Faith vs Reason, or Faith vs Faith?


*Sebastian Uys is a final year Political Science, Philosophy and Economics.
Student who likes the beach, making music and reading anything written by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien.

YES, this is another article about the existence of a deity. I say an­other because I write this as the “sequel” to the article written by Christopher Joubert, who I attend class with, called “Faith, religion and reason at SU.”

Chris wrote about the dis­parity in belief in Stellenbosch, and I agree, but I would propose that there is a general agreement around the ‘essential’ fundamental difference between theists (those who believe in God) and atheists (those who don’t).

As Chris mentioned, the funda­mental difference comes from how either side makes their argument, and this is a view that is common­lyheld upon most 21st century campuses across the world.

However, through this article, I would like to question the ‘fun­damental difference’ that has been proposed between the two sides – namely the assertion that atheists use empirical evidence to “reason­ably” justify their unbelief in God and that theists disregard these reasons, but instead remain fully committed to the existence of God in a way that the modern world deems unreasonable.

Dallas Willard, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California who held theistic views, said that “We live in a culture that has, for centuries now, cultivated the idea that the sceptical person is always smart­er than one who believes.” Even though we doubt for sport, we can all agree that a “fact”’ is either a) something that is self-evident to everyone (E.g. There’s a rock in the road) or b) something that is not self-evident to the senses but can be proved scientifically.

Any other position held that can’t be demonstrated in any of these two ways is one that includes some degree of faith.

To demonstrate this, and to ex­pand on Willard’s quote, I propose that our culture fails to see the latent faith within the arguments made by atheists using reason.

For example, if someone would “reasonably” doubt that Jesus Christ is the truth because “there can’t be just one true religion, due to all the various religious beliefs today”, we fail to recognise that this statement is itself an act of faith.

This is not a self-evident uni­versal truth, and even though this statement has the appearance of reason, can it be scientifically prov­en? I wonder what a mathematics professor at any university would think if a student shouts out, “There can’t be one right answer to the question because all of us got different answers!”

Additionally, another exam­ple can be drawn from Atheist Alliance International, which is a worldwide organisation that envi­sions a world based upon ‘sound reasoning’.

In an article proclaiming the ‘reasons’ Christianity is false, AAI claims that “Christian theology is incoherent to the point of absurd­ity.

God killing his son so he can forgive our future sin is like me breaking my son’s legs so, I can forgive my neighbour in case she ever parks her car on my drive. It is quite ridiculous.” I hope it is clear, by now, that this is a clear state­ment of “faith”.

This is not self-evident or em­pirically grounded. This suppos­edly “ridiculous” nature of the sac­rifice of Christ does not reasonably disprove his existence, it actually just points to the superior nature of God’s love, as willing to sacrifice what was most precious to him for the undeserved benefit of others.

Therefore, this is not a differ­ence between faith and reason, it is a difference between alternate systems of beliefs.

There is no fundamental differ­ence in how either side makes their arguments.

In conclusion, this article was written to problematize the dis­tinction between faith and reason and I hope that it helps to show that it is, in fact, faith vs faith. I, therefore, urge those with “unex­amined faith” as the base of their reasonable scepticism to wrestle with their beliefs, and for believers to wrestle with their personal and cultural objections to their faith.

At the end of this process, I pro­pose, we will all hold our positions with greater clarity and humility, and ultimately respect one anoth­er’s views in a way we didn’t be­fore.

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