Original post by Sean McDowell here. Used with permission.
Many atheist critiques of Christianity claim that faith is blind, irrational, stupid.
In his book The God Delusion, leading atheist Richard Dawkins asserts that faith opposes reason, and calls faith a “delusion,” which he describes as “persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence” (p. 28).
A common example used to show that the Bible denigrates evidence is the story of doubting Thomas. In The Selfish Gene, Dawkins writes, “Thomas demanded evidence…. The other apostles, whose faith was so strong that they did not need evidence, are held up to us as worthy of imitation” (198).
Was Jesus repudiating an evidence-based faith?
In the updated Evidence that Demands a Verdict, my father and I point out three problems with this assertion by Dawkins:
First, Jesus predicted his resurrection on multiple occasions in the presence of the disciples. Thomas should not have been surprised at the return of Jesus.
Second, Thomas heard eyewitness testimony (evidence) from the rest of the disciples and yet still refused to believe. (The vast majority of scientific knowledge we possess depends upon trusting the conclusions of other scientists, which is true for virtually all disciplines.)
Third, Jesus did many miracles during his ministry as proof of his identity. In fact, right after the story of Jesus scolding Thomas, John said the miracles of Jesus were recorded “so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31)
Christianity Values the Life of the Mind
Despite what Dawkins claims, Christianity values the role of the mind, which includes the proper use of reason and argumentation. Jesus said to love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind (Mark 12:30). The Lord said to the nation of Israel, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isa. 1:18).
Scripture and church history emphasize the importance of the role of the mind in discipleship and evangelism.
In the Old Testament, God showered Egypt with miracles before inviting Israel to follow him into the wilderness. Rather than asking Israel for blind allegiance, God’s miracles through Moses gave them good reasons to trust him. Exodus 14:31 makes this clear: “Israel saw the great work which the Lord had done in Egypt; so the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord and His servant Moses.” Miracles preceded the call to belief, laying the foundation for a rational step of faith.
Faith Is Not Blind
Even so, many Christians use the term “faith” to mean “blind faith” rather than biblical faith. But Christianity itself does not demand blind faith.
In fact, quite the opposite: when Jesus Christ and the apostles called upon a person to exercise faith, it was not a “blind faith” but rather an intelligent faith.
The apostle Paul said, “I know whom I have believed” (2 Tim. 1:12, emphasis added). Jesus specifically performed miracles to show who he was, and, as a result, many confidently placed their faith in him. During a trip to Capernaum, Jesus healed a paralytic. After forgiving the man’s sins, Jesus said to the crowd, “‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, arise, take up your bed and go to your house’” (Mark 2:10, 11). Jesus healed the man so people would know he spoke with authority from above.
Christians are often accused of taking a “blind leap into the dark.” However, my father Josh set out to disprove the Christian faith historically, but instead found the evidence powerful and convincing.
So, when he became a Christian, it wasn’t a blind leap into the dark, but a knowledgeable step into the light.
He placed the evidence onto the scales, and in his estimation, it tipped in favor of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, resurrected from the dead.
You may be convinced by the evidence. On the other hand, you may find it wanting. But the claim that “faith is blind” simply ignores the biblical and historical evidence.
In fact, only someone who hasn’t truly weighed the evidence could make such a claim. If you haven’t considered the evidence yet, maybe now is the time.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.