A Persian Cafe, Edward Lord Weeks

Sunday, 10 November 2013

By faith and not by sight?

There's a song called By Faith which we frequently sing at Church. It's a great fun song, with an upbeat tune and a very catchy chorus. You can see the original version here, although I'm personally more keen on the live version at church. The chorus goes:

We will stand as children of the promise,
We will fix our eyes on you our souls' reward,
'Til the race is finished and the work is done
We'll walk be faith and not by sight.

Not by sight? We're going to believe without evidence? That's ridiculous. Evidence is precisely what makes it reasonable to hold a belief. There is no virtue to be gained by holding specific beliefs unless they are true, and if they are true then there should be plenty of evidence for them. I highly recommend C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity, and in particular this chapter to any Christian who thinks that "faith" is enough for a belief in our God.

What about the song? I've taken to singing "by faith, not just by sight." which is good enough for myself but I don't think it's good enough in general. People are going to be influenced by what they are singing with the Church's fervent endorsement, and if they're learning anti-epistemological habits from it then in the long run that's not good for either truth or for the church. The less Christians feel the need to justify our beliefs, the less effort we will put into investigating our beliefs. If we conclude that Christianity is probably false, then we should shrug, say "Any belief which can be destroyed by truth, should be." and move on. If we conclude that it is probably true, then hallelujah! Let's go out and convert everyone, surer and better-equipped than ever we were before!

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