These are probing questions for people of faith to ask themselves. Also, I just want to be clear here that this line of questioning and probing is not harmful. It is serious. It is inquisitive, and it is with the interest of helping others to apply thoughtful and critical analysis to the things they believe.
I’ll quote Aristotle again, there’s a quote from him that says, “ all men by nature desire to know.” So, the intention of these questions is to dig down deeply for knowledge. My friends, if given the choice to believe in things without knowledge and evidence, or to believe in things with knowledge and evidence, what would you choose? Which is more desireable?
David Hume said it like this, “a wise man therefore proportions his belief to the evidence.” Keeping that principle in mind, I offer this line of Socratic questioning.
Do you know God? If this God is unseen how certain can you be that he is there? Do you feel God? What exactly brings you to believe that you are feeling God? How can you know that God is present with you?
Is God a still small voice? If so, how are you able to distinguish this subtle voice of God from your own thoughts? Is it possible that you think you are hearing from a God because you can imagine what he or she would say? Do you imagine what God is saying to you? If so, what does this imagined voice sound like? Does it speak gently and softly with a sense of depth and great wisdom?
Does this imagined voice say things like, “my thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and my ways are higher than your ways.” Does this imagined voice say things like, “trust me, I’m here with you, I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Does it remind you in your toughest moments with phrases like, “don’t give up, be strong, I’m always here.”
My friend, how certain are you that you know the voice of God? That you know the actual source of your own sense of divinity? How deep are you willing to go to find out what is true? Is it valid to question this for your own self? For your own sake? How can you know what is true?
If faith is a firm belief in something for which there is no proof, and truth is anything which is in accordance with fact or reality, is it possible that faith and truth may not overlap? To be more specific, if someone does not personally know whether their faith is in accordance with reality, should this be a reason for pause? I get deeper into trying to discern this distinction in my post: Is Faith Synonymous With Truth? Check it out and let me know what you think?
When thinking about our beliefs, and in particular when we are talking about faith, which can often be understood as confidence, what is it exactly that people are so confident about? Is faith itself a form of knowledge? Do people arrive at the truth by having faith, or is knowledge something separate from that? How can we know the difference?
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As a brief disclaimer, I am defining faith much like I did in my previous post. It is getting nuanced just a little more by focusing on the sense of conviction or confidence that faith is often associated with. Faith is thereby being defined here as: A firm belief, conviction, or sense of assurance in something for which there is no proof. A few synonymous terms used here are faith as a sense of certainty, confidence, trust, or even as a feeling. A helpful definition for truth would be: anything which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.
On a scale of one to ten, one being least certain and ten being most certain, how certain are you that faith is in accordance with fact or reality? Faith is often described as a deep sense of assurance or conviction. In the Bible it is described as, “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
My friends, if you can neither see or detect who or what you are placing your trust in, how certain can you be of that belief? Consider Romans 10:17 in the Bible where it says:
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Can you recall the first time that faith arose within you toward Christianity or whatever religion you subscribe to? What was that like for you? When I was at one time a believing Christian, I can tell you that I felt flooded with gratitude, joy, and even excitement. It was a very emotional experience to commit my life to Jesus.
Have you ever pondered the varying pieces of the puzzle that can surround and often even influence these deep faith experiences? More so when we are focusing on the confidence aspect of what faith is and how it grows and takes shape in one’s life? For instance, think about the social and emotional impact of a community that surrounds itself around the same type of cause or goal? It could be something akin to the Civil Rights movement and the fight for equal rights for all people regardless of skin color. Can you imagine yourself initially being on the fence about that during the 1960’s? Much like one may be on the fence about religion?
Then, as you interact with that community, learn about its core values and mission, and make many friends who live out these ideas with passion, you may eventually feel compelled to join in, right? It may be a moment of moving into a surging sense of confidence or conviction that this is the right set of ideas to fight for, the right movement to be a part of. Could you see yourself right there on the front lines holding protests, interacting with the people and standing up for what is right?
Imagine the sense of brotherhood and the energy that can arise from being on the right side of history? From surrounding yourself with passionate people who are fighting for the same ideals. Imagine the idea that you are changing and impacting millions of lives for the better? I’m not going to pretend that coming to a belief in Jesus as one’s Savior doesn’t feel a lot like that in many cases. Not all cases, illustrations like this do break down, but definitely in many cases. In fact, many folks would argue that faith in Jesus is a huge level up from this because this is a movement to redeem and save all of humanity.
How can we go wrong when it feels so right? I hope that didn’t hit a nerve, but think about faith for a moment, really think about it? If faith is the substance of things hoped for and if it is a conviction that arises in direct response to the Christian message, would it not be accurate to call it a feeling? Is faith not a powerful and deep sense of conviction that arises in people’s lives? To be fair I know this is one main way to describe it, but there are separate definitions that believers provide as well, which I can examine in future posts.
I have some more probing questions to ask. Is this faith conviction a good measuring stick that is able to show us that we believe in true things? Is truth always related to a sense of powerful conviction that arises from a set of beliefs? My friend, what then is the difference between a deep seated certainty that arises through following Islam and a sense of assurance that arises from embracing Jesus? How can we tell the difference? Can both of these people of faith be right?
If our Muslim friends and Hindu friends are able to acquire the same kind of deep seated certainty about their faith-based beliefs, what does this tell us about using faith as a guide for believing and embracing true things? Is truth more than a feeling? What does truth look like? Is it more probable that truth can be better identified through feelings or through reason and evidence?
Where should the weight fall when we are attempting to get at what is true? What is more reliable? Is there anything that you believed in growing up that you were once totally confident about but then discovered you were wrong? Is this more prone to happen with totally faith-based beliefs over, say, beliefs that arise from knowledge and evidence?
Where should our sense of confidence or certainty stem from? Thank you for asking these difficult questions with me and if you are a person of faith, please share with me your thoughts? These are rather challenging and brutally honest questions, right?
What gives you guys a sense of assurance that what you think and believe directly corresponds to what is true? Thanks!
Before we begin, this is my attempt to use a Socratic style of questioning. In this post my intent is to both ask and help the reader to identify what shapes their own religious beliefs as well as the faith-based beliefs of many others? These are challenging questions, sometimes comfortable to answer and sometimes not. I contend that these are all necessary questions, so, here goes.
How does one’s faith, that is, one’s belief in a God or gods get to them? How is it that these ideas spread and become more widely accepted? How does faith then arise in one’s thinking? Also, where does the vocabulary come from? Where do these ideas and concepts originate from? Are they from your holy text?
My friend, are the doctrines of the Bible or Quran self-evident to people prior to their learning about it from others? Here’s a helpful definition of self-evident: Not needing to be demonstrated or explained; obvious.
Consider Christianity, how evident is it really that there is only one God? To take it further, how evident is it, apart from a Bible, that God is three in one? I’m of course referring to the Trinity. There are many things that holy books want us to take on pure faith, right? Here’s a helpful definition of faith: Firm belief in something for which there is no proof.
Think about sin, my friends, how evident would it be that sin exists as a form of spiritual death and separation from a God? Would people perceive evil and wrongdoing in exactly the same light if there were not a Bible or holy book of some kind to describe it in detail?
Then, what about this idea of a soul? Would we know that we have souls apart from being taught about it? Would we be aware that this soul is meant to live on forever? Where do these beliefs really stem from? How can we know that they correspond to reality?
Is faith in God grounded in our knowledge of reality? That is, in anything that exists independently of us? If so, how? How can you or I conclude angels and demons by interacting with the world? Are beliefs like this more or less true depending on how many people subscribe to them? Depending on whether the people we love and trust the most subscribe to them?
How reliable is an act of faith that desires to commit to these teachings? Is this act of trusting without evidence a reliable way to arrive at the truth? How can we know if these things are true? Food for thought.
Alright, I confess, faithGnosis is a term that I have coined about the relationship between faith and knowledge. It’s a way of diagnosing or identifying what that is. What is the relationship between faith in God or supernatural concepts and ideas, and what we can know in life? Are faith and knowledge synonymous? As I’ve surveyed many people who believe in God and supernatural things, I have the impression that many folks do in fact closely link the idea of personal faith with their knowledge about what is thought to be beyond the natural world.
We have that ever so famous quote from the Bible, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In other words, many folks, and I was once able to include myself in this group, believe that faith or the act of trusting or believing in God is itself an evidence of what is not seen. Faith in and of itself is considered a guarantee or assurance of what many folks are hoping for without evidence.
After years of personally believing that faith was synonymous with my knowledge of the unseen, I eventually came to deeply question whether that was actually true? A couple of years ago I came to a rather difficult and undesired conclusion, I came to the realization that I was not able to honestly say that the faith that I had in a God was connected to what I knew about that question. My thought out answer was that as far as I could discern within my life, I did not possess any good evidence or knowledge that a God does in fact exist. My certainty was tied up within my faith, rather than in what I knew about this very important question.
As this occurred within my thinking, it gradually brought me to reformulate how I acknowledge both what I know and what I do not know in life. I adopted a new methodology. The Philosopher, David Hume, once put it so very well when he said, “In our reasonings concerning matter of fact, there are all imaginable degrees of assurance, from the highest certainty to the lowest species of moral evidence. A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence.”
I came to adopt this line of thinking before I became more well rounded with what people like David Hume had to say about it. So it is, that at least in my case, and those who think like me, the only way that I can be certain about beliefs that are supernatural is to have some semblance of knowledge about it. I would need to experience supernatural things or find some kind of measuring stick that can validate supernatural claims. Otherwise, I find myself in the dark.
I haven’t found any reliable tool that can point to Christianity being any more true or valid than any other religion that purports supernatural claims and requires faith or trust alone as a foundation. My quest now is to put these honest questions and concerns out there for others to both ponder and consider for themselves. Should faith really play as big of a role as it does in feeding one’s sense of certainty about what is true? If given the choice, wouldn’t we want that faith to be more in line with solid evidence that we can cite in the here in now?
Is the act of believing (having faith) or trusting in what is not seen a reliable way to get at the truth? This doesn’t apply just to religion. This applies to any belief that is held without evidence. As a quick example, belief in Karma. Is faith a good way to navigate ourselves toward true and accurate beliefs? If so, how can we know this for ourselves? How can we know we aren’t honestly fooling ourselves? I admit that these are hard and challenging questions. My questions are going to challenge your own sense of certainty, as they did mine.
Here’s what cannot be said about this process of getting at what is true. This cannot be thought of as a dishonest experiment. It really isn’t. You’ve just read my honest take on how I came to critically examine and diagnose where I went astray in my previous logic. This isn’t an attempt to unjustly steer other people away from the truth, rather, this is an invitation for others to ask themselves the same questions, come to a conclusion, and see if what we conclude is in line with what we know?
If it isn’t, then we all must make a decision about something. We must decide whether it is important to have evidence and knowledge at the foundation of our belief systems, or whether it just doesn’t appear all that important? This is something I’ll leave up to my audience. I wish everyone the very best as they strive to critically evaluate what faith is, what knowledge is, and how to best navigate our process of identifying what is true from there.
This is a place where people make their own decisions. I’m not here to tell you what to think in the end, you are free to disagree with my stated conclusion, perhaps faith is a form of knowledge? If so, how can we make this knowledge easily identifiable for outsiders like me to acknowledge?
The whole purpose of this new blog is to create a refreshing, challenging, and brutally honest dialogue between those who hold to faith as a foundation for their beliefs and those like myself who see a need for evidence to dictate what we think. What is the best way to navigate toward and rest upon what is true?
Aristotle said it best when he said, “All men by nature desire to know.” If this is true, how much more should that relate to what we believe and trust within this life? Thanks guys, I’m excited to get your feedback and responses about these questions!