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Why do Christians believe faith is a virtue?


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Showing 1-25 of 123 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 9, 2012, 5:24:55 PM PST
Most atheists can, I assume, see why Christians promote the role and value of faith in Christianity.

But given that logically, faith is more akin to a vice (though often an expedient one) than a virtue, how do Christians explain their fondness for it?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2012, 5:56:47 PM PST
JosephusD says:
I think you'd need to explain yourself further. Why is faith akin to a vice?

Posted on Mar 9, 2012, 6:08:16 PM PST
Faith in the religious sense is a vice because it is the suspension of logical thought. It is only brought in to support a case where no other evidence is available (and never mentioned at all when any other evidence in support of a desired conclusion exists). It is brought in simply to assist the speaker in winning (in his or her own eyes at least) an argument especially when the evidence all points in the other direction. In short it is a party to the spread of ignorance and superstition in the face of observation, reason, and logic.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2012, 6:08:37 PM PST
Faith is defined - in my dictionary at least - as belief or trust without logical proof. Of course we don't have to have 100% proof to believe something to be true, but to claim something to be true with insufficient evidence to do so, is wishful thinking at best and self delusion at worst - which to me seem to be more akin to a vice than a virtue.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2012, 6:17:28 PM PST
P R N_H. - You responded to Joseph's post both more quickly and more eloquently than I did.

Joseph - I'm not here to Christian bash, I'm genuinely interested in a Christian perspective. Are you a Christian?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2012, 6:26:32 PM PST
Greg Pickle says:
Hi Nicholas,

Faith in itself is meaningless. It is only as good as its object. Christian faith is only worth as much as the object in which it trusts. Thus, it has value to the Christian only insofar as the God whom is trusted is valuable.

Also, faith is not what it is so often made to be. It is not "hope so" blind faith, but trust in a God who has revealed himself to be trustworthy. Faith/trust in the Triune God is not wishful thinking. It is believing that he has shown himself to have a track record of trustworthiness according to the Scriptures, and that therefore his word can be trusted for whatever someone cannot yet see or understand.

Because of this, when a person trusts in God and not in himself, God receives great glory because he is being exalted by that person above all other things.

Ultimately, everyone has faith, it's just a question of whether your faith is in the God who has revealed himself in the Bible, or in your own ability to figure out the entire meaning of the universe.

One more thought: faith in and of itself has no merit. God set up salvation *via* faith (Ephesians 2:8, "by grace you have been saved *through* faith") so that all the work in salvation would be done by God, and the person simply trusts what God offers to give him. And again in this God receives the glory, not the sinner who trusts in him for salvation.

Does any/all of that make sense? I hope it helps!

Greg

Posted on Mar 9, 2012, 6:55:00 PM PST
The bible does not encourage reason or inquiry,the only thing it commands is that you have faith or big daddy's going to make you pay.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2012, 6:59:34 PM PST
Hi Greg,

Thank you for your post.

My trouble in understanding it as an atheist (I'm sure you guessed that) is that references to the Scriptures or indeed God are based on faith. There is no evidence by the standards that are generally considered most definitive in society - scientific evidence and proof that would be accepted in a court of law - that God exists or that the Bible is his word. If faith can only be established by already having faith, clearly this is a Catch 22 situation.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2012, 7:05:44 PM PST
Got to go to bed now - it's 3am in England.

Hope to take this up again tomorrow. Good night all.

Nick

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2012, 7:29:52 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 9, 2012, 7:30:48 PM PST
Nicholas: Sorry, this is simply not true. The Bible almost always portrays faith as a rational act in the light of evidence, both in the OT and the NT.

It is anachronistic to demand that texts from an ancient society conform to 21st Century ideas of scientific evidence. It is also unphilosophical to assume that scientific evidence is the only valid kind.

I have begun calling this false notion the "Blind Faith Meme." It has gathered critical mass over the past few years, due to the deeply ignorant writings of the New Atheists -- though the error has been around for some time, now.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2012, 7:35:31 PM PST
David

So what evidence is there in the bible? If 2000-3000 year old evidence is based on different ideas than modern evidence, why be surprised when moderns don't buy it? It seem to me a supernatural beastie would have made some provision for the explosion of scientific knowledge.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2012, 7:39:55 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 9, 2012, 7:40:53 PM PST
Greg Pickle says:
That's an important point, and I see where you're coming from.

As for the evidence of the Bible, there have been tomes written for and against it, but one thing to consider is this: if the standard of evidence demanded of the Bible by those today who do not believe it were applied to other historical events, we wouldn't believe anything. The standard is so impossible that no historical event could ever be trusted. The real difficulties, in my judgment, are that 1) the events happened thousands of years ago and therefore the many, many witnesses have now died and 2) there is nothing that can be done to prove supernatural events if a person is resolved that such things are impossible.

I understand that the Bible makes extremely powerful claims, so it should offer significant proof, but I also am confident that it provides such proof. I'd be glad to walk through some of them but you may be interested in a more refined treatment in this book:

Reasons We Believe: 50 Lines of Evidence That Confirm the Christian Faith

Ultimately, no amount of evidence is going to change your mind if you are not willing to turn from your sin to the Savior who died to offer salvation freely to anyone who believes, and who commands all men everywhere to repent. I trust you know in your mind and in your conscience that you are accountable to someone? Knowing that there is a way of escape from condemnation before a holy God gives you the freedom to look at your guilt squarely in the face without having to pretend that the guilt and/or the God aren't there.

My questions to you would be 1) What evidence would it take to make you change your mind (i.e. is it even possible)? and 2) Have you read the whole Bible, particularly the Gospel accounts, to see how they relate to the first question?

Thanks for the discussion, I appreciate the kind words. I hope this is beneficial for all involved!

Greg

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2012, 7:47:37 PM PST
Greg

I take issue with your claim that people don't accept your supernatural beastie just because they are sinners. That's just you spouting self-serving propaganda. Atheists don't buy your spiel because it is based on nothing someone would consider valid evidence if it pertained to anything besides religion. People of other religions don't buy it because they have faith in evidence of the same quality that their holy books spout.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2012, 8:01:56 PM PST
> The Bible almost always portrays faith as a rational act in the light of evidence, both in the OT and the NT.

This makes no sense. Where there is evidence there is no need for faith. Faith is confidence in an outcome where insufficient evidence exists. Where Christians believe they have concrete evidence of something there's no mention of faith.

> It is anachronistic to demand that texts from an ancient society conform to 21st Century ideas of scientific evidence.

This is wriggling on the hook. Neither what constitutes a proof of something nor the soundness of the structure of an argument varies over time. The contemporaries of Bible events (not that historical accuracy is the Bible's strong point) were less good at assessing proofs than we are today and those who much later wrote them up were trying to produce a desired result. Even so, and even given that their apologists have frequently rewritten narratives to suit their own ends, their "proofs" are not compelling to those living in more rational times. But if something was false back then but believed to be true, and remains false back then but is now recognised as such, anachronism has nothing to do with it.

> It is also unphilosophical to assume that scientific evidence is the only valid kind.

Either there is evidence for something or there isn't. Labelling it "scientific" is neither here nor there. This is simply seeking to reinsert faith as an alternative when evidence is lacking.

> I have begun calling this false notion the "Blind Faith Meme." It has gathered critical mass over the past few years, due to the deeply ignorant writings of the New Atheists

It has long had critical mass amongst the religious themselves (of all stripes) and it is they who constantly preach it. You need to have a word with them, not the "New Atheists" whoever they may be.

Think of good old Augustine: Logic is fine as a route to belief in God unless it seems to be leading you away from God in which case reject logic and use faith. It's a common and consistent response of the religious to the accusation that they have no evidence.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2012, 8:13:49 PM PST
Faith is neither suspension of logical thought nor vice. Biblical faith is very differently defined and used then it is in modern society. In the scriptures it is defined or explained as "the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld." ~ Hebrews 11:1.

Credulity is a better word for what you are speaking about and what most Christian religions speak about when they use the word "faith". However, that credulity is NOT a virtue and Scriptural training protects against it and commands all worshipers of God to be on guard against. Rather, especially in Proverbs the principle is laid out that wisdom and accurate knowledge are protections and a wise person listens and seeks deep information whereas a gullible one believes everything they hear.

The ongoing conflict in the spirit realm is a battle for the figurative hearts of everyone alive. It is a war of information and teaching. Those using slick words and "just believe" and "have faith" (the false kind) along with tricky ads are actually seeking to encourage a phony logic without depth in buying into beliefs and actions. They use propaganda meant to forestall logical thought and appeal directly to emotions directly through stimulating the senses.

However, Jesus and his followers closely stuck to the Scriptures to explain and prove by references what they were teaching. The meant to be open and straightforward offering information and then more if and when they found actual interest. In this way only genuine, thoughtful and truly interested people who take the effort and time could come to know the truth about God and various aspects of his purpose gradually. As they humbly applied what they learned in their lives they would "see" things happen in their lives that were obviously fulfillment of the promises of the Scriptures that they were learning. Thus, they came to know God through both narrative of Scripture and from their own personal experience in daily life and as they worked along with his will as revealed in Scripture and in company with the Christian congregation.

Hence, there was a mass of empirical and scholarly data to gather, time allowed to gather it personally, analyze and meditate upon it and then draw conclusions. Where there seems to be mass conversions in the Bible one can look deeper and see that these people who converted often took the time to learn deeper afterward and besides they already knew and understood the God of the Jews being either Jews or proselytes. All they required was for the dots to be connected in how the Jewish scripture was fulfilled by Jesus.

However, faith goes beyond that mere learning by humans. Humans are by nature subjective beings. What you see I see differently. Even if slightly. However, God, has no issues with this being the source of the universe and everything that extends into infinity in both directions in time is associated with him. For instance, "heaven" has always existed because God has always existed and has always been at that location. (Heaven is used to denote the atmosphere on earth, the starry sky and the realm where God exists. These are the three separate uses in the Bible. The latter is the one I speak of here.) God therefore, sees things as they really are from his unique standpoint plus can see things from all of the other subjective angles at the same time. So working along with the worshiper who is learning about him in order to draw close in a relationship with him God augments the worshipers efforts by planting deep convictions in that one as that one notices and meditates upon the works of God as recorded in scripture and as seen in one's own life. Therefore, faith is both a product of one's working at acquiring it but also of God's producing it in them. (Galatians 5:22, 23)

Faith is like mass if you think about astrophysics. If a body has mass it also has effects upon all other things including the surrounding space. This will be evident in how the bodies around it behave. So faith, though, not in itself doing anything, makes things happen. The Bible says that God will judge people according to their hearts and the faith found or not found therein. People can be doing all sorts of things that seem to be pious but in reality they are doing these things not ulterior motives and not as Paul wrote "out of a clean heart and with faith without hypocrisy". Hypocrisy meaning two ways or two faced. It was a word used for "actor". On the other hand a person with faith could not exist without works just as a planetary body cannot help but have an effect on the spacetime around it as it demonstrated and seen evident by the movement of other bodies.

Hope that if of interest and relevant to the discussion. Thanks.

Posted on Mar 9, 2012, 8:57:35 PM PST
jpl says:
Why do Christians believe faith is a virtue?

jpl: Because they're followers.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 9, 2012, 9:35:56 PM PST
Astrocat says:
Nicholas, you might be interested in a book titled "The Closing of the Western Mind", by Charles Freeman. He demonstrates, pretty convincingly, how logic and reason were swept away by Christians in the early centuries of the church, in favor of blind belief, dogma and "tradition".

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2012, 4:13:40 AM PST
Greg Pickle says:
Mark,

The issue is this: assuming for the sake of argument that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead, does that not change everything?

And yet Jesus himself is clear that even if someone would rise from the dead, someone will not believe unless they are willing to listen to the Scriptures (Luke 16:31).

If you would, please consider carefully just how open to believing the evidence you actually are. If the resurrection of Christ is true (for which there is overwhelming evidence, just not a video) it is completely unreasonable, irrational, closed-minded, and foolish to refuse to trust in him.

Blessings,

Greg

Posted on Mar 10, 2012, 5:42:30 AM PST
> for which there is overwhelming evidence

I think many of us are waiting to be overwhelmed...

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2012, 6:49:30 AM PST
Harry Marks says:
Dan,

I think that your post expressed the matter very well. "Faith" means "keeping faith", not just "believing something". If we keep faith with our deepest principles, believing that in so doing we help to bring the Kingdom, we are being the body of Christ. It is sad that so many have come to think of faith as "just believing in certain interpretations of scriptural words" rather than as trusting God to carry us through whatever difficulties we encounter in living out principles of love and caring for others.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2012, 7:29:47 AM PST
Mark: You're conflating two issues: (1) Does Christianity mean, by faith "suspension of logical thought," as defined above, and (2) Is there good evidence for Christian faith.

I suspect we could argue about (2) for years. I have written a few books giving some of that evidence, so yes, I think there's lots of it. But that is not the issue I am challenging in this thread. I am saying the answer to (1) is "of course not!" And that anyone who thinks so, is completely misunderstanding the Christian faith.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2012, 7:36:23 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 10, 2012, 7:42:46 AM PST
PR: "This makes no sense. Where there is evidence there is no need for faith. Faith is confidence in an outcome where insufficient evidence exists. Where Christians believe they have concrete evidence of something there's no mention of faith."

You misunderstand what Christians mean by "faith." Faith is ALWAYS necessary, even to assert that the universe around us is real.

"This is wriggling on the hook. Neither what constitutes a proof of something nor the soundness of the structure of an argument varies over time."

You miss the point. The issue is whether the Bible agrees that faith means belief without evidence. The issue is NOT the quality of the evidence. (Which I think is amazingly good, but that is NOT the issue, here.) So to answer the question actually at issue, we cannot anachronistically dismiss evidence we no longer find compelling, because that is simply not the issue.

> It is also unphilosophical to assume that scientific evidence is the only valid kind.

"Either there is evidence for something or there isn't. Labelling it "scientific" is neither here nor there. This is simply seeking to reinsert faith as an alternative when evidence is lacking."

I didn't introduce the word "scientific." The game is to pretend that only scientific evidence counts. I dispute that assumption -- all civilization would disappear overnight, if we took it seriously, including almost all science.

"It has long had critical mass amongst the religious themselves (of all stripes) and it is they who constantly preach it. You need to have a word with them, not the "New Atheists" whoever they may be."

Actually, it's main defenders are skeptics, not Christians. I've been talking about this issue for years, and very seldom find a Christian who accepts the Blind Faith Meme. Almost every skeptic seems to accept it without question, and without bothering to carefully read what central Christian thinkers actually say on the issue.

"Think of good old Augustine: Logic is fine as a route to belief in God unless it seems to be leading you away from God in which case reject logic and use faith. It's a common and consistent response of the religious to the accusation that they have no evidence."

But Augustine did have evidence, and he gave it.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2012, 7:38:39 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 10, 2012, 7:43:03 AM PST
Nancy: This claim is utter nonsense. All you need to do, is read Origen or Augustine, to see that far from being "swept away," logic and reason were alive and well in the early Christian church.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2012, 7:59:17 AM PST
Harry Marks says:
P. R. Neville-Hadley -

"Faith in the religious sense is a vice because it is the suspension of logical thought."

Not necessarily. There are some "don't confuse me with the facts" types who truly call a halt to considering evidence or logic. However, we all find ourselves "peering into the mists" about how our principles will turn out. Politics, business and marriage are three common areas of such "guesswork". The idea that this would be informed by faith is nothing new or scary.

I think people who pose faith and reason as opposites or substitutes should be laughed out of the room. They are strongly complementary - faith that has not looked into the facts first is just "blind faith", but refusing to take any step that is not fully justified by logic and evidence is a formula for paralysis. We Christians emphasize a particular type of faith, and believe it to be effective in a way that simple probability calculation would probably (!) not tell you. But we are on the same continuum as ordinary people.

Why is courage considered a virtue? Surely one should make a selfish calculation? (Not.)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 10, 2012, 8:12:16 AM PST
If it helps, here's my definition of faith, written in 2000 in response to misconceptions that were already common then:

http://christthetao.blogspot.com/2011/12/faith-or-insanity-choose-one-please.html
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