faith: what’s evidence got to do with it?

A sermon, whose basic themes are informed by a short essay by the philosopher/theologian Jean-Luc Marion on the question of faith and evidence.

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What is faith?

What does it mean to have faith?

How would we describe the experience of faith?

In our culture a very common way of thinking about religious faith is in terms of evidence – or, more specifically, in terms of a lack of evidence. From this point of view, if you believe something is true even without any evidence for it – that’s faith. If you believe something is true even though it can’t be proven and can’t be demonstrated, then that’s faith. In our culture it is very common to think this way – to think that faith just means believing something when there’s no evidence for what you believe. Since there’s no evidence, you’ve got to take it on faith.

So, simple examples:

There’s no scientific evidence that God exists but you believe it – that’s faith.

There’s no evidence prayer works, but you believe it does – that’s faith.

There’s no evidence Jesus rose from the dead, but you think he did – that’s faith.

There are other ways of thinking about faith in our culture, but this is quite a common way. And not only is faith commonly thought of in this way, but in our culture, we should perhaps add, a negative judgment is often attached to this kind of faith. In many corners of our culture, if you believe something without evidence; if you believe something to be true that can’t proven by observation and testing, then you’re considered naïve and foolish – even irresponsible. You shouldn’t take anything on faith. Continue reading

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