Welcome to the Faith Club

Our commitment to brute assertions is faith.

Here is a bold statement: faith is the foundation on which all reasoning proceeds. Though it is a bold statement, indeed, I believe it is true (pun intended). Let me explain why.

First of all, though, I have to admit that didn’t come up with the statement. Tim Keller did, but it aligns with what I have come to believe is true: that we all have faith, even materialists who say they have no faith.

I have written about it from time to time, including Reflections on Confidence in Faith and Atheism, Darwin’s Faith: The Religion of the New Atheism, and  Are Reason & Faith in God Contradictory Terms?, to cite just a few examples. So this isn’t a new thought for me, but I like the way Keller approaches the topic.

Keller asks us to consider the Enlightenment premise: the only things we can really be sure of are things that are scientifically proven. This Enlightenment position is the popular modern sentiment on faith, science and the nature of truth and reality. We have increasingly come to trust science and what science can tell us, and we have grown to distrust faith. But is that a sensible position?

Keller submits that we should think critically about that very statement – the only things we can really be sure of are things that are scientifically proven – and apply the statement to itself. How do we prove that the only things we can really be sure of are things that are scientifically proven? Can we prove or test that statement scientifically ?

The statement is actually not a scientific statement, but a philosophical one. The statement is also a brute assertion that is incapable of testing and scientific proof. We assume it to be true and proceed from there. If we don’t stop to question it, we don’t see the flaw.

This exercise exposes the limitations we have as finite beings. We don’t have the means to test our most fundamental premises – the brute assertions that lay a foundation for all of our reasoning.

This is because we aren’t omniscient. We can’t truly know whether we are starting in the right place, laying the right foundation with our fundamental assertions from which we reason to our conclusions.

Where we start with our assumptions dictates where we end up with our conclusions. We start with axiomatic statements, which means we start with statements that we can’t actually prove. We have to assume them. In essence, we have to take them on faith.

If you don’t believe that anything in this world proceeds from a supernatural cause, that is fine, but that statement is a belief. It cannot be scientifically proven, though it informs all of your reasoning. In that sense, our confidence in and reliance on science alone starts with faith – faith that science is the only arbiter of truth and reality.

Keller says our commitment to those brute assertions is faith.  People who claim to have no faith don’t like to hear that, but it’s true. There is no such thing as a finite being that doesn’t take its most basic assertions on faith.

When you adopt a position as your view of reality, all of your reasoning proceeds from it. That fundamental view of reality, however, must be taken on faith. It cannot be proven.

In this way, Keller says, “Reasoning proceeds from faith.” We begin our reasoning from the fundamental premises that we assume. Welcome to the club!

One thought on “Welcome to the Faith Club

Comments are welcomed

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.