Our monthly feature excerpted from Dave Hunt's book of the same title.
What Role Do Evidence and Reason Play?
Question: I can see that it makes no sense and would be very dangerous to believe something simply because some church or religious leader says I must do so. Clearly there must be some basis for believing. But I’m confused, because it wouldn’t seem to be “faith” if reason and evidence support my belief.
Response:Your confusion comes from imagining that if reason and evidence were involved at all in faith, that would cause faith to become completely rational—which, I agree, would make no sense. Clearly no faith is required to believe anything that is self-evident or that can be proved completely, such as the fact that the sun is in the sky and sending its warmth to earth.
On the other hand, reason and evidence may legitimately point the direction for faith to go—and must do so. Indeed, faith must not violate evidence and reason or it would be irrational. Faith takes a step beyond reason but only in the direction that reason and evidence have pointed.
The idea of a “leap of faith” (that faith must be irrational) has been promoted by some schools of philosophy and religion. If that were true, however, there would be no basis other than feelings or intuition for what one believes. As a consequence, one could believe or have faith in any-thing. As the saying goes, “If it works for you, it’s okay”—a senseless idea that denies the absoluteness of truth.
By this theory, it is faith that is important rather than the object of one’s faith. Never mind what one believes. One has to believe in something, so take the leap. It is the believing that causes the effect one seeks—a theory that has some temporary and limited truth. Yes, believing in the Star Wars Force or that God is some kind of magic genie who exists to do one’s bidding may indeed bring a superficial sense of well-being for a time. Eventually, however, that belief will prove to be a delusion, and the bubble of euphoria will burst, leaving the person worse off than before.
Faith Is a Response to Proven Truth
On the surface it may seem legitimate to reject reason and evidence, because God is far beyond our ability to fully comprehend and thus beyond any proof we could understand. How could evidence, much less proof, have any part to play in one’s faith in God? As we have noted, however, if reason doesn’t have some role to play, then one could believe in any kind of “god”—an idea that is clearly false. One must have some evidence even to believe there is a God. Otherwise, how could the idea of God be sustained?
Thankfully, the evidence is all around us: “The heavens declare the glory of God. . . . For the invisible things of him [God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they [all mankind] are without excuse” (Psalm:19:1; Romans:1:20). One cannot learn very much of the incredible nature of the universe, from the beautiful simplicity of the atomic structure of the elements to the incomprehensible complexity of a living cell with ten thousand chemical reactions going on at once in perfect balance with one another, without realizing that it couldn’t have happened by chance.
The design of a leaf (and how much more so of the human brain) demands an intelligent Designer who Himself is beyond our highest thought or He wouldn’t be capable of creating and governing the universe. It is certainly appropriate to observe the incredible order in the universe and from such evidence to draw the conclusion that the universe and we ourselves couldn’t have happened by chance but must have been designed and created by an intelligent Being capable of doing so. Evidence and reason point to God. This is not only legitimate but an essential first step in knowing Him.
This God, however, in order to be the Creator and Sustainer of the universe must have capabilities that are infinitely beyond our capacity to comprehend. Reason can follow the evidence only so far and then finds itself beyond its ability to go any further. It is at this point that faith takes the next step, a step that is beyond the capacity of reason to accompany it but that is (and must be) in the direction that reason and the evidence have pointed.
The atheist sees the same evidence, and he too takes a step of “faith” beyond reason. Sadly, however, in trying to escape the consequences of admitting God’s existence and thus his accountability to his Creator, the atheist takes a “leap of faith” in the opposite direction from which reason and the evidence so clearly point. He chooses to deny the evidence, and thus his “faith” is totally irrational and therefore not genuine faith at all.
There is much other specific evidence for believing both in God and in the Bible as His Word, and we will deal with that evidence later.