Atheism Part 3: Two-stage Faith

Rick Mattson Apologetics, Atheism 5 Comments

Christians often accuse atheists of having more faith than Christians.

This is off-putting to atheists because they think of faith as believing without any evidence. Or believing contrary to evidence.

In other words, faith is blind.

Here is a two-stage definition of faith that I’ve found helpful in my discussions with atheists:

Step 1: Generic trust based on evidence.

Example: In the years leading up to 2007, both Christians and atheists drove their vehicles over the I35W bridge in Minneapolis. We trusted the engineers, the inspectors — the whole “system” — that built and maintained the bridge.

And we observed thousands of other vehicles successfully traversing the bridge.

Our conclusion: Venture out! Trust the steel trusses and concrete with your very life.

Christians and atheists had a ton of evidence the bridge was safe. But not proof.

In 2007 the bridge collapsed, killing 13 people.

In summary, step 1 faith is choosing to believe something based on evidence that stops short of proof.

Step 2: Personal trust and commitment. This is my faith in Jesus.

Now here’s the point. As a Christian I have evidence (but not proof) that a biblical worldview is true.  That’s step 1, and it’s pretty much the same as trusting the bridge.

Step 1 faith is what I have in common with atheists. I choose a generic kind of faith based on evidence.

But when it comes to religion, what really counts as evidence? Atheists and Christians disagree here.

I’ll discuss it next week.

Comments 5

  1. Hey Rick. Yes, what counts as evidence and what is the meaning of evidence is important as there seems to be a disconnect. Evidence for the atheist seems to focus what can be empirically validated through science with the five senses. Or as the atheist says regarding God, absence of evidence is evidence of absence. Looking forward to new week’s post.

  2. Thanks, Jason. How we define words such as “evidence” have a huge effect on the conversation. Can there be a common definition, agreed to by all (or most) parties?

  3. I took a Philosophy of Western Science class my freshman year at Augsburg College, and our prof used to stress the fact that science can never PROVE anything. It merely is a method that attempts to make sense of a number of observations. We can get a sense of how things usually operate through the scientific method, and to some degree we can predict certain happenings with some accuracy, but we cannot say that an event will always occur the same way in which we've observed. Just because a ball usually drops to the floor when we let go, doesn't mean that it always will. It's really changed the way I understand if something is “proven” or “certain”. Really makes science seem religious in some sense…we trust in something that cannot be verified to be true beyond the shadow of a doubt all the time, for the rest of time.

    To be honest, I'm glad there's a mystery to God even for those of us who say “we know Him”. Keeps us humble not knowing everything, and humble folk are the kind I like to be around!

  4. I have much to say about evidence and proofs, but will limit my comments here to saying that I support the notion of “epistemic humility.” We ought to be very aware of our own fallibility as fallen creatures. We are prone to error and misjudgments and should thus maintain a learner's posture.

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