Friday, March 30, 2012

Read Along: Chapter One—Is Faith Irrational?

Today we begin our new Read Along with Apologetics 315 project. This is a chapter-by-chapter study through the book Is God Just a Human Invention? And Seventeen Other Questions Raised by the New Atheists by Sean McDowell and Jonathan Morrow. (Hear an interview about the book here.) Below you will find an audio intro for Chapter One, a brief summary of the chapter, a PDF workbook with questions for the chapter, and some notable quotes. You're also encouraged to share your comments and feedback for each chapter in the comment section below. Feel free to interact!

[Audio Intro] - Sean McDowell introduces this chapter.
[Chapter 01 Study Questions] (with kindle locations) - PDF study guide.
[Podcast Feed RSS | Podcast in iTunes] - Click to subscribe to the audio.

Chapter One: Is Faith Irrational?
(pages 19-31)

Chapter one addresses the objection that faith is essentially a blind belief without any evidence. The authors quote notable new atheist voices, showing how faith has been commonly defined among those who object to faith. However, McDowell and Morrow argue that biblical faith has never been defined in this way. They correct the misconception and show that biblical faith is trust in God because he has shown himself to be reliable and trustworthy.

Apologist Greg Koukl contributes to this chapter with an essay dealing with the use of the word "faith." He suggests that this term has been misused, abused, and is misunderstood. He suggests a better term in place of faith which doesn't carry the same negative baggage and better represents biblical faith.

Notable quotes:
Mainstream Christianity has always emphasized that faith and reason go together. Indeed, biblical faith is trust in God because he has shown himself to be reliable and trustworthy. Faith is not belief in spite of the evidence, but belief in light of the evidence. (p. 21)  
For now, we simply want to show that Christians have had evidence of their faith since the inception of the church. And the value placed on both faith and reason has persisted throughout church history(p. 23)
Therefore, the most important question is not, Do we have faith? but, How well-grounded is our faith? Is our faith rational or irrational? (pp. 24-25)
  1. How do you respond to the objection that faith is simply a blind leap in the dark?
  2. What do you think of when you hear the word faith? What terms do you use?
  3. What benefits do you see in using Koukl's term instead of the word "faith?"
Recommended Reading
Next Week: Chapter 2—Are Science and Christianity at Odds?


Katy said...

Looking forward to this journey

Brian said...

Me too!

MaryLou said...

Here's my two cents' worth:

Re: Faith as a leap in the dark -- This shows how important it is to define terms. I agree that some faith is blind and, yes, there may even be Christians who say that theirs is. However, mine isn't and no Christian's faith has to be. I usually use the expression 'warranted faith', explaining that my faith is warranted because of all the evidence. Then I give some examples to back up my statement.

In reality, if atheists start with their definition of faith as a leap in the dark and then argue from that, they're really presenting a fallacious straw man argument.

I can understand why Greg Koukl suggested using the word 'trust' instead of 'faith' because the word doesn't carry the 'pie in the sky' connotations that atheists perceive with the latter word. And I really liked Sean's definition given in the podcast: "Faith is trust in that which we have reason to believe is true." It's short. It's clear. It's understandable.

Something new for me in this chapter -- the discussion of doubting Thomas. I have never come across that before. It shows how important it is to read verses in their context. By isolating it on its own, it can be misunderstood. Read in context, it shows that what Jesus is talking about is warranted belief. In essence, he's saying, "Thomas, I explained it to you and you saw me perform miracles. So you had the evidence you needed to trust what the others said about me, but still you didn't believe!"

I like the way this book is starting off. I can tell I'm going to enjoy it.

Hausdorff said...

Hello everyone. I'm glad I stumbled across this series of posts, I'm looking forward to discussing this book with you. I hope you all don't mind someone being here with a dissenting opinion. I fear if I only talk with other atheists I will fall prey to the echo chamber effect and I am looking forward to this.

I wanted to start with a note about the intro audio file posted above. You mention, among other things, the bus ads that Atheists have been doing lately. There have been a number of Atheist bus ads and billboards going up around the country lately, some I like, some I don't. But there is one that speaks volumes about why we feel we need to be doing this. There was a bus ad that simply said "Atheists" with some websites that an interested person could go to. This ad was rejected as controversial. The message we receive from this is that our very existence is controversial. This is why we feel attacked and the need to speak out.

On to the book, the first thing I wanted to say is that there is a difference between attacking an idea and attacking a person holding the idea. I have seen Dawkins say that Christians believe foolish things but I have never heard him call them fools. It might feel the same to hear it, but there is a big difference. In fact, I have heard him go out of his way to make this point.

There was another place that I think the new atheists position was misrepresented. It was said that they have faith that the universe came from nothing and also that there are multiple universes. I have never seen this claimed by those guys. What I have seen is they say they don't know what the origin on the universe is and they provide those as possibilities. I don't think anyone (reasonable) has faith that there are multiple universes, but it is a cool idea to throw around and provides us with some fun science fiction. To say people have faith in that in the same way Christians have faith in God in quite a stretch.

Well, I have many more thoughts on this, but this comment is already getting pretty long. I'm not sure what proper blog etiquette is but I imagine posting a novel into a comment is considered rude. I have more of my thoughts about this on my own blog

MaryLou said...

Hausdorff wrote: "I fear if I only talk with other atheists I will fall prey to the echo chamber effect."

The same thing can happen to Christians if we only ever talk about these things with fellow believers. So it's good that you're here to interact with us.

Welcome, Hausdorff! I hope you enjoy the discussions.

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