Investigating Faith: Placing Religious Truth
Back Into the Arena of Knowledge
There is a predominant view of faith in our modern age that is seriously in error. Faith is viewed as mere fantasy or hope with no basis in reality, and thus religious claims are excluded from the arena of knowledge, believing that such claims cannot be tested to evaluate whether or not they correspond to reality; i.e. their truthfulness. Most people think of faith as a blind leap into the non-real or the non-provable, rather than a reasoned judgment in reality. The idea that religious truth-claims cannot be tested is due largely to the scientific age we live in. It is believed that because we cannot evaluate religion in a test-tube that there is no way to evaluate religion at all, so religion must be relegated to the realm of blind faith. Science has come to be viewed as the only avenue to truth. If something cannot be "proven" scientifically, then it is not worthy of belief.
Such a position (known as scientism) is inherently flawed. While science does give us true knowledge it is not the only way to gain knowledge, it does not give us all knowledge, and neither can it give us certain (indubitable) knowledge. Because the scientific method works on induction rather than deduction, it is only able to give us probabilistic truth, not indubitable truth (unquestionable, certain). Looking at the history of the scientific venture ought to make this clear. The history of science is a history of changing ideas/claims, not a history of static, unchanging truths. Science has a history of replacing old scientific claims with new claims as the scientists continue to grow in knowledge of our world. Science is valuable as a source of knowledge, but science is not a pure, unbiased source of knowledge that can give us indubitable truth, and neither is science the only source of truth.
The other source or avenue to true knowledge is philosophy. Philosophy works on deduction. The deductive method does not give us probable truths, but indubitable truths, because the deductive method is based on the laws of logic, not subjective observation and incomplete data as is the inductive method. This is not to say that all matters of philosophy are certain and objective, because not all philosophical matters use deduction. There is a very subjective element to philosophy as well. What this is to say is that only the discipline of philosophy is equipped with the capability to provide indubitable truth; science does not have the capability. That is why it is so ironic that people look to science, and only to science to provide them with absolute truth. All too often people believe that if science does not say it, it is not worthy of belief, or that whatever science says is absolutely true and beyond all question. When religious claims cannot be verified by science, or seem to be contradicted by science, religion always loses. Such thinking is based on a misunderstanding of the nature of science and the scientific method.
Seeing that there are two ways to examine a truth-claim, when considering the truthfulness of a claim we must first determine which method is best suited to examine it. The method of inquiry we use must be appropriate to the question we are asking. If I wanted to examine the claim that water boils at 100 degrees Celsius, I would use the inductive method to do so (science). I would set up an experiment in which I apply 100 degrees of heat to a pot of water, and observe the results. I could repeat the experiment several times to make sure that my observations are consistent. Based on my observations I could say that it is probably true that water always boils at 100 degrees Celsius, but I could never say that such a conclusion is must always be true, because I have not tried boiling all the water in the world to verify that all water boils at 100 degrees Celsius. It is always possible that some water would boil at a lower or higher temperature that we have not yet tested. If I wanted to examine the origin of morality, however, I could not use science to do so. As Greg Koukl has said, this would be like trying to weigh a chicken with a yardstick. Science would simply be the wrong tool to evaluate the origin and/or nature of morality. Only philosophy is capable of making such an evaluation. In fact, only philosophy is equipped to evaluate metaphysical issues such as the existence of God, the soul, morality, etc. While science may be able to produce supporting evidence for/against such ideas, science can never make definitive pronouncements on them because science deals with the physical realm, not the metaphysical. This is why it is absurd for anyone to claim that science has proven there is no God, or that science has proven that there is no soul. Science cannot prove this even if it was true because science is the wrong tool to examine such issues. At best, using the inductive method, science can say that they have yet to find any empirical evidence supporting the existence of God and/or the soul. At best science can justify agnosticism, but it cannot justify atheism, because using the inductive method, science could never say with absolute certainty that God does not exist. (For further reading see Greg Koukl's article titled "What Science Can't Prove")
Religious truth-claims cannot be tested scientifically because science is not the right tool to test them, but this does not exclude religious truth from the arena of knowledge or put it above testing. Philosophy is equipped to test religious claims, and considering the fact that philosophy is a way of arriving at true knowledge, religious claims do fall within the arena of knowledge, and can be evaluated to see whether they are rooted in reality or the figment of one's imagination. Furthermore, when the religious truth-claims of Christianity are put to the test, I am persuaded that they do stand up to reason/logic, and have been demonstrated to be intellectually viable, yeah, even intellectually preferable over other truth-claims.
Faith is not blind, but is based on factual evidence and reason (although not proven by the same, as there is an element of faith in virtually all knowledge). We do not simply believe because we choose to, but rather because the evidence compels us to believe. I believe what I believe because I have examined the evidence for Christianity through investigative meanshistory, archaeology, philosophy, reasonand Christianity has stood up to the test, even better than the rest!
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