Faith, Dogma, and Reason
I’ve struggled for many years trying to reconcile my faith with my commitment to reason. Sometimes I’ve wondered if they are incompatible. What I’ve come to understand, though, is that faith is not the antithesis of reason - dogma is.
The word faith is riddled with baggage, but we all have some kind of faith. Some people believe almost anything. Others, myself included, prefer to have some evidence before we believe most things, but almost everyone has at least something that they just happen to believe - evidence or not.
That is faith.
That is all that faith is.
Dogma, on the other hand, is simply accepting something as fact in the absence of - sometimes even in spite of - faith, evidence, or reason.
Several weeks ago, I wrote a short, mostly positive, review of The Bible Tells Me So. In his review of the book, Ken Ham says this…
[The author] basically discards everything in Scripture that he doesn’t like and yet still claims that Jesus was who He claimed to be. But how can we trust that Jesus really lived, died, and rose again if we can’t trust the Book that tells us that this is what happened?
That’s why they call it faith, Ken. Faith is something you believe, not something you blindly assert because you’ve chosen to accept everything you read in a book.
The doctrine of the virgin birth serves as a good example of what I’ve been thinking. In my review, I wrote briefly about my take on this doctine, but I didn’t want to derail the review, so I didn’t elaborate. Today I’d like to do that.
When someone claims to have witnessed a miracle today, I am the first one to be skeptical, but I think God does have the power to break the laws of nature, so I can accept the possibility of miracles. Unless there is current evidence to the contrary, I have no problem accepting some of the miracle stories told in the Bible - including the virgin birth - but I don’t consider it an essential Christian doctrine.
It is my understanding that many Christians do for one or both of the following reasons. One, because for some reason Jesus could not be 100% God if he had two human parents. Two, because rejecting it raises questions about the innerancy and infallibility of Scripture. The first reason makes zero sense to me. If Jesus could have one human parent, why not two?
The second falls short. Many Christians insist on accepting as fact everything the Bible says regardless of any evidence to the contrary. I choose not to do that. Up to this point, I find no serious disagreement with the Bible when it’s properly interpretted, but I have no plans to cling to it where it contradicts reason, evidence - OR FAITH.
I include faith in that list ( and in the above sentence about dogma ) because I’ve found a lot of people swear to dogma even when it contradicts what they truly believe. Faith is an interesting thing because we can’t do much about it. I think we can brainwash ourselves into believing things for a time, but at some point we believe and fighing against that to stick with our dogma is just as dangerous as ignoring reason and evidence.