Faith vs. Faith –
Fighting on Level Ground
In both secular and Christian publications,
one often hears such phrases as “faith-based organizations,”
“peoples of faith,” and “the religious and irreligious.”
The implication of these designations for Christians,
however, is to admit defeat before ever engaging in battle.
Throughout history there has been an antithesis between
faith and reason.
If one group is “faith-based,” then by default the other is
When presented in this way, those who are “reasoning” have
virtually already won the argument.
“Everyone” knows that to reason is better than to have
“faith.” At least
that is how the argument goes in the public square.
Thus, I will present that Christians must continually and
broadly begin to demonstrate that every person acts by
faith—secularists, Christians, and those of any other religion.
Of course, to most Christians today, they
have already admitted defeat.
They do not want to “polish brass on a sinking ship.”
But at least they ought to recognize that they have not
upheld the honor of Christ, by allowing his followers to be
placed into a category of irrationality.
Then, there are those Christians who seem intent to
They conclude that secularists have won the political and
The only thing left is to accept persecution, being brave
martyrs. After all,
Tertullian said that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed” (of
the church). The
more persecution, the more that the Church grows—by this brand
of reasoning—more irrationality.
This desire is a distortion of both
Scripture and the progressive triumph of Jesus Christ as the
King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
History is “His-story”—His Providence in action.
As someone said, it is better to let the enemy die for
his faith, rather
than the Christian.
It is precisely on this word, “faith,” that I want to propose
one strategy in this war—at least a stepping-stone as the Church
learns its postmillennial message or otherwise seeks to honor
both Christ, His Word, and elementary logic.
Allowing Christians to be labeled as a “faith-group” is
to place us in an intellectual and cultural ghetto without
Such ghettos inescapably
lead to a political and geographical ghetto, as has been seen
recently in Nazi Germany and Communist Russia.
Everyone Begins with
The first step is for Christians to
recognize that Augustine of Hippo had the right sequence—“I
believe in order to understand,” or faith precedes reason.
Many Christians, especially those Reformed, have learned
that everyone bases their ethics and politics on
Now, this terminology is correct, but let us see how this works.
There are people of “faith” and people with
We still lose the public debate.
Presuppositions trump faith in the immediacy of
issues must become one “faith” vs. another “faith.”
My present area of work is in philosophy,
where I have found that philosophers obfuscate through
multiplication of terms and imprecise and changing definitions.
For example, some philosophers talk of “basic beliefs.”
Others speak of foundationalism.
Many Christians, as we have seen, speak of
But, there are many synonyms of this concept: axiom, assumption,
bias, basic belief, fundamental belief, core belief, bias,
starting point, first principle, foundational principle,
foundational belief, first philosophy, ultimate concern, and
Then, one could add any and all “-isms”: communism, socialism,
conservatism, fascism, Nazism, etc.
And, then, there are all the “religions” of the world.
There are thousands of basic
My point is that we have many names for
essentially the same concept: basic beliefs or simply belief or
No one starts from reason
alone—one always has to assume (believe) some value upon which
to base his reasoning process.
The attempt to “reason without belief” began with the
Not only has this project failed, it should never have
had the standing that it did.
Some blame Thomas Aquinas.
Certainly, he gave a huge impetus into the separation of
faith and reason, but almost all who followed him, both
secularists and Christians, continued this separation.
In a sense, the Reformation contributed to this
separation because it centered on Biblical theology and did not
(with a few exceptions) address philosophical issues directly.
Perhaps, the Enlightenment Project is best
illustrated in the Logical Positivists of the early 20th
century. They held
to the Verification Principle that “a proposition is
‘cognitively meaningful’ (true) only if there is a finite
procedure (scientific method) for conclusively determining
whether it is true or false.”
This school of thought had a strong influence for decades
until their own camp realized that their Verification Principle
cannot itself be verified!
It must be taken on faith!
Three observations can be made here.
(1) That the Verification Principle ever had any
influence demonstrates that philosophers are poor logicians and
The principle itself is basic “belief”—it is a position of
Logical Positivists are a “faith-group.”
the phrase is not used as much today, the Verification Principle
is still the basic belief of agnostics and atheists: There is no
God because He cannot be empirically (scientifically) verified.
Miracles do not occur because they violate natural laws.
Again, their basic position is one of faith (belief) in a
statement that cannot itself be verified, but accepted on faith.
Use Their Own
Philosophers as Temporary Allies
David Hume (171l-1776), a thoroughgoing
said (in paraphrase), “What ‘is’ cannot determine what ‘ought’
to be.” That is,
nothing that we observe can determine what is right or wrong
proposition means that empiricism (observations) can
never determine what
should or should not be done.
It means that science (empiricism) can never find
even one answer to
any ethical question.
It means that science cannot even determine whether any
particular use of its technology is right or wrong.
For example, is dynamite a “good” thing or a “bad” thing?
It is very useful in excavation, but horrendous what it
does to human bodies in warfare.
This proposition destroys all attempts of psychologists
and sociologists from giving instruction to individuals or
disciplines can only
describe (observation); they cannot
right and wrong).
Paul Tillich, for all his theological
errors and heresies, defined religion as “the state of being
grasped by an ultimate
concern, a concern which qualifies all other concerns as
preliminary and which itself contains the answer to the question
of the meaning of life.”
He goes on to classify “Fascism and Communism” as
“quasi-religions” because “quasi indicates a genuine similarity,
not intended, but based on points of identity.”
Thus, he equates political-social ideology with a
religious or faith position—a correct analysis!
Scott Oliphint, a professor at Westminster
Theological Seminary, has stated that within epistemology and
there is no consensus in philosophy.
No consensus after some 2500 years!
No consensus after the thousands upon thousands of pros
and cons written on various subjects.
Epistemology and metaphysics are the central concerns of
philosophy demonstrates that it has no answers.
If philosophy has
no consensus, then anyone’s opinion is as good as anyone
Further, there is nothing in philosophy to challenge in any way
the faith of Christians—nothing.
Even The Humanist Manifesto III uses
This document is part of an ongoing effort
to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual
boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus
of what we do believe.
Once one starts looking for “faith,”
belief,” and “believe, it is amazing how almost everyone of any
worldview uses these “religious” words
Natural Science and
empirical science will be consistent with Biblical principles,
and if the public is not careful scientists subtly substitute
moral opinions that masquerade as "science" because the
statements are made by scientists.
For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics takes a
formal stand against spanking, not because of any medical or
psychological science—there is none.
It does so out of pure
American Psychiatric Association did not reverse its policy on
homosexuality in 1973 as wrong behavior because of investigative
science, but because extreme pressure was placed upon them by
While secularists argue for gay and lesbian parents,
hundreds of social studies show that children of traditional
(Biblical) families (which includes proper discipline and
involvement by parents) have far greater achievements in life
than those from broken and non-traditional families.
So, the ethical positions of these “scientific”
organizations are clearly not based upon research, but the
beliefs of its
George Barna Gets One
On April 24, 2009, George Barna set an
example for the Christians in the public arena.
His research title was “America’s Seven Faith Tribes Hold
the Key to National Restoration.”
He divided the entire population of America into the
“faith tribes” of casual Christians, Captive Christians, Jews,
Mormons, Pantheists, Muslims, and Skeptics.
Everyone fell into a faith tribe—everyone speaks to
worldview issues from a position of faith.
Whatever you think of Barna’s research, he has set this
The battle for worldview
and culture is one faith against another.
The English language has no verb form of
“faith.” It also
has the synonyms “faith” and “belief.”
For this reason, one often finds faith and belief defined
as different entities.
Further complicating the situation is “fideism,” which is
just another synonym for faith.
Again, use of synonyms can cause both intentional and
unintentional obfuscation and confusion.
In the Koiné
Greek of the New Testament, there is only one root,
pisteuo (verb) and
pistis (noun), for
both “faith” and “believe.”
Any distinction between the two in English is
theologically, philosophically, and colloquially entirely
artificial and a personal choice of the one speaking, even if
found in dictionaries.
Christians in philosophy are of little help
to this obfuscation.
Without doubt Alvin Plantinga has caused an explosion of
interest in philosophy among Christians with his famous, “Advice
to Christian Philosophers.”
It is estimated that 30 percent of current teaching
philosophers are Christians.
But where are they in the public arena?
Where are they in helping Christians combat people like
Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennet from a
Biblical “basic belief,” as Greg Bahnsen did with Gordon Stein?
While many of them do debate secularists, they do not
base their arguments on
As was reviewed above, philosophies and
religions are not separate endeavors—they have the same concerns
of origins, knowledge, and ethics or technically—metaphysics,
epistemology, and ethics.
Purely obejectively, more weight should be given in
validity to philosophy or religion.
But, in fact, theologians (of all religions) are often
better logicians than philosophers because they understand that
reasoning begins with faith.
Philosophers are deluded when they begin with reason, and
thus they are poor logicians.
But philosophy and religion should be seen as
synonymous—seeking the same purposes of being, purpose, and
shows an overt blending of the two in Augustine, Aquinas,
Descartes, Leibniz, Kant, Kierkegaard, and many others.
There is a covert blending of religion in all of them,
including profound atheists such as Marx, who “believed” in the
evolutionary process of nature and the goodness of man.
And, of course, worldview is a synonym also.
Recognition of these synonyms will focus public
discussions on the issues, rather than confusing them through a
plethora of terms.
It is this distortion through terminology
that Richard Dawkins and others are able to have any audience at
all. They do not
state, and commentators do not see, that their argument is as
having basic beliefs.
Their supposed evidence is not a
recognized by everyone as true, but a fact only has
meaning according to
the underlying belief
of the person using that fact.
Christians who let them argue in this way have already
lost the debate, allowing them to appear as though they have a
basis in reason when
they do not.
Christians who argue on the basis of science have already given
away the argument because science is only as sound as its
method, and all science is empirically based, and therefore by
its own process can never arrive at truth.
Back to the Marketplace
Those in the Reformed and theonomic camps
are thoroughgoing in their attempts to be presuppositional, and
it is the right position except in the marketplace of ideas with
secularists. In the
history of philosophy, there has been an antipathy between
“faith” and “reason.”
Thus, whenever Christians are called a “faith” group, or
some other appellation with “faith” in it, and they are
contrasted with secularists, they cannot avoid this antipathy of
a “faith group” vs. a “group of reason.”
If one were an independent observer with the contrast of
one group as one of “faith,” and one of “reason,” which gets the
The group of reason.
So, we have lost the debate, before it has begun.
Take this recent example from an American
The focus of the article is not what is important here,
but the words that denote foundations for argument.
This quote is purely for illustration, not to differ with
the author’s argument.
No one is neutral. We all have a
presuppositional starting point that informs our interpretations
and thinking. Krugman displays this in his own article. He
begins with a fact, i.e. two studies show that conservative
professors are a small minority at elite universities, and goes
on to interpret this fact through his assumptive left-leaning
Now, let me re-phrase these sentences with
my substitution of faith.
No one is neutral. We all have a starting
point of faith that informs our interpretations and thinking.
Krugman displays this in his own article. He begins with a fact,
i.e. two studies show that conservative professors are a small
minority at elite universities, and goes on to interpret this
fact through his own left-leaning position of faith.
When we write articles, letters-to-editors,
and in speaking, we need to clarify that each side is taking a
position of “faith.”
It is a faith position vs. a faith position.
We can no longer allow the label of “faith-_____” without
demonstrating clearly that both sides are “faith-groups.”
It may be easy to learn to substitute
“faith” for presuppositions or other equivalent terms, but with
a concerted effort, this approach could be a major step in at
least achieving a stalemate in the marketplace of ideas.
Now, a stalemate is not our ultimately goal, victory is.
But we have made a mountain that cannot be climbed when
we allow “faith” vs. “reason.”
This allowance places us in an intellectual ghetto—the
physical ghetto is next.
God calls us to “be wise as serpents.”
Indeed, did not the Serpent offer a “faith” in himself
vs. a “faith” in God’s Word—two positions of faith.
The only way that the battle has changed is that Christ
has achieved the victory.
One front of that battle is to win in the marketplace of
ideas—Biblical faith vs. secular faith.
It must be stated that way, or it becomes “faith” vs.
“reason.” We will
not win that contrasted position.
I personally think that this approach is one that is
extremely necessary for Christians to level the playing field in
“Endarkenment” would be more accurate for what it
I am not faulting
the Reformers at all!
They had their hands full with to bring
corrections theologically while facing active
But at some point Biblically based scholars must
take on the philosophers at their own game.
There is some
debate whether he was an agnostic or an atheist.
That debate is really silly!
He argued vigorously against Biblical revelation.
the Encounter of the World Religons, (New York, NY:
Columbia University Press, 1963), 4.
simply the study of “what is” or “being.”
Epistemology is simply the study of the origins
and validity of
Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology,
(Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing Company, 2006), 36-37,
Philosohy, Volume 1, Number 3, 253-271 (1984).
remember where I saw this number.
The full text of this debate is
available at this URL.
is false, as I have developed on my website: