What is Faith?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Definitions of Terms

Blind faith – This could also be described as a “leap of faith” this is a decision to believe in a person or proposition with “absolute” faith. It is an act of will to choose a set of propositions as the basis of all thought and reality. It is a determination to insist that all of reality conforms to these propositions.

It is this kind of faith that Richard Dawkins ridicules. A faith that thrives on a lack of evidence and glories even in facts that contradict its claims. It can fly in the teeth of evidence and the more evidence it overcomes, the more facts it casts into the rubbish bin the greater and stronger it is.

I have called this kind of faith stupid folly. I do not believe it is Christian faith at all and I am convinced that “faith” is the wrong word for it.
(N.B. I do not regard Christian’s [the commenter] faith as stupid folly! He calls it blind faith but I don’t. I believe that he has real evidence for his beliefs. We are thinking of “blind faith” in very different ways.)

This view of faith has also been called fideism from the Latin fiducia "to trust". Søren Kierkegaard is the father figure of this type of thinking in Christianity.

Faith- It is not so much a rational decision, as it is a rejection of rationality in favour of something more uncanny, that is, faith.

Absolute faith- This is 100% conviction- absolute certainty –Complete confidence, complete absence of any doubts whatsoever. This is also called complete faith. Partial faith is faith that is mixed with a greater or lesser amount of doubt. It can be negative or positive. In other words some made be certain that a proposition is true others may be certain that it is false. These will have 100% faith positive and negative respectively. There will be a spectrum in between.

Saving faith – In Christianity faith in the Word of God is the means of salvation. Those who have saving faith are those who are forgiven and have access to heaven when they die. (I do not consider that saving faith is either blind faith OR necessarily absolute faith. There is lots of evidence from the bible of people who had saving faith but were subject to serious trouble with all kinds of doubts and problems.)

Well grounded faith - Situations where our convictions are based upon good and convincing evidence.


Blogger Lifewish said...

Where would you say the dividing line is between blind faith and its converse? It's obvious that faith that's completely unsupported by anything is blind, and that faith that's supported by a vast weight of evidence isn't. But where do the fuzzy bits in the middle fall?

Take enough hallucinogens and you'll apparently be presented with evidence that a vast range of improbable entities (purple flying elephants etc) exist. If you accept their existence, is that blind faith? See a girl smile at you and you may have a sudden strong feeling that she likes you. Is that blind faith? Buy a scratchcard and you may have a sudden strong gut feeling as to which panels you should scratch. Is this blind faith?

Personally I'd say that faith is blind when there's no rational reason to think that it necessarily correlates with reality. Any thoughts?

By this definition, belief purely because the Bible says so would be verging on the blind because we have plenty of old books claiming to portray miraculous events, and obviously they can't all be right. Belief on the basis of what one feels in one's heart would definitely be blind unless you have any good reason to think that your heart is an accurate instrument in these circumstances.

While we're at it, what's the best word for non-blind faith?

6:43 PM  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

You said:
"Personally I'd say that faith is blind when there's no rational reason to think that it necessarily correlates with reality. Any thoughts?"

I agree.

12:04 AM  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

But where do the fuzzy bits in the middle fall?

We tend to try to follow the balance of our perception of the weight of the evidence. But this is where background thinking plays a huge part. Our general worldview thinking will affect us here.

We tend to act "provisionally" - "I'll assume that is true until there is convincing proof otherwise."

We live our lives with varying degrees of painful doubt. Science has been a wonderful way of moving many issues from the fuzzy middle to well grounded faith.

12:09 AM  
Blogger Lifewish said...

I'm going to go a bit off-topic for this blog:

1) What aspects of science is it that you feel give it this ability to home in on the most well-grounded solutions?

2) Why don't you feel those aspects are present in evolutionary biology?

10:28 AM  
Anonymous breathe said...

Lifewish - "belief purely because the Bible says so would be verging on the blind"

unless the Bible's words were constantly being proved to be true.

3:53 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home