Faith not facts?
Have you ever been tempted to throw up your hands and say, “Let the scientists worry about the facts. All I need is my faith!”
The surrender of the facts can feel liberating. It empowers us to boldly proclaim, “I will believe, no matter what!” But is a fact-less belief big enough? Can it contain a meaningful gospel? My early experiences in the academic world showed me what that kind of faith leads to—a God who is muzzled and bound in a very small box.
Class in session: No souls allowed
As a ‘microscopic’ undergrad in the vast broiling stew of a secular university, I knew that my Christian faith made me an endangered species. Yet, the spontaneous generation of life from non-life would have shocked me less than the poorly chosen words of my religious studies professor, for whom a literal application of Genesis 1 and 2 to human history was not even worthy of class discussion.
“Those of you who hold religious beliefs should not feel threatened by anything I teach,” she said. “We are here to learn about facts, and if your faith is strong it shouldn’t be affected, because true faith has nothing to do with the facts.”
Nothing to do with the facts? The insult nearly caused me to evolve an extra artery, just so I could burst it. Was this the best solution she could provide? Were we to thank her for granting us the freedom to keep our beliefs so long as we kept them to ourselves, locked away in the land of make-believe?
Unlike most of my peers, I had grown up in a private Christian school where ‘secular education’ was a theoretical concept. I assumed ‘secular’ meant ‘neutral’, in the sense that no particular belief system was supposed to be elevated above another. The controversies over school prayer, sex education, and the creation/evolution debate had left me with no doubt that the system wasn’t working as intended; but I assumed that with the proper adjustments, we could find a middle ground where all sides could get along.
That faint hope met a sudden death on that fateful day in my religious studies class. The central idea of secularism (or more specifically, secular humanism)—about which Christians have written volumes trying to explain—became clear to me, all because of those simple words, “Faith has nothing to do with the facts.”
Our primary text for the religious studies course was the Bible. But since we were there to learn facts, not faith, we had to read the holy book in an unholy way. We learned that the creation story was pieced together from the myths of ancient Mesopotamia; Noah’s Flood was an exaggeration; Moses never parted a sea; and the prophets could never have spoken accurate prophecies. As for how the Bible came to be, our choices were limited to the Documentary Hypothesis or some similarly clunky explanation that required armies of editors altering one another’s work and embellishing Jewish history long after the actual events.1
The Big Picture: an atheist takeover
Myth. Error. Fraud. There was nothing neutral about those terms. There was nothing neutral about college in general. My neuroscience professor giddily declared human consciousness an illusion. My fiction writing course focused exclusively on a feminist deconstruction of the meaning of womanhood. My physics textbook assumed an evolutionary origin of the human ear. The faculty were not in lock-step agreement on every idea in every subject, but the glue that held them together was a fundamental belief that “faith has nothing to do with the facts”—that only material things are knowable, and only natural causes are acceptable explanations.
Christians sometimes think that by cutting their faith loose from facts, they are making their beliefs invincible against the scientific arguments of atheists. But in reality, the effect is the opposite. A faith devoid of facts is dead. The problem is not just that such a faith is logically indefensible, but that it eventually loses any content worth defending. When you separate Christianity from the sciences and history, atheism wins because the skeptic can merely ascribe your faith to wishful thinking.
Because schools and colleges no longer teach students that God formed Adam from the dust, the atheists step in to fill the void with a ‘scientific’ alternative (billions of years, perhaps billions of universes, and some very lucky dice). And so the process continues: the Bible loses its authority, Jesus is stripped of his divinity, the miracles become at worst hoaxes, at best mere natural phenomena the ancients did not understand. If you protest that science has gone too far, you will be reminded that religion has no place in science, and that the non-spiritual interpretation of the facts is therefore the only interpretation. Your shriveled-up mustard seed of faith will roll away, forbidden to speak to science, to history, to culture, to politics, to anything but your therapist.
Fed up with being locked in a box, I eventually transferred to a Christian college. There I was able to study the Bible, not as a fraudulent artifact of primitive civilizations, but as a message from a very outside-the-box God, freeing me from mine.
If Christians want to reconcile science with religion, we must begin by understanding that faith is not the opposite of facts, but the interpreter of facts. The Creator has reached down from heaven and revealed himself to His creatures, and his teachings can and must influence how we view our reality. If Christianity were just another abstract moral philosophy, science might safely ignore it. But our faith is so much more than a philosopher’s whimsical musings—it is a calling grounded in history and real-life events that have shaped the world we live in and are shaping the world to come. Our faith lives to the extent that our Jesus lives, giving wisdom, giving knowledge, entering into history, defying the ‘laws of nature’, and reigning over our minds.
References and notes
- See Holding, J.P., Debunking the documentary hypothesis, J. Creation 19(3):37–40, 2005; creation.com/documentary; Grigg, R., Did Moses really write Genesis? Creation 20(4):43–46; creation.com/jedp. Return to text.
If i may reply to Paul O's comment. So if your claim that life is nothing but chemistry is true then like Dr Jonathan Sarfati said in his article Loving God with all your mind, Why should logic work at all if we are nothing but chemical elements, and why should we believe anything you or any evolutionist says if both our minds and body are nothing but chemistry?
thank you for all of these amazing articles. I am a young earth creationist who writes scientific news letters for my church and I have used the knowledge to not reinforce only my beliefs but those of my friends too. This website is a great resource in my studies and websites like this are what has helped me preserve my faith. the more I have come to understand the world the obvious it becomes that it was created.
//the spontaneous generation of life from non-life//
Why is this a problem in your mind? You are walking talking proof that life comes from non-life. Your body (as well as all life on Earth) is made from oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and a bunch of other chemical elements.
Those chemical elements are non-living. You are literally made of non-living chemical elements: life from non-life. Life is chemistry.
I came from an egg and a sperm from my mother and father; both were living. I was not produced by a spontaneous coming together of elements. All life comes from life, which is the most experimentally verified concept in biology (countless billions of experiments every day confirm this). All life, even the very simplest, has been oberved only to come from a pre-existing life forms. Belief in the spontaneous origin of life necessitates suspension of scientific reasoning and the belief in magic (without a magician).
For a thorough explanation of why life cannot arise spontaneously, see Origin of life.
Amen and amen! CMI has given me that "thing", facts that have enhanced both my testimony and my witnessing. Thank you for your work and praise God for His blessings.
if confronted by a claim that religious language is meaningless i like to point out that they too must start from faith, therefore they are also religious. (which verifies the Bible - all men are made in His image) except their religion is incoherent and filled with internal tensions.
i know i cannot open the eyes of the blind - only God can but He requires us to press the truth to them "or he will be wise in his own eyes"
Belief in materialism-only science is an extremist religious position that sacrifices reason in an attempt to hold the adherer as ultimate (god)
(eg. they must make metaphysical commitments about the universal nature of reality in order to assert that there is no metaphysical reality, they also destroy the possibility of knowledge if they consistently attempt to deny that history unfolds as an expression of God's will - since then there could be no connection between any events / objects. Isolated or 'stand alone' or 'one by one' facts are impossible. All knowledge rests on 'because ofs' and if the ultimate starting point is wrong the house cannot stand.
Since no man is omniscient, knowledge is only possible if it rests on revelation by the omniscient one. (Prov 1:7)
I appreciate that you point out that neutrality requires negating what God revealed. keep up the good work! and thank you Tony - i appreciate your wit and humorous style.
We can't separate faith from facts. Witnesses in the Bible related their stories, because they were told to, or because they witnessed acts of our great God, and could not be silent. They had to proclaim the truth to others out of love, or duty. We have faith in elevators' or stairs' strength, and use them ourselves, because we see other people use them without harm: an observed fact, leading to an action of faith.
Scientific facts show that life is so complex, that biochemically, it cannot arise by chance or haphazard processes. How life appeared is interpreted differently because of our own bias, or others' bias, our personal understanding from information we are given or we found ourselves. But when we are asked why we believe certain things, we have to give the facts that made us act in our belief, or else, we are mere dreamers or philosophers. Without facts, we can't support what we say. The listeners choose to trust you or not, depending on how we explained our point, their personal conviction (not always based on facts), on how teachable they are, and other factors.
Also, on the same facts, or event, different persons will have different interpretations, usually based on subjectivity, or what they want to hear. We see this demonstrated in most articles found in the Creation magazine. There is so much lying everywhere in our world that it is hard to know for sure who says the truth: it is evident in the newspaper relating the same event, and also in "scientific" papers. The hard part is to decide who says the truth, and for what purpose things are declared, or shared to the public. What is the author's intention in sharing information?
We build our faith on facts, given by witnesses. That is what led us to accepting Jesus as Son of God, and Saviour.
In fact, my faith is fact, a fact my faithless family and friends find fabulously funny. Forgetting feeble forays into false philosophies of fossils and fog, finding a Father in the Former of nature's fullness, fixes my focus on the future, and finely favors the findings on the frontiers to feed the fullness of my fondness for facts that fortify the faith I so firmly feel.
Your faithful friend,
John (too bad its not Frank right now!)
Glade to see that you came to your senses and changed colleges. Jesus said in John 20..24 Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
We all know the verses. There are many more about faith. Our battle is a spiritual one, not an intellectual one. We have the advantage because Christ has already overcome the world!
"Our battle is a spiritual one, not an intellectual one."
This is a false dichotomy; the contrast is with a worldly approach to battle (2 Corinthians 10:4). In Matthew 22:36–38 we read,
36 Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?
37 Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.”
See also: Loving God with all your mind.
"When you separate Christianity from the sciences and history, atheism wins because the skeptic can merely ascribe your faith to wishful thinking."
So what? Most atheists would ascribe your presuppositionalism to wishful thinking. Your wishful thinking is just a bit more sophisticated, because you folks have happened to read Cornelius Van Til or Gordon H. Clark.
You seem to have missed this:
"But our faith is so much more than a philosopher’s whimsical musings—it is a calling grounded in history and real-life events that have shaped the world we live in and are shaping the world to come."
One's presuppositions must lead to an interpretation of the facts that is consistent with the facts, otherwise there is something wrong with the presuppositions. There is a real world that has to be explained. The atheist does not have a framework of thinking that makes sense of the universe, but a Christian does.
Thank you for your concise and eloquently written article.
Our God, is the God of the six, 24 hour day creation. How I wish more Christians would simply ask God to reveal this truth to them, as I did. I struggle at times, to comprehend why we are so willing to accept so-called scientific evidence and not believe the word of God. Are we afraid of ridicule?
How I pray that prominent Men and Women in positions of power and authority would speak out against the lie of Macro evolution and state with boldness that "We are made in the image of God".
Brilliant article! Articulates where 'it's' at, extremely well. And the point made by Philip M too.
I am a SOLA-5 Christian. and stand firm on the Bible as the true revelation of Gods Word, from Gen. 1:1 - Rev. 22:21
We have NO theological faculty in the Netherlands that still teaches the historicity of Genesis 1. So no wonder that 95% of our ministers/pastors believe evolution to be true.
Nearly nobody wants to accept, that evolution is at the heart of the problem for our youth leaving the Church these days
I visit everyday your website to keep up with the latest arguments to use in spreading the glory of our LORD in a darkening former Christian country like Holland.
I am always amazed with the gentleness of heart you bring your arguments of truth.
God bless you all.
Sadly, the situation in the Netherlands is similar to most post-Christian countries, which are post-Christian because of the application of evolutionary thinking to the Bible (see Josef Tons on evolution and the Bible). And, doubly sadly, many of these corrupt western theological faculties are 'helping' newly-Christian countries with their 'superior' knowledge (via the theological training in those countries). Their 'help' is a poisoned challice that will destroy the Gospel in those countries as surely as it destroyed it in the West.
I realize that many Dutch-speaking people are also competent in English, but there is a Dutch language section of creation.com (Dutch articles.
My faith is based on reason, and good reason is built on facts. If a person believes something to be true without good reason, a) they have no foundation for their belief and it will crumble or b) correct belief becomes a pure chance thing, ie, irrespective of any facts I have decided that belief in x is true and I will not be shaken from it. If X is the biblical christianity, phew, lucky for you. If X is some other religious or philosophical belief... I believe in Christianity because it is a logical deduction. 1. There has to be a supernatural, super capable intelligent first cause. 2. Of the various candidates, God of the bible is the most promising. 3. Supporting evidence. The Bible is an incredible historical document, unparalleled by any other ancient writing. The fulfilled prophecys alone are remarkable. The incredible position in history and in world events the nation of Israel holds to this day is compelling support for the testimony of the bible. I believe in not only presenting my children with reasons to believe, I believe in looking and testing challenges to those reasons. It is a refining fire.
This is where resources such as CMI and other creation institutions are invaluable for shining the light of truth on the facts of the bible. Facts and faith are intrinsically linked.
Historical documentation shows the thoughts, deeds, experiences of humankind which are impossible for science to determine. Science works on the repeatable and observable. Historical documentation establishes the unobservant and unrepeatable. The fact of Christ's Resurrection happened once and is unobservant to the present and future generations. The facts of history and faith goes hand-in-hand.The apostle Paul wrote:
“… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still dead in your sins. …. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. …. If the dead are not raised, let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:17, 19, 32).
I have frequently been told that if my "faith" needs facts, it's not a faith.
Hmm. "Faith is the hope of things not yet seen".
I haven't seen Jesus. I haven't seen the Temple. I didn't witness the parting of the Red Sea.
I haven't seen Queen Victoria or witnessed the Battle of Hastings. However, I have read reliable eyewitness accounts of the facts.
And because the events recorded in the Bible are facts, I can have faith that the promises my Lord made will be kept.
It is so very sad that so many Christians are trapped in the delusion that their faith can be divorced from reality - a secularist worldview that essentially has "faith" as irrelevant.
It's sad that people who should know better think the physical is more real than the spiritual.
However, I also appreciate that all of us are on a journey of maturity and there are many aspects of my journey in which I am much further from maturity than other Christians.
But those who claim spiritual maturity should at least have these basic issues reasonably settled, or at least have the humility to say they are not sure instead of siding with worldly thinking over scripture.
An excellent example of 'faith that has nothing to do with facts' is faith in evolution. We now have so many facts that show that evolution is impossible, yet the majority cling to faith in it. But faith in Christ is different - it is truly based on facts - and for many months I have kept a reminder on my desk saying just that. Jesus lived, taught, healed, died, and rose again. All of these are well-attested historical facts. If they were not, we would be 'of all men most miserable' (1 Cor 15:19).
Faith and fact.
The realities of Bible are not like a supermarket when on a whim we can go and get instant facts like a can of food and satisfy our hunger for instant answers to our many questions.
Just as a youngster does not have the ability to comprehend advanced maths and science that doesn't mean he won't, given time and study.
We certainly have less facts about God's revelation of his relationship to man as a seeker or a young Christian.
However if we are faithful to nurture the seed of the Word of God, it will grow in us, and satisfying facts will emerge from our dark ignorance into the light.
Until growth happens, we are absolutely encouraged by the Bible to use faith and hope in the Word of God, as certainly as we would, reality. [Heb 11].
[Patience endurance etc]
Growth of the seed will impart increasing certainty, clarity and eventually fruitfulness.
[The parable of the sower reveals that the state of the soil of our heart is a major factor in growth and fruitfulness].
1Cor 2:9-16 reveals that the spiritual [godly] man "sees", whereas the natural man is as blind as the men of Sodom.
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
[This lecturer was evidently such a person]
But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him?
But we have the mind of Christ".
Our position therefore, is always, the Word of God is FACT!
Jesus said [In many ways], "Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free".
The truth is the strongest possible representation of fact.
Jesus ALWAYS approved faith in the strongest terms.
I wish to comment on your statement: “If Christians want to reconcile science with religion . . . “. Regarding the origin of life and the universe, there has been a battle raging for a long time now, and it is popularly viewed as a confrontation between Science and Religion. Science is in battle with Religion and Religion with Science. But if that is the case, what is the battle over? If there is a great conflict occurring between the two, what exactly are they fighting over? The answer is that they are fighting over History. The battle is over History and what constitutes History – which history is the correct history of the origin of life and the universe.
History is the domain where the fight is really at. History is the battleground. Two opposing historical beliefs are in conflict with each other. Which historical belief is right and which is wrong? What is the historical origin of the universe? Not scientific, but historical. What is the historical origin of life and the biological cell? Not the scientific origin (there is none) but the historical origin of life and the biological cell. (In saying this, I am viewing History and Science as two separate disciplines, not as two compartments of Science – operational / historical. And as an aside, to attach the word ‘scientific’ to origins – as darwinists cleverly do – is to implicitly attach the word ‘natural’ to origins, because science can only study the natural.)
In reality, there is no conflict between science and religion that needs to be reconciled. There is conflict between two historical beliefs that can never be reconciled.
Wow Tony, what a powerful comment on secular education. Thank you for your thought provoking article.
Thanks to CMI Christians have a vast array of scientifically verifiable facts to back up the biblical account of history, and it has been shown many times it is evolutionists who operate their belief system in a complete vacuum of facts that can show their belief has any correlation to the real world.