Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fact and Faith

The first issue is, what is the relationship between fact/logic and faith?We bandy about facts and reason and logic as if they could change minds. They don't, really. The best argument fails unless it deals with the passion, heart, and emotion behind the opposition.A man can hold a belief completely contrary to the facts and you will never convince him, because his belief is a response to a heart issue or some circumstance in his life.This is not to say we shouldn't clearly defend and discuss the facts and logic surrounding the issues, but such discussion/argument is not necessarily an effective way to change people whose core belief differs.You may say, I changed my mind after reading Scripture and learning facts from Scripture. Well, perhaps you did. But you wouldn't have _changed_ your mind unless the Holy Spirit impressed upon you the truth and importance of those Scriptures on your heart.My journey from IFBx towards the other end of the IFB spectrum was not purely a response to fact and logic. The catalyst for my change was a number of incidents that affected my heart and trust, which either forced and/or freed me to look elsewhere for true spirituality. My quest may have been reactionary in some ways but I was merely responding to the bad fruit I saw.Given this reality it is tempting to lapse into relativism. This is not the solution, though. However, any organization or group that relies on complete ideological homogenity is set for problems, or at least ensures the misery of it's members, because it cannot accept and deal with the varying heart conditions of it's people.The solution I think lies in four Biblical principles. The first, that we should be ready to give an answer. Whatever doctrinal statement God would have us adhere to we need to know why and be able to discuss it. Secondly, we should be fully persuaded in our own mind. It will not do to cast about in the most convenient direction of the moment, or to be unsure of where you stand, or to take a position you have uncertainty about. Thirdly, iron sharpeneth iron. We need to be _willing_ to discuss our differences with a teachable spirit and without trying to force others to change- that is the Holy Spirit's job. Fourth, grieve not thy brother with thy meat. We need to know when to shut up and back off and give in, at least on a practical level. As Kenny Rogers might say, "you gotta know when to fold 'em".Violation of any of these principles results in conflict, heartache, and tension. What these principles do is to show us that, while there really should be no gray area for the individual, there must be grey area collectively. My black and white differs from your black and white. That is grey area, in which we must have measures of respect, understanding, and even -gasp!- compromise.

The second issue is that of how do we know what to put our faith in.My answer to this question has pretty much always been, that if you can find it in the Bible, then you need to have faith in it. For example, I am not certain that I understand all the reasons that homosexuality is an abomination, but I believe God when He says it is and it is sin. I am steadfastly against it, because God is _clear_ about it in His Word. (FTR, if anyone cares to disagree I would be willing to elaborate!)Of course, differences in interpretation are going to result in different "Biblical" beliefs. But that is a matter for Christian discussion as I outlined above.

The third issue is when can faith be proven false?This is difficult because faith, which is belief, is tied to the heart. You can literally destroy a person by conclusively and irrefutably showing them that their core beliefs are absolutely false and contrary to the facts.Nonetheless, false faith deserves exposing for the benefit of those who might be disposed to enter into that particular error, and for those who would not be enticed into that error but need to help others understand it.Faith can be proven false when it either is1) inconsistent. Given the premises the conclusion should follow and harmonize with the rest of what is being believed. If not, the faith is false.2) implausible. If what we see not only contradicts our faith but leaves little to no room for alternate explanation, then our faith is false. Of course, whether something is implausible or not can be somewhat subjective.

We must not forget that faith & belief are primarily heart/emotion issues, not fact/mind issues. We should deal with them accordingly.

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