Thursday, January 13, 2005

Why have faith in anything, let alone Christianity?

The problem of suffering can be difficult to address. Often times, atheists will point out suffering as proof that God either does not exist, or does not care. If you already believe in God, then suffering is still a question to be solved, but apparently not one that will keep you from continuing to believe.

The question is so interesting and so important that people discuss it all the time. For example, PBS recently did a program entitled The Question of God, pitting Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis in a debate about the meaning of life.

I do not believe I can answer the question of suffering in one brief post. But, I do want to begin to address some comments I've received. Most of the questions in the comment seems to be along the lines of "how can you believe in a god when X is true?" As such, I would like to start by addressing the concept of belief.

The word "belief" does not tend to sit will with skeptics and critics. Perhaps more accurately, skeptics would object mostly to the concept of "faith," equating belief with faith. "Faith" seems to conjure the popular notion of some mental construct which does have proof or evidence, perhaps a belief held out of ignorance or superstition. Naturally, you and I would object to such "faith."
I will likely use the word "faith" quite frequently. As such, I should probably define it now. I think such a topic should engender discussion if there is interest, and I find myself interested in discussing it.

Faith involves three aspects:
  1. A comprehension of a truth,
  2. A mental assent of that truth, and
  3. A fiduciary trust of that truth.
Thus, faith involves our 1) intellect, 2) feelings, and 3) will. For me to have faith in something, I have to understand it, agree that it is true, and then bet my life on it. Greg Koukl, a former atheist who set out to prove Christianity wrong, has already written a good article for Christians on the notion of faith, and it may benefit you to read it.

So I address the first question that was posed to me: why Christianity?

I grew up in a Chinese culture, so I am familiar with several Eastern religions. I knew many missionary kids, so I came to know Christianity, Catholicism (if you draw a distinction) and Mormonism. I was familiar with Hindu thought, so New Age mysticism in the U.S. was not strange to me.

Thus, the decision was not made by default... I had plenty of choices! But what gives Christianity more validity are twofold... first, it is falsifiable, and two, it has not been proven wrong.

Now, that assertion may strike you as preposterous, but I have seen much evidence for the veracity of Christianity. It is internally consistent, contains mysteries but no illogical concepts, has great explanatory power, and has tremendous testimonial witnesses to its truths.

I would expect that, if posted in a highly public forum, this would attract many demands for proof. And as I have stated before, I intend to answer any and all comments in an orderly fashion. Still, I hold no grand notions of a worldwide audience, so this may sit for a long time and come back to me years from now.

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