Friday, December 15, 2006

First Look at Poll Results

My current poll (done jointly with the MAR-SBL site) now has 20 votes, so it's time to take a first look at it. There is also a lot of buzz in the blogosphere over this general topic, so I would like to provide some links to other blogs down below as well.

That half of you (50%) voted for the final response (# 6, "none of the above sounds right") is intriguing. I would love to hear how you would formulate your response to the question. Would you consider adding a comment below?

Responses # 2 and # 3, though wrong-headed, are common among religious believers. Many of my own students side with # 2. Look at how 10 % (or 2 of you so far) have voted for # 3, the Kierkegaardian idea that faith is an unscientific, purely existential commitment! Here, I heartily recommend what Charles Halton has just written in his Awilum blog (click here).

I'm surprised that no one has voted for # 5 ("no foundational truths"). I intended that response to be a place for post-structuralists / post-modernists to feel at home. Did I word things oddly, so that none of you cast your vote here?

My own vote must of course go with the 25% of you that went with # 1--accepting biblical faith claims requires reasons. This response, I would maintain, allows "faith" to have the sense that it does in the Scriptures themselves. The Hebrew term אמן means to "affirm" or "stand firm" in God's promises, not to believe something without reasons. It means to be trusting enough in something that one gives one's "amen" to it. I'd be happy to add a separate post on this, if folks want more discussion. I'm very committed to this interpretation.

How interesting that 10 % of you have voted for # 4, that faith does not stand up to the evidence. What is more, this would jump to 20 % if we include those who voted for response # 3. Could it be that Dawkins and his ilk has you deceived? If so, I recommend a recent post at the Faith and Theology blog, with excerpts and links to Eagleton's recent superb apologetic rebuttal of Dawkins (click here). For another good, worthy exposé of Dawkins, click here.

One final blog reference. Chris at his Targuman blog points us to a great post by Ralph the Sacred River. I must say that I agree with Ralph: Why don't liberal Christians start helping us refute these muddled, mean atheists like Dawkins and Harris? "Now *sigh* there's a new shipment of nitwits that are just begging for the old double-barrel rational refutation treatment. It's exhausting. Can't we get a break? You know what I say? I say, Let the liberals handle it this time. We orthodox folks are going to take some time off" (click here).

Comments, please! I know you all have thoughts on all of this! ---SLC



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have not voted. (But you see I am getting excited about the fact that I can make posting comments work for me again. My solution: type in as many word verifications as it takes, 2-3, and always preview before posting, posting without previewing doesn't seem to work for me.)

I would go with 1 - ours is indeed a reasonable faith. But I hesitate. I hesitate because such tests do not provide an independent ground for faith. I suspect that's not what you mean anyway.

Most of the claims made in Scripture are theological or historical. I am not convinced that claims about God can be tested independently of the Scriptures - maybe except for the test whether the Scriptures are coherent and provide a good interpretation of the reality in which we live and have our being.

Neither are historical claims subject to fool-proof tests. When we are talking history, we are talking probabilities. And of course "the evidence" never speaks on its own. In other words, any tests we could run will bring up results which are in need of interpretation.

Faith seeking understanding will welcome such tests. I am entirely with you that Christians will want to integrate their reading of the Scriptures with their reading of the world behind and in front of the text.

Sat Dec 16, 02:00:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And another hesitation: requires reasons just sounds too much like reasons first, faith later. Anselm's motto which I have cited above (Faith seeking understanding) has it the other way round and I am more comfortable with that.

Tradition passes on to us (a certain understanding of) Scripture. God calls forth faith through the witness of Scripture. Faith seeks understanding by meditating on Scripture, living it, testing it, reflecting both on the text and our world - all this in the light of tradition with the help of reason. What do you think?

Sat Dec 16, 02:15:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Thanks Thomas. I heartily agree with several of your points, such as the following: a reasonable faith; the key role of coherence in chosing a world-view; all evidence is "interpreted evidence"; and the truth that mathmatical certainty about life is impossible (the certainty of faith is "moral" certainty). I admit that so far in life I've never fully grasped the point of "faith seeking understanding," but I am certainly open to having it explained to me and your comments help. (I guess I'm the sort of person who wants to understand what I'm getting into at least a bit before I jump in with both feet.) Thanks for the comments! ---Stephen C.

Sat Dec 16, 06:31:00 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, there is no faith without some sort of understanding. Faith seeking understanding is not "let me believe in something and then try to find a rational basis for my faith". Thinking in terms of world-views has helped me a lot but it is not the whole answer.

Christian faith is not simply "believing Christian claims to be true" (with or without evidence). Christian faith involves trust in Jesus Christ. And so our understanding will seek to be never just an understanding of truth claims but also an understanding of a person, indeed three persons.

But how do we "understand" persons? How do we come to trust someone? Not usually by running a series of tests although trust can and will be tested.

At some point in this context it would be worth reflecting on "paedofaith". Because at Oak Hill we also train some Baptists, we may have more discussion of such things than in some other places. One of my colleagues, who is not Anglican but paedobaptist in a functionally Baptist church, has written up his favourite moments from Rich Lusk's book on paedofaith. If you're interested you find them at (a word document).

Sun Dec 17, 08:23:00 AM GMT-5  
Blogger S and C said...

Thank you, Thomas. I'm going to elevate your comment into a post. See above. ---Steve

Sun Dec 17, 02:15:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger PamBG said...

I voted for none of the above sounds right because I didn't like how the choices seemed to define the concept of "testing".

I absolutely don't think that faith is "testable" in the mode of a science laboratory. I do think that faith is "testable" in living out a life of faith.

So "none of the above sounds right".

Sun Dec 17, 04:56:00 PM GMT-5  

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