Over at Parchment and Pen blog, Michael Patton has asked a few respected evangelical scholars and authors to contribute one paragraph each on the issue of Christians and doubt. It will be a series of posts. In the first post, Dr. Darrell Bock shares his thoughts on faith and doubt. Here is the link.
I tend to think of Dr. Darrell Bock and Dr. Bart Ehrman as counterparts, except they are on opposite “sides.” Both are scholars, professors, and authors, who are highly respected in their fields. Yet, Dr. Bock is a professing evangelical Christian and Dr. Ehrman has rejected the Christian faith he once held. I also think of the late CS Lewis and present day Richard Dawkins…both were/are prestigious Oxford scholars. Yet Lewis became the 20th century’s greatest Christian apologist, while Dawkins the 21st century’s greatest anti-Christian apologist. Clearly, brains alone does not determine whether one ultimately accepts or rejects Christianity.
Perhaps I mention this because I sometimes observe a lack of charity from those on both sides of this issue. I was once debating with a skeptic who shared a piece of “evidence” with me that he felt should make me reject the Christian faith. When I didn’t choose to reject Christianity, he said that I choosing to believe “despite the evidence.” – Well, that is rather insulting, isn’t it?
But I have observed similar behavior from Christians as well! Indeed, I’m reminded of a Christian apologetic book: “Evidence that Demands a Verdict.” It seems a rather arrogant title, doesn’t it? A little more humility is needed by each and every one of us. Both sides can present compelling evidence. Furthermore, evidence that is convincing to one person, may not be convincing to another.
It reminds me of my “new” favorite CS Lewis quote:
“Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.” (in Mere Christianity)
I appreciate Dr. Bock’s opening sentence in his paragraph on faith and doubt:
It is called faith but it is not without reason.
In contrast, I recently read this on an atheist’s web site:
Faith is permission to believe without good reason. Believing something because it is reasonable and rational requires no faith at all.
Hmm…which is it? Is faith reasonable and rational? Or unreasonable and irrational? Both Dr. Darrell Bock and Dr. Bart Ehrman are high level scholars, and I do not think it would be fair or accurate to call either one of them unreasonable or irrational! They are both rational and reasonable men. Yet, each have reached different conclusions.
We need to look at the concept of “faith” a little more. I think there are 2 misconceptions when it comes to faith. One, is to consider faith as exclusively a religious concept that has nothing to do with the rest of life. Another is to presume that faith has no relationship to knowledge or the intellect. I’m reminded of a joke I heard years ago. A Sunday school teacher asked her class “What is faith?” and one boy answered: “Faith is believing in what you know isn’t true.”
In the next post, we will consider these 2 misconceptions in more detail.