the possibilities for exploitation and addition or subtraction from the text.

The same thing happens with modern-day miracles. Either we believe prayer works and we see that someone's miraculous healing is a direct result of God's influence. Or, we don't believe prayer works, and there must be some explanation: the ability of the body to overcome and heal itself, some medicine, whatever.

I admit that I am a "prove it" kind of person. I want to see evidence, but I also have to realize that at some point, I have to put my faith in something. I have to believe in something. I also have to realize that my faith determines how I will view evidence.

I also think that we do a disservice to the faith if we constantly take it into the "Prove It" realm. If I try to weigh my faith propositions in an arena that does not allow for faith, I am already set up for failure.

We do this with science. We try to prove the Bible through the scientific method, but many scientists are able to dispute our evidence because they start with an assumption that EVERYTHING that is real is reproducible. Many start with an assumption that excludes the possibility of the divine. It is also hard to note when God uses a natural occurrence to accomplish His task when it is God and when it is a natural occurrence.

What changes a person's mind? I believe (here is one of my assumptions that God is working in our world through the Holy Spirit) that the Holy Spirit is the only one who can change a person's assumptions about the world. We can't CONVINCE a person of anything, but we can be the voice and take part in what God is doing.

What do you think? What role does faith play in how you evaluate the "evidence" of something?


  1. Hrm. I think that we are all programmed with biases, just purely from growing up in any type of society. Some consider faith, or the lack thereof a bias of its own. I find that at least in my life, I don't need as much faith as I did at one point... or maybe I just have so much now that I don't notice.

    I think that because of the way we are raised, we are raised to think logically, and make up our own minds about things. That alone flies in the face of faith. I'm pretty analytical about a lot of things... I like to search stuff out and figure out the bottom line... the truth in it... the problem with that is my mortal mind can't comprehend the vastness of what pure and total truth is. That is where my faith has to step in. I have to believe something purely because God says it IS.

    Anymore I just pray that God makes Himself known to each individual on a personal level. Learning to know the voice of God is most important, and then you learn in time to discern what is God's will, and just what purely IS.

    Sometimes though, you just have to believe that God is good because He said it (like when you don't really know if a disaster is something God is using).

    Seriously what changed my unbelieving mind? God Himself showed up. Without the possibility of the divine, we are nothing more than useless dust.

    Within ever man is this sense that they are called to something, to join something... to fellowship... and all of man spends their lives searching for it. Until they join with God, they are incomplete, and their minds will wander.

  2. Eric,

    This was great article brother. I wish that more people were able to see how much their faith plays into such topics. I have regular conversations with non-believers who want to argue based on scientific rationale. My point that true scientific methods have by its own definition no place for the supernatural seems to always get lost on them.

    Your belief system absolutely sits (noticed or unnoticed) as a foundation how you evaluate evidence. If you love Bush or hate Bush you are likely to view evidence for the war rather differently.

    For me, I grew up an agnostic who wished he could be an atheist. I came up with all kinds of arguments against the existence of God, but I couldn't deny something in my soul that said there was something else.

    At the age of 27 God took me through a season of life where He revealed Himself to me and all my 'intellectual' arguments fell by the wayside. My problem was with a heart that did not want to believe in God. I twisted, refuted and ignored evidence for years. My lack of belief was not because of enough evidence, but rather pride. At the core I did not want to be responsible to anyone else, and certainly not God.

    Well, in His grace He brought me around. And yes, I see things through the lens of faith in God now, but I also try to look at things objectively or from the perspective of someone who doesn't believe in God. It helps me understand where they are coming from and to witness to them.

    Blessings in your ministry.

  3. Jason,

    Thank you very much for stopping by, and thank you for commenting. I appreciate your candor about your conversion and how God spoke to you. Blessings on you.