Sceptics of the Bible ranging all the way from professors such as Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking right down the average layman, seem to have acquired a unified definition of what the word faith means when it comes to the Bible over recent decades. In essence the most common definition of the word you will hear is: Having faith in the Bible is believing in the truth of the Bible without any evidence to support it. Another simple way to word this is to use the term ‘Blind faith’.
To me this seems quite odd. Firstly, the Bible has the definition of the type of faith a Christian has/should have within it, in the book of Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1 which states that, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” So it’s a bit of a straw man to redefine Christian faith as blind faith and then proceed to attempt to take it down based on that faulty assumption. Secondly, there are good historical and archeological evidences which heavily support the claims of the Bible to which even atheistic scholars such as Bart Ehrman and Gerd Luderman have attested to. Thirdly, many people might not realize, but there are at least five different definitions of the word faith that we humans can exhibit. What tends to happen in a back forth between a sceptic and a Christian is that when they both use the word faith in conversation, they define the word in almost opposite ways (in their minds) without realizing. The sceptic defines it in the context of “no evidence” whilst the Christian defines it in the context of “evidence”. Because they are unaware of this distinction between each other, the conversation can get quite heated, and both parties end up effectively talking past each other with no real progress. Ultimately speaking, definitions are key and it is always important to define exactly what you are talking about in order to minimize confusion when involved in an argument (argument in the philosophical sense which is just simply a dialogue between two or more people where premises and conclusions are presented and contested respectably between both sides).
So what are the five different definitions of faith?
- Warranted faith – The type of faith that everyone exhibits. This is as simple as faith that when you sit down for example, your chair won’t break on you, or faith that when you go to drink tap or bottled water it won’t kill you, or faith that you will be able to drive to work every day without your car exploding on you. Warranted faith is essential to life and everybody alive, more or less, has to function with it.
- Irrational faith – This basically means ‘faith even when the evidence is contrary to that position.’ For example, having faith that your friend is 25 years old when they are really only 20 years old and all the evidence (the person themselves, parents, birth certificate, school year…) shows that they are clearly only aged 20.
- Blind faith – Blind faith is to have faith in something where there is simply no evidence for it. For example, the idea that aliens exist has no evidence to support it apart from wishful thinking due to the vastness of the universe. This type of faith in aliens by definition comes under the category of blind faith simply because there is no direct or indirect evidence for alien life in the universe to date.
- Evidence based faith – This is simply to have faith in something because there is evidence to support it. For example, we have faith that the first president of the U.S. was George Washington because there is overwhelming historical evidence to support this idea. Or, we have faith in that the holocaust really did happen in the 20th century under the reign of Hitler (although some chose to believe that it did not – displaying irrational faith) because there is so much evidence to support this event.
- Biblical faith – This is a bit of a different one as it only applies to those who take the Bible to be the Word of God. This faith only comes about as a result of being a follower of Christ. It is faith in the things of God and of what Jesus spoke about in the Bible, e.g. the spiritual realm and spiritual activity, the Biblical creation of the world, and eschatology (the end times – the events to come). As Christians, we can have faith in things of this manner only as given by Christ. A non-Christian would have no reason to exhibit faith in any of the same stuff.
With these definitions now in place it is easy to see which is which. The Christian faith falls under number four (Evidence based faith) and five (Biblical faith), not two or three as many assume. I don’t have enough time to go through actual points of evidence in this article however my other written articles Can We Really Trust the New Testament? … Atheist Scholar Agrees that the New Testament is Reliable? give you a taste of some of the fundamental evidence that supports the case for the Bible being a historically reliable book.