Faithful to Science

blog on science and religion

Talking about faith and science

This post is mainly to announce that I have now added a further talk to the resources section. You can find it here:

http://grievingturtle.com/resources/talks/faith-and-science-hbc-oxford-0915/

Here is an extract from the talk:

“Jesus also talked a lot about a vision for life in general. He showed us what it is like when our truest Parent is at work.

It is not like dictats and commands passed down from on high. It is like the way Jesus himself lived. It involves ideas like seeds springing to life, and much reassurance that we are cared about, so that we in return have creative attitudes, behaving like tasty salt and welcome light, to keep life from going bad. This is what is going on in the best parts of our lives, and it is what should be going on in the world in general.

Jesus called it “the kingdom of God”. This was his way of showing us what human life is like when the true Father is at work. Science is very much part of this. It is an important part of how we can live like children of God and join in with His project of creating a fair and supportive community. Such a community will also learn to wisely manage the ecosystem of life on Earth more generally.

I will say more about science, but next I would like to talk about faith.

I have already given some hints as to what faith involves. Now I would like to point out some very simple things.

First, the word “faith” does not mean “believing something without a reasonable basis in evidence”. It simply does not mean that. That is not at all what faith means. We already have, in the English language, perfectly good words for belief without reason. That is called either delusion or guesswork. But faith is not about delusion and guesswork. Faith is basically about trust, honesty and a sense of value.

I repeat, it is not, and never has been, about belief without evidence.

Let’s have a look at a few examples.

We exercise a type of faith when we go about our daily lives. We go to the shops, and buy things, and we assume that although the shop-keeper is no push-over, they are basically doing a reasonable deal with us. We trust them. We have some faith in them.

Similarly, as we walk home, we don’t need a bullet-proof jacket or a guard dog; we assume the other people round about are basically not out to get us or steal our food.

This sort of trust is absolutely central to life; we simply could not function without it. It is, of course, built on some foundation of evidence, but we commonly trust one another well beyond the degree to which it can be proved. Thus we risk being tricked, or hurt, all the time, but nevertheless this is the best way to live.

Why are we so trusting?

We choose to be trusting partly because of our sense of value. We value goodness, and we are on the lookout for it. We want it, we champion it. So we are willing to go out on a limb for it: we want to take the risk of assuming someone is better than we know for sure. We often choose to do that rather than be completely neutral, because it gives us a chance to be alive, to venture out and connect with people. It is not that there is no evidence, but we see some evidence, and go further. That is what faith is about.

For centuries most people knew roughly what we mean by faith, and together with hope and love, it was felt to be one of the greatest treasures of human life. But two types of movement have distorted the word. Some Christian churches became corrupt or just made stuff up, and called it “faith”. Other people constructed delusional belief-systems such as scientology or astrology, and lazily justified this by calling it “faith”. Then, seeing all this and reacting, other people rejected the delusions and also decided that that was what faith was all about, so they rejected faith too.

Both these groups had redefined faith as unmotivated belief, that is, belief without some reasonable evidence to go on. But today I am using the word “faith” under its original and true meaning. And this is “W. P. C.”:

Willingness to venture in the direction sensed to be true and good,

Prompted by suggestive though incomplete evidence, and

Continued through a growing sense of recognition.

Religious faith, or faith in God, is the type of faith which takes this attitude towards the very foundation of our universe and of our inner life. It says that this foundation is not just random or unknowable or neutral, but ordered and knowable and committed.

Please note, we have some reasonable evidence for this. We don’t say it is proven. But it is reasonable to believe it.”

shopping

3 Comments

  1. I like your definition or description of faith. We are shown enough and we understand enough to place our trust.

    • admin

      September 22, 2015 at 7:49 pm

      Thanks. I feel that when words begin to be misused then either we can let them go, or we can take care to preserve them and champion their best meaning. “Faith” is a word that I feel we should keep, but we need to be extra careful to be clear what we mean by it.

  2. ‘Seeing some evidence and going further’ … you create a very attractive picture of faith as both reassurance and challenge.

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