Friday, July 31, 2009

Greetings Mike,

I've been thinking on a few things you said here. And since you took the time to write this out and send it along to one and all, I thought you would like to get a response. Even from me.

I asked a few questions from what you stated in paragraph 2, "For better or worse, your actions will always follow your beliefs."
If my belief, for instance, has no ability to comport with reality, that it, therefore, cannot be acted upon in the existence we experience, then does,this type of, belief always lead to a resultant action? I don't think it can. You can't act upon something that doesn't exist. But I maybe wrong so here is another question.

If you belief in a certain contradiction, that two opposing views are true, at the same time, how will your actions result from this type of thinking? Activity will only result from the view that was true, what is apart of and given in reality - and is repeatable.

If you are saying that beliefs are things that one insists are true, but turn out to not be so, then that particular belief cannot be acted upon. But wait a minute, you may be saying that even wrong beliefs will just have misguided actions as a result of the error of thinking wrongly. An action is concomitant with belief, even if, it is a dreamed up fantasy land of make "belief."

So, let me go on a bit:

My belief may be, could be, in religious style of wishful thinking, in which one squeezes out spiritual hope by intense acts of sheer will. People of "faith" believe the impossible. People of "faith" believe that which is contrary to fact. People of "faith" believe that which is contrary to evidence. People of "faith" ignore reality. Often and with regularity.

I think part of the confusion in the deduction, 'belief that leads to action' is because Christians are often told to ignore circumstances, meaning that we're not to get overwhelmed or discouraged by them because God is bigger than our troubles. "Have faith in God," we're told. I think that's good counsel, as it goes, but it mostly breeds misunderstanding, implying that faith is a blind leap - that 'belief' has no relationship to fact and action. That God will act on your behalf no matter what illogical notion you 'belief' in is.

Somehow some people think that genuine faith is eviscerated by knowledge, truth and evidence. We've made a virtue out of believing against the evidence, as if that's what God has in mind for us. This is all wrong. Which I'm sure we agree together on. Or at least that is my 'belief.'

But let me go a little further.

If we want to exercise biblical faith--Christian faith--'Pisteos' faith and belief--then we ought first to find out how the Bible defines this idea of faith. The clearest definition comes from Hebrews 11:1. This verse says, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Now, there's something very important in these words. We see the word "hope," we see the word "assurance," and we see the word "conviction"--that is, confidence. Now, what gives us confidence?

If you buy a lottery ticket, do you hope you'll win the lottery? Yes, of course you do. Do you have any assurance you'll win the lottery? Absolutely not. You have no way of knowing that your ticket is any better than the millions of other lottery tickets out there competing for the same pot.
But what if you had x-ray vision, and you could see through the gray scratch-off coating on the lottery tickets you buy at the supermarket? You'd know if you had a $100, $200 or a $1,000 winner, wouldn't you? In that case, would you merely hope you'd win? No, you'd have assurance , wouldn't you? You'd have assurance of those things you previously only hoped for. It would be hope with conviction, not a mere hoped, but a hope buttressed by facts and evidence.

That's why the Christian faith cares about the evidence. For the biblical Christian, like you and me Mike, the facts matter. You can't have assurance for something you don't know you're going to get. You can only hope for it.
This is why the resurrection of Jesus is so important. It gives assurance to the hope. Because of a Christian view of faith, Paul is able to say in 1 Corinthians 15 that when it comes to the resurrection, if we have only hope, but no assurance--if Jesus didn't indeed rise from the dead in time/space history--then we are of most men to be pitied. That's what he says: We are of most men (persons) to be pitied .

This confidence Paul is talking about is not a confidence in a mere "faith" resurrection, a mythical resurrection, a story-telling resurrection - a 'belief.' Instead, it's a belief in a real resurrection. If the real resurrection didn't happen, then we're in trouble.

The Bible knows nothing of a bold leap-in-the-dark faith, a hope-against-hope faith, a faith with no evidence and the actions which come as a cause of the belief. Rather, if the evidence doesn't correspond to the hope, then the faith is in vain, as even Paul has said.

So, faith is knowing, and that knowledge is based on evidence leading to confidence or conviction. But biblical faith is more than that even. There's another element. Faith is not just knowing something true and then the assurance of this 'belief.' Faith is also acting. Biblical faith is a confidence so strong that it results in action. You're willing to act based on that belief, that faith.

This is the way of biblical faith. It's not just intellectual assent. It's not just acknowledging that certain facts about Jesus, the Bible, the resurrection, or whatever, happens to be true, or thought true. It's taking your life and putting it on the line based on your confidence in those facts.
I heard the story and considered a guy who pushes a wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls on a tightrope every day. You've seen him do it so many times it doesn't even occur to you he won't make it. You believe with all your heart he can do it.

One day he comes up to you and asks, "Do you believe I can push this wheelbarrow across the tightrope without falling?" And you say, "Of course I do. I've seen you do it hundreds of times." "All right," he says, "get in the wheelbarrow."

Well, now we're talking about a whole different kind of thing, aren't we? The first is an intellectual 'belief', an acknowledgment of certain facts. The second is 'active' faith, converting your knowledge to action. When you climb into the wheelbarrow, your belief in facts is converted into active trust.

Faith is knowledge in action. It is active trust in the truth. You go to the airport. You say, "This plane goes to New York. I believe it. I'll get on the plane. I'll invest myself in the things I believe to be true." That is biblical faith.

So, when someone asks me the question, Are faith and science compatible, can they be acted upon based on belief also? I'm going to immediately ask for a clarification. What do you mean by faith? If you think faith is mere fantasy and science is complete fact, well then, fantasy conflicts with fact, doesn't it? If faith is a blind leap in the dark, if faith has no concern for the facts, you're in trouble.

If, however, your faith is an intelligent trust in what can't be seen that's inferred from evidence that can be seen--if your faith is a commitment to reality, to acting on what you have good reason to believe is true--well then, there doesn't need to be any conflict at all.

You have more in this note of yours to comment on. About relavatism and what it is and isn't, but, that can be for another time. My regards to you.


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