Okay, You’re Right: There’s No Evidence For Faith…
by Tom Gilson
I thought I was about to launch into a series on evidences for the Christian faith. Recent discussion here tells me there’s one more preliminary step to take first, however. I haven’t yet defined just what it is I’m about to provide evidences for.
You see, there’s one sense in which the New Atheists are right: there’s no evidence for faith. They’re right, however, only to the extent that they misunderstand what faith is, and how faith relates to evidence-based factual knowledge and rational inference. At the end of the day, there is evidence for faith after all. Confused? Read on.
The New Atheist Charge: No Evidence for Faith
The typical New Atheist position is that there is no evidence for faith, by definition: for if there was (sufficient) evidence, it would produce knowledge, not faith. This is a standard line of argument among their camp.
I placed “sufficient” inside brackets there to catch a distinction they often miss. When they say there is no evidence for faith, often they mean no evidence. Sam Harris wrote in The End of Faith about believing things for which no evidence is even conceivable. It would be nice if they gave it at least the respect of saying there is insufficient evidence, rather than no evidence. But that’s impossible if one believes the premise, if there was evidence, it would lead to knowledge, not faith.
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I Agree: There’s No Evidence for Faith. (I’ll bet you weren’t expecting that!)
Christians do present evidences, despite some evidentially-challenged opinions to the contrary. Just what is it, though, that we’re presenting evidences for? Is it really faith? I say no. We do not present evidences for faith.
And with that, I’ve given up the game, right?
Boghossian says that faith is an unreliable epistemology or way of knowing; and if we don’t present evidences for faith, then he must be right, don’t you think? How could we know anything reliably by a method decoupled from all evidence?
Evidence for Facts and Inferences Instead
Stick with me a moment and I’ll explain why he’s wrong. First I want to explain what Christian apologists like myself typically seek to use evidences to show. This is but a small sampling, but it will serve a very important purpose…