Are faith and reason opposite ways of understanding the world?

Mitchell: I have a hard time keeping up with you, certainly my own failing. But I like following the way you think (and thanks for the link to your five beliefs), but I may need to some chew time before I get back to you!

I am not well read enough to know; did Einstien consider himself a theist?

Not in the more restrictive sense of the word. He stated very clearly that He did not believe in a personal God. So while he might have spoken of God like this was a person, it is was only a way of speaking. It is pretty clear that the only god he really believed in, was essentially the laws of nature for these are what he saw governing the universe. I doubt he had a systematic way of thinking about such things for the focus of his mind was very much on the work of science rather than religion. Though he did deny being an atheist and said once that he believed in the pantheist god of Spinoza. So he didn’t see religion as being without any value at all, but the following quote of him is particularly enlightening: “science without religion is lame , religion without science is blind.” Religious people often quote this backwards showing the fundamental difference in his thinking from theirs. For him, science not religion is the means of sight and knowing the truth, the role of religion in his thinking was more that of a motivator and link to action. For let us not forget that Einstein was not without criticism of science, for he saw and was even a part of the worst that it could do without a moral compass of some kind to guide the use of it.

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I would agree that there is no scientific evidence of the resurrection. However, I think asking for scientific evidence of a miracle doesn’t make sense simply because the scientific method assumes what one is studying has a natural cause. The scientific method can only take one so far. But analyzing the historical evidence of his resurrection, I believe, makes the resurrection much more likely than a natural explanation. However, that is not the topic so I won’t go into that now. My point is that nowhere in scripture does God want us to believe in something by “blind faith.” Rather, God on many occasions provided evidence to trust in him. Even today I think there is plenty of reasons to have faith.

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Evidence-based reason are based in faith:

  1. That it’s worthwhile to pursue knowledge.
  2. That evidence informs reason.
  3. That reason is trustworthy.
  4. That the universe can be reasonably understood.
  5. Etc.

None of these can actually be proven. We reach these conclusions, actually, no, we presume these presuppositions as a starting point via an intellectual leap.

But…but…but…faith is the opposite of any evidence based belief!

No, that’s an Enlightenment construct, a false dichotomy. “Faith” does not mean “blind belief.” It’s an informed intellectual leap.

So…in your pursuit of evidence-based reason (for which I applaud you), you are relying on foundational faith-based assumptions that you may have never questioned, but which you cannot prove nor for which you can provide evidence that is not circular.

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No, faith is an unprovable conclusion.

I cannot prove (to you, to myself, or to anyone else) that my wife loves me. But I have solid faith in both her love and…her faithfulness (the original words in the biblical language connote both “faith” and “faithful_ness_”). Of course, my faith in her and her love is both an intellectual leap (because it would be impossible to prove) and is based on years of evidence.

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Hi Thanos: I think first off, there is no need to suss out gradations of faith, as I mentioned to Shawn Murphy elsewhere. You’re either willing to accept a supernatural claim without proof or not.

That not withstanding, I think your claim about a miracle is confusing. A “miracle” is like any other phenomena, and should be addressed the same way - observe, question, hypothesis, test, measure, conclude.

To me “historical evidence” is no different than “evidence”.

Hi there fmiddel: As you might guess, I DON’T believe that evidence-based reason is based in faith. To your points:

That it’s worthwhile to pursue knowledge.
That’s a preference, not a statement of faith
That evidence informs reason.
I believe that
That reason is trustworthy.
I believe that
That the universe can be reasonably understood.
I believe that

But you say “none of these can actually be proven.” Seems to me that you could contruct a proof the “reason is trustworthy” though it would rely on reason (!!!)

As I read it, there is a super strong liklihood that your wife loves you. You could list a million ways in which she shows that. And you and I would conclude that she loves you. But COULD it be we are both wrong? yes. COULD it be that a vigin gave birth? no.

WRONG! A virgin not only can but HAS given birth. How? In vitro fertilization. I explained this to you before. It was inevitable that someone would try this eventually.

Ok, forget the virgin birth. Do you believe in ghosts and angels and demons?

I believe there is an irreducibly subjective aspect to reality. These things you speak of are definitely in that category along with a lot of other creatures of folk myths around the world. Therefore, although I have never had any experience to make such things real to me, I have no reason to doubt that others might have. I am, however, definitely biased against the possibility of there being any scientific evidence for any of them.

Theologically, angels make sense, so I am willing to credit that they do exist. But they are not real to me having no part of my actual experience of reality.

Well, that’s exactly it. Any proof would be entirely circular. All the things you acknowledge that you “believe” are expressions of…faith.

Yes. She could have married me for my money. Which would have been one of the biggest mistakes she ever would have made. Actually, the point is that there might be a whole lot of reasons she might be pretending to love me. She might not even be my wife!

Hello Loraxx,
Faith and reason are not opposite ways of understanding the world around us. They instead work hand in hand in deepening our understanding.

A merchant survives only because of his customers’ faith in him. A first time buyer does so on initial faith, on faith in the person that informed him of the merchant, or both. His faith is reinforced with satisfaction from the initial and subsequent purchases.

The merchant’s desire for our faith in him is based on his desire to build our trust by fulfilling our needs. God wants our faith for the same reason.

If the customer for some reason loses faith, he shuts himself off from the merchant’s products even though the merchant still survives to serve other customers as long as his business remains legitimate.

Where does reason enter the picture? Along with faith, need is one reason and a desire to support the merchant may be another.

Is there any such thing as a god? It’s impossible for a person not to have a god. Ones god is simply his ultimate master whose demands are to be met at all cost even at the expense of a second master’s demand made at the same time. That’s even true with those that claim that they believe in and serve no god. Even self can be ones god. Not only God of the Bible, but all gods demand no other god before them.

How do we know that God of the Bible exists? We know by faith similar to the faith we have in the merchant spoken of above.

The faith is in who or what? It is in a trusted informer and Him that sends the informer. Knowledge originates by what’s told by the informer and by what’s experienced. A person that burns his hand after being told not to touch a hot stove learns by experience that could have been prevented had he trusted the person that warned him. His burnt hand would be the consequences of (by choice) not having faith in the person that did the warning. At least the bad experience in this case was not fatal.

One may learn of the danger of a liar the same way as above and also learn discretion to judge which is which.

Is it reasonable or unreasonable to believe the truth of the virgin birth of Jesus, the great flood, or of a person being brought back to life as the Bible claims? Failure to believe these only reflects failure to believe that God is The supernatural Almighty that He claims to be and effectively demotes God to the status of frail humanity.

The Bible (do we choose to believe it?) informs that the universe around us is loud, obvious evidence of the reality of God (Romans 1:19-20) and thus makes it unreasonable for us not to believe. Failure to believe only robs us of the “merchant’s” product–ultimate fulfillment and the attainment of the true meaning of life.

I speak as a witness of the reality of God.

No one is perfect. Neither has anyone 100% of all knowledge. How then do we know that what’s given us will not later be disproved by what’s now unknown? How do we believe anyone that tells us anything if that’s the case?

Trust in absolute given knowledge is dependent on trust (faith) in the words of a person that knows 100% of all things. Only God meets that condition. He speaks Himself (to our conscience) and sends informers. How shall we use our freedom of choice whether to believe or not to believe?

Finally, what is science but a quest for deeper knowledge and understanding of what God created around us? Have we not through it learned of natural laws that govern nature? Science rightfully carried out only upholds God’s given truth.


Earl: compelling addition to the discussion. Its late where I am (Alaska) and I’ll ruminate on what you wrote and ask for your patience for my no doubt persuasive response!

Well, right fmiddel; who is that woman anyway!?! How do you know who she is? Call 911 if you’re unsure (just sayin).

And the question of “who am I?” is the core of just about everything human on this planet! Who am I to answer that?

We reason and use our God given intellect and senses to ‘make sense’ of the world, and history has shown that this has been an ongoing project for the human race, with many mistakes.

Faith is ‘the substance of things hoped for, our evidence of these things that we may not see with our senses’. To discuss faith we need to articulate those things that we hope for.

To correct our senseless mistakes, we turn to the scientific method.

I cannot see the sense in claiming these are opposites.

Hi GJDS: Humans make mistakes; check. Faith equals hope; check. Wait, what? Faith equals hope? Uh… Moving on… To “correct our senseless mistakes, we turn to the scientific method”. Yes! I’m with you! But wait, “I cannot see the sense in claiming these are opposites”. I am confused.

Hi Gunter,

I did not say faith=hope. We hope for love, peace, good health, and so on, and we may have faith that we may attain to these in some measure. So we can discuss and try to understand the what and how, of say peace amongst us, because we have faith that we can attain it, and indeed that we should seek it.