Christians and other spiritual people frequently are criticized for having what is called “blind faith.” According to atheists, skeptics, and other critics of religion, the acceptance of truths that are supposedly revealed by a divine higher power, without the support of empirical validation or scientific corroboration, is irrational. Propositions that cannot be investigated or observed using our five senses, they say, are unworthy of belief.
The phrase “leap of faith” is attributed to the 19th century Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard. It is the act of believing in something outside the boundaries of reason. Kierkegaard rejected the rationalist philosophical idea that God can be proven to exist and that faith can rely on sound logic. For Kierkegaard, there is no reason in faith, and that is what makes it a leap. His classic example is God’s command to Abraham in the Bible to kill his own first-born son. He could only perform such an act contrary to reason through a leap of faith.
But while faith at some point may require such a leap without the aid of reason, it “is not a leap in the dark,” says Oxford Mathematician John Lennox. Rather, faith is “a commitment based on evidence.” As such, he says, “it is irrational to reduce all faith to blind faith and then subject it to ridicule.” C.S. Lewis similarly suggested that faith is holding on to what your reason has led you to conclude, despite shifting moods, attitudes, and circumstances.
“Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed are contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason” (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) n. 154). As Saint Thomas Aquinas wrote in his Summa Theologica, “[b]elieving is an act of the intellect assenting to the divine truth by command of the will moved by God through grace” (II-II, 2, 9).
Real faith is not blind because it requires knowledge of God that comes through both divine revelation and the evidence exhibited in the world he created, assent to that knowledge, which is a product of reason and thinking, and trust, which also is not blind, but based on evidence that the person making the promise is trustworthy.
Ultimately, we do not believe because revealed truths “appear as true and intelligible in the light of reason” (CCC n. 156). We believe “because of the authority of God himself who reveals them” (Dei Filius 3). But so “that the submission of our faith might nevertheless be in accordance with reason, God willed that external proofs of his Revelation should be joined to the internal helps of the Holy Spirit” (Id.).
Join us online or at church this Sunday as we continue our message series, God’s Not Dead, to learn more about how real faith is not blind and how science and religion together support a fuller understanding of the world and faith in its Creator.
—Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson