Taking a step back from the normal focus of these blog posts, I want to address an issue that may at times seem overly simplistic yet fundamentally important: what is faith?
By its very nature, faith is a rather elusive subject. It is difficult to define, lacks a lot of agreed upon evidence, and is held by people with diametrically opposing opinions on some of religion’s most fundamental qualities. Some people have a lot of faith. Some people have no sense of what faith even is. And that’s just among those who claim to have it.
On the pendulum of perspectives, I find the two poles to be very common, and very dangerous.
On the one end, there are those who will say that faith is something that can and should be proved. What scientific, verifiable evidence does one have the the existence of God? In the group, there is a desire for certainty, a desire to know without a doubt that God exists and what we’re doing is what God wants. Naturally, this is a group populated by agnostics and atheists who find faith absolutely absurd because they have yet to see the credible evidence, but oddly enough, it is also quite common among the strongest of believers: there are people of all faiths who want (and sometimes believe they have) undeniable proof of their beliefs. Expeditions to find the lost ark of Noah; looking for scientists to perform tests on the consecrated host, relics, or the famous Shroud of Turin; sucked in by articles that begin, “Science has unlocked the mystery of…” For people in this category, faith is simply a subset of fact: there is enough evidence to convince you and another of its truth.
On the other end of the extreme are those who believe faith to be something entirely up to the individual, completely independent of objective reality or evidence. I can’t say why I believe, I just know that I’m right. In this group, there is no desire to test what one believes or “has faith in” against the experience of others or empirical data. I believe what I believe, and nothing could ever change my opinion. Faith, then, is simply believing something despite any evidence to support it, an assent to a doctrine or belief simply on principle. For people in this category, faith is simply a subset of opinion: there is not enough evidence to convince you or another of its truth.
Naturally, I find both expressions to be lacking. Faith is by no means a subset of fact, something merely waiting to be proved correct: what would there to have faith in if we could simply know it with scientific certainty? And if faith was simply a personal set of beliefs with no connection to experience or reality, then faith is merely a construct of the individual and has no connection to the lives of others. Surely, neither answer can be correct.
For me, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. There is evidence to guide us in understanding, but not so much on the scientific/certitude level. We have the confessions of others, we have our personal experience, we have a world that points to order and intelligence. Can any one of these things be verified beyond even a shred of doubt? Of course not. Does that mean that they don’t exist. Of course not. Thus, statements of faith are those things for which there is enough evidence to convince you, but not enough to convince another of its truth.
So, do we have evidence that God exists? Yes… and no. That’s the topic of the newest “Ask Brother Casey,” found below or by clicking here.