How do we know what we know? What is the criteria for real knowledge? Philosophers struggle with these brain-busters. They have come up with a number of theories of knowledge, attempting to understand the very thing they assume. Their disciple is called epistemology; the study of knowing.
Over the centuries, scientists, philosophers and theologians have debated the role of faith and reason and the parts they play in real knowledge. What they have found through extensive argumentation is that these two ideas are not mutually exclusive at all. In fact they usually go together, as two sides of the same coin. There is a faith which is reasonable. And there is a reason based on faith.
Let’s look at some examples.
Faith based on reason: Faith is commonly regarded as an irrational leap into the unknown. But actually, faith is the response to a reasoned presentation of evidence or ideas. Because faith believes the evidence to be true, it makes a concerted decision to embrace that truth and live with the consequences. This is not necessarily limited to religious faith. Businessmen make decisions based on a reasonable faith. They have studied the market, evaluated their products, and determined that there was a need to be filled. They assume the economy will prosper, and people’s interests will not change significantly. They can plan to meet their objectives because they have believed the evidence. People make faith based decisions every day.
Reason based on faith: Scientists who deny the existence of God, still must base their investigation of faith-based assumptions. Faith is a pre-condition for gaining any knowledge at all. Scientists must have faith in the rules of logic, language and math if they ever hope to make discoveries. Logic, language and math are concepts that cannot be proven without making use of them. They are “first principles”, self-evident truths that are necessary for gaining other knowledge. They have to be accepted by faith.
So Christianity is a reasonable faith based on very good evidence that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. If Jesus rose from the dead, then his claims to be the Son of God are validated. If Jesus rose from the dead, then all that he taught us about the Father is true. If Jesus rose from the dead, then his promise to return for us one day in the future should be believed and we should submit our lives to his service. Reasonable and logical, don’t you think?