Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I Don't Have Enough Faith....

It's not my intent to dissuade anyone from reading the book by the title but I think "I don't have enough faith to be an atheist" is a very unhelpful utterance for Christians to make. While it might make us feel like we've made an effective point in our defense of Christianity, it actually presents the nature of faith in an unbiblical manner. Think about it. "Faith" as used in that catch phrase is synonymous with either wishful thinking or gullibility. It's equivalent to saying, "Yeah, I admit you have to be naive to be a Christian but you have to be even more naive to be an atheist." This substantiates the mistaken notion of faith unbelievers already entertain and portrays faith and knowledge as being unrelated if not in opposition to each other. In a related post on STR's blog, Greg Koukl noted: "In today’s culture, people take 'faith' and 'belief' as religious wishful thinking, not the kind of intelligent step of trust the Bible has in mind when it uses those words."

I just finished reading Geerhardus Vos's Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments in which he offers the following description of biblical faith and its relation to knowledge. He also demonstrates the impossibility of another misleading slogan - "No creed but Christ": 

Faith presupposes knowledge, because it needs a mental complex, person or thing, to be occupied about. Therefore, the whole modern idea of preaching Jesus, but preaching Him without a creed, is not only theologically, not merely Scripturally, but psychologically impossible in itself. In fact knowledge is so interwoven with faith that the question arises, whether it be sufficient to call it a prerequisite, and not rather an ingredient of faith.

The very names by means of which Jesus would have to be presented to people are nuclei of creed and doctrine. If it were possible to eliminate this, the message would turn to pure magic, but even the magic requires some name-sound and cannot be wholly described as preaching without a creed. The vogue which this programme has acquired is to some extent due to the unfortunate, and altogether undeserved, flavour clinging to the term 'creed', as though this necessarily meant a minutely worked out theological structure of belief. That is not meant, but belief there must be before faith can begin to function, and belief includes knowledge. This knowledge may have been gathered gradually, almost imperceptibly, from countless impressions received during a briefer or longer period of time, but epistemologically it does not differ from any other kind of mental act however acquired. To be sure, mere knowledge is not equivalent to full-orbed faith, it must develop into trust, before it is entitled to that name (p. 389).


Jeff Downs said...

Great post! Thanks for pointing this out from Vos (how about page numbers)?

You might be interested (if you're not already aware) in the two part series from Steve Cowan titled "Faith Seeking Understanding" Part 1 (posted 4/27/05) and Part 2 (posted 5/10/05).

Joseph said...

A very good point. Before I was a Christian a co-worker used faith in a similar way. He said,"Do you realize that it takes much more faith to believe that life in all its forms and complexity came about by pure chance, than to believe God created life?" I've used that in the past, but I will no longer! Thanks.

Mike said...

Personally, I think you're making a issue out of a non-issue. I think the title is tongue in cheek to illustrate the irrationality of the atheist.