Monday, January 03, 2005

faith trumps fact

I write about several things that are charged by the issue of faith. And I understand that when someone believes in something "by faith," there is no point in entering into a argument (not a fight) about it because arguments have to do with reason, and religious faith has very little (if anything) to do with reason. A believer can use reason right up until the point where the reason contradicts their faith, and then they will hold to their faith no matter what.

Faith is a tricky word with more than one meaning. (Click here for the definition of faith on Merriam-Webster.com) If you are not really careful, you can get caught in an argument that goes something like this:

1.Everyone has faith in other people.
2.Even atheists have faith.
3.Therefore it is reasonable to have faith in the teachings of Christianity.


What they don't tell you is that the definitions of "faith" in the premises is different than that in the conclusion. Take a look at that definition of faith from M-W.com. Premises 1 and 2 are associated with definitions 1 and 3, that is, trust and the strong conviction that something is true. On the other hand, the definition of faith that applies to the conclusion, 3, is definition 2. This includes "firm belief in something for which there is no proof."

I notice that there is some overlap in definition, since both trust and belief appears in definition 2. However, when one is talking about religious faith it always has some element of "firm belief in something for which there is no proof." This element is not necessarily found in the case of one person trusting another, or in expressions such as "good faith," which is defined as "honesty or lawfulness of purpose." Or in the faith in the discoveries of science, which depend on proof.

Language is tricky sometimes.

Here are links to some other articles on the subject of faith:
The Skeptic's Dictionary article on faith
Tektonics.org Article. Interesting take on faith from a Christian apologist


2 comments:

coffee goddess said...

Well, you can always break down that syllogysm (argument) and prove that it is both invalid and false!

I'm trying to recall my Phil 293 (Intro to Logic) course...

1.Everyone has faith in other people.A=B2.Even atheists have faith.C=A3.Therefore it is reasonable to have faith in the teachings of Christianity.A>Dif A=B
and C=A
then A>D
Neither valid nor true!

Haha...trust me to get intellectual. But that is just the problem. For scripture and faith to be used as the basis of an argument, then all parties must agree in their truth. But persons apt to use these as the driving force of their arguments are at a total loss without them.

coffee goddess said...

sorry Mikel...when I previewed the post, all was nice and lined up against the margin. Oh well...as said, the best laid plans o' mice 'n men oft' go 'stray...