Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What is the difference between faith and blind faith?

I had an interesting discussion with someone on Facebook bout whether religion requires blind faith. I thought I would post it here as it brought out a distinction between reasonable and unreasonable "blind" faith.

Isn't it true that a belief in ANY religion only requires a kind of 'blind faith' of which proof and scientific evidence play little or no part?

Religion is normally a belief in things that are un-testable. For example, the divinity of Jesus or his resurrection. Its only when religions require belief in things which ARE testable that they require a faith which is blind to the evidence.

God (sorry about the pun) you're good Gordon H! Where does Christianity fit into the 'scheme-of-things' then, do you think?

It all depends how you define Christianity. If you mean the Apostles creed then that doesn't require blind faith. If you mean the statement of faith of many modern evangelical churches then they often do.

In the new testament faith does not exist in isolation as some kind of virtue - in the way many modern Christians depict it. Faith is closely linked to hope and to love. Faith in the resurrection leads to a hope for the future and a desire to love others as Christ has loved us. Which is why Christians seek to serve others who are less fortunate.

Interjection into the discussion by a young earth creationist:
Very good Graham see your talking about the faith of evolution.

Believing in young earth creationism requires blind faith, because you have to be blind to the observable evidence against it.


  1. You could start by defining faith as belief in a proposition for which there is no supporting evidence, e.g. that there’s an invisible, omniscient being who has a plan for my life even though I may never realise what that plan is or have any contact with the planner. Maybe we get nearer to defining blind faith when we encounter belief in propositions for which there is ample evidence to the contrary, e.g. that the earth is a mere 6,000 years old. However, I very much doubt that the YECs who say they believe this actually do believe it; the proposition is less important than the statement of belief. They aren’t really blind, but they don’t want to admit to their peers that they can still see because then they would be regarded as less faithful, and that would never do.

  2. This is because they define faith as agreeing to something because someone has presented a plausible legalistic argument why it must be true. This is how protestant preaching works:

    1. The minister stands in the pulpit in a legal costume complete with advocates white tabs.
    2. He presents an argument based on legal type argument and then asks people to agree to it in order to be part of the group.
    3. In older times the minister, teacher, doctor and lawyer were the best educated people in a village and it would be hard for someone to go against their thinking (the teacher, lawyer and doctor were probably church elders anyway).

    Going along with something or agreeing to accept something is not a definition of faith that is contained int he new testament.

    I think the root of this redefinition is that in the new testament faith is considered a journey rather than a destination. There is not any virtue in believing more unbelievable things because they don;t know what is going to happen next.

  3. I've been digging in places I haven't dug for years - the WCF and its catechisms. You'll know these inside out, I have no doubt, Gordon.
    Here's an interesting bit: "God alone is Lord of the conscience, and hath left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are in any thing contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also."
    There's latitude here for people who want to exercise their minds and arrive at their own conclusions, although it's easier and possibly more socially acceptable to believe what a clever man (usually it's a man) in a clerical collar tells you than to take a stand for your own liberty of conscience.
    What's interesting is that neither catechism asks, "What is faith?" in so many words. As such it remains undefined, or maybe it was considered so obvious as not to need a definition.
    There's also some lexical overload in these documents, as the same word is used in more than one way, so there's "the faith", i.e. the reformed doctrine, and then there's "faith", this un-pin-downable concept that might be blind or not.
    Can you cast any light on this?

  4. I don't know them as well as I once did!

    I left the Church of Scotland and went into the Baptist Church primarily because I believed in the total separation of church and state and total freedom of religious choice. Sadly, Scottish Baptist churches often fail to uphold these values.

    The Westminster Confession does not define faith as it assumes people are aware what it is by their being born into it or living within a faith community.

    Defining faith isn't something that was on the agenda back then.

    Romans Chapter 1 is where faith is seen as the opposite of knowing god but not honouring him. I think this is where the downplaying of knowledge (gnosis) starts in Christian thinking and where the misalignment of "faith" with "orthodoxy" begins.

    I had a quick look at all the times Jesus uses the word faith. They all seem to be more like having faith in him as a guide or healer rather than in a doctrine.

  5. Nice distinction Gordon. I think Christians in most of the mainstream churches would concur with you.

    For those who wish to see a summarized Catholic view of faith see here

  6. From catholicity - "Faith does not result from the truths appearing naturally intelligible but from the authority of God who cannot deceive". At the risk of sounding a bit thick here, why would a God who cannot deceive create us with a natural intelligence that falls short of being able to grasp this kind of thing and therefore just has to take it on authority. A bit more gnosis couldn't do any harm, could it?