Does faith require evidence?

Not all of these are reliable, so the object of faith is what matters. Faith can be wishful thinking if there is no evidence on which it is based. A heart-broken lover could wish with all her heart that her beloved were faithful to her when, by all reports he was not.
So truth is important in what we believe, particularly in our pick’n’mix culture where ‘feeling comfortable’ is often prized more highly than truth. When an atheist ridicules belief in God as it can rebound, because their own belief that there is no God may also be ‘wishful thinking’ — perhaps prompted by the wish that there should be no ultimate accountability for their life.
So ‘faith’ is not something that can just be dismissed as ‘unevidenced belief’ in either secular or religious matters. If it is a belief without evidence, such as ‘the moon is made of green cheese’, the proper word for it is credulity.
But faith in God is more than simply faith that God exists, although it includes that belief. It is compared to trust, to confidence in a person —
‘without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.’ (Hebrews 11:6)
This confidence is well illustrated by the words of Minnie Louise Haskins (1875-1957), quoted by King George VI in his Christmas Day broadcast, 1939, following the outbreak of World War II in September:
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: “Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown”.
And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
Faith, in its Christian sense, is a launching out into the unknown on the strength of the known. The object of our faith, the triune God, is totally reliable; and it is that which inspires our confidence, our trust for what lies ahead, but is presently unknown.
Faith is not an ‘blind-leap-in-the-dark’. Only a foolish person would make such a leap. A ‘blind-leap-in-the-dark’ from the smoke-encompassed top of a burning building in the middle of the night would probably be fatal. But if voices and blue flashing lights below heralded the arrival of the fire brigade and they called out that they were holding out a blanket for you to jump into, that would be strong evidence to take saving action.
If the building were doomed, obeying what the firemen told you to do would save you. Christ’s invitation to everyone to trust Him for forgiveness, salvation and eternal life is of even greater significance — indeed the consequences of failing to take action go beyond this life.*
 
* Footnote: A fuller treatment of this topic is given in Chapter 4, ‘Belief, Faith and Evidence’, of my ‘User's Guide to Science and Belief' (2007) Lion Hudson.
                                                Michael Poole
Michael Poole is Visiting Research Fellow in Science & Religion in the Department of Education & Professional Studies at King's College London.
Website: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/schools/sspp/education/staff/mpoole.html


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