Faith as “Belief Without Evidence:” The Resurrection Appearances
by Tom Gilson
Belief without evidence: that’s how Richard Dawkins defines faith, as do many other New Atheists. More specifically, Dawkins describes religions as believing that “Faith (belief without evidence) is a virtue. They more your beliefs defy the evidence, they more virtuous you are.”
But if that’s so, then according to the Bible, Jesus did not want his followers to have faith in his resurrection — at least not faith with any virtue.
Luke’s introduction to the book of Acts reads (Acts 1:1-3),
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
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Jesus gave them “many proofs” (Gk. polys tekmērion, polys meaning “great in magnitude or quality,” tekmērion meaning “sign, indubitable token, clear proof”). If faith were what Dawkins claims, then the whole point of Jesus’ forty post-resurrection days on Earth was to systematically undermine his followers’ faith by giving them evidences for their belief.
Faith, as taught in the Bible, is belief based upon evidence. Sure, it’s belief that goes beyond what has been proved. Because Jesus was raised, we believe we will be too. That hasn’t been shown true yet. Biblical believers’ confidence is based on Jesus’ demonstration that it’s possible, and on his promise (John 14:1-3) that he will make it happen.
Promises and Justified Confidence
But evidence is relevant to promises, too. Let’s think more generally about that: what justifies confidence in another person’s —any person’s — promises? I would suggest the following. Not all of these are necessary; the first two to four may be sufficient. The more that are in play, though, the more we are justified in believing the person will keep the promise…
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