Chapter OneDISCUSSION ONE
Isn't Christianity Based
on Blind Faith?
Faith Like a Child
A little boy raises his hand in Sunday school. "Teacher,
how do we know there's a God?" The teacher smiles
and answers, "You can't know; you just have to
believe in him by faith." A little girl raises her hand.
"What's faith?" The boy blurts out, "Oh, I know the
answer to that one. Faith means believing something
you know isn't true."
Is that what faith is: belief that flies in the face of
evidence? Maybe that's too harsh. Maybe by faith
people mean believing even when you don't have evidence.
This definition seems to fit a lot of people who
claim to be Christians. Christianity is, after all, a
"faith," so it must mean that the followers of Christianity
are people of faith. But too many Christians
remind us of the person who was heard to exclaim,
"My mind's made up; don't confuse me with the
facts!" They are people commended for belief and
rebuked for doubt. The Bible isn't to be picked apart;
it's meant to be read and believed. Isn't a child held up
as an example of how to have faith? What child
resorts to a detailed, scientific analysis of anything?
It is often pointed out that the Bible is prescientific.
Jesus and the apostle Paul were certainly not scientists.
And many of the followers of Christianity have argued
for decidedly unscientific views: the earth as the center
of the solar system, the sky as a hard shell covering the
earth, a view of disease that says demons rather than
germs cause sickness, to name just a few. Throughout
history, science has been tolerated by the church only
as long as it hasn't contradicted matters of faith. And
when it has contradicted faith, science has been asked
to bow politely and leave the room.
It seems fair, in light of history and experience, to
propose that religion-and Christianity in particular-is
based not on experimentation and analysis but on
faith. You either believe or you don't, and what ultimately
convinces you will be some sort of experience
(imagined or otherwise) or visitation by God (or possibly
nothing but your earnest desire to believe) rather
than study and research. Robert Heinlein, the prolific
science fiction writer, observed in Notebooks of
Lazarus Long, "History does not record anywhere at
any time a religion that has any rational basis. Religion
is a crutch for people not strong enough to stand up to
the unknown without help. But, like dandruff, most
people do have a religion and spend time and money
on it and seem to derive considerable pleasure from fiddling
with it." If that's truly the case, no wonder science
and religion have not gotten along well.
It is also true that it is futile to try to convince
someone of spiritual dogma by using reason when the
essence of it is not something reasonable (for example,
belief in an unseen God who can't be known through
material means). The skeptic predicts it won't work,
and the true believer says it shouldn't work.
So what's the point of a reasoned approach to
Christianity, when the whole system is based on faith?
OPEN FOR DISCUSSION
1. On the continuum below, mark the spot that
best indicates how you were brought up to
believe in spiritual things.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
The Bible It's okay to Spiritual Religion is
says it, you ask some truths should foolishness
believe it! questions. be carefully
2. On the continuum below, mark the spot that
best indicates how you were brought up to
believe in science.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Science proves Science doesn't Science is often Science is the
there's no God. prove or irrational and enemy of God
disaprove God biased
3. Which of the following definitions of faith can
you most relate to? Explain.
Faith means believing something you know is
Faith is a "great excuse to evade the need to
think and evaluate evidence."
Faith is "based on a deep-seated need to
Faith is simply filling in the gaps when you
have probability but not certainty.
4. Mark the following statements true or false, according to your current way of thinking.
Give reasons for your answers.
____ Faith is required to believe in God, because there is no evidence for his
____ If you have reasons for something, you
don't need faith; if you have faith, reasons don't matter.
____ It is foolish to believe something just
because a spiritual authority says so.
____ There are plenty of reasons to believe in
Christianity; faith is just quicker and
easier than reason.
____ God prefers that people believe in him by
faith, but will give reasons if he has to.
5. Christianity is called a faith; it is not called a
science. Does this matter to you? Why or why
not? What would need to change for it to be
called a science?
6. In your opinion, is Christianity based on fact
or on faith? Explain your answer.
7. How certain are you that your current
perspective on the truth (or unreliability) of
Christianity is correct? What would lead you
to greater certainty about your current
position? What would lead you to serious
doubt about it?
8. What do you think of the statement "Christianity
sometimes goes beyond reason but not
While it is true that faith is a part of Christianity, the Bible
nowhere commands-or commends-putting faith in faith.
Christians are instructed to put their faith in facts and ultimately
put their trust in a person, Jesus Christ. Blind obedience to any
message without examining its reliability is not biblical Christianity-it
is a great way to get sucked into a cult! The Bible
commands people to investigate, not to put faith in everything
that comes along. People should put trust only in worthy recipients.
This is why idolatry is so forcefully condemned-not
because God has an ego problem but because any "god" other
than he will prove unreliable.
Peter, one of Jesus' closest disciples, did not appeal to his
readers to blindly accept his message. He made it clear that
there were objective facts which were reliable, and that there
were also fairy tales to be avoided. "We did not follow cleverly
invented stories when we told you about the power and coming
of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his
majesty" (2 Peter 1:16). The people of Berea were commended
because when the apostle Paul preached in their city, they
made sure his message had validity: "The Bereans were of
more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received
the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures
every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11).
Such examples make it clear that faith is not credulity, and careful
investigation and inquiry ought to be normal operating procedure
in the spiritual realm as well as elsewhere.
9. What do you think is the role of reason in the
life of a Christian? What are the limits of our
powers of reasoning?
HEART OF THE MATTER
10. Why do you think some people become angry
when they are asked to put faith or trust in
11. Why do you think some people get angry
when they are asked to give clear reasons for
what they believe?
12. Do you think anyone is capable of living
without some kind of faith in something? Why or why not?
CHARTING YOUR JOURNEY
With this session you're beginning a journey. Keep in
mind that you do not need to feel pressured to "say
the right thing" at any point during these discussions.
You're taking the time to do this work because you
want answers and because you're willing to be honest
with your doubts and uncertainties. You may also
have others in your life who would benefit from hearing
about what you'll be learning. So use these sessions
profitably-ask the tough questions, think "outside
the box," learn from what others in your group have
to say. But keep being authentic about where you are
in your process.
To help you see yourself more clearly, throughout
this guide you will have an opportunity to indicate
where you are in your spiritual journey. As you gain
more information, you may find yourself reconsidering
your opinions from session to session. The important
thing is for you to be completely truthful about
what you believe-or don't believe-right now.
13. On a scale from one to ten, place an X near
the spot and phrase that best describes you.
What reasons do you have for placing your
X where you did?
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Reason is more Reason is Faith is Faith is more
reliable than flawed but has subjective but realiable than
faith. has its place. has its place reason