Are Faith and knowledge functionally opposite?

Greg Koukl of apologetics ministry Stand to Reason writes,

In an odd sort of way, Christians have abetted atheists in their efforts to cast doubt and even derision on believers. Here’s how.

Atheists have tremendous confidence that science will continue its record of silencing superstition. As knowledge waxes, foolishness wanes. Consequently, there’s no need for sticking God in the so-called “gaps.” Science will fill them soon enough.

Atheists are buoyed in their confidence by what they consider an inverse relationship between knowledge and faith. The more you have of the first, the less you need of the second.

Faith is merely a filler for ignorance. As knowledge increases, silly superstitious beliefs are discarded. As science marches forward, ignorance will eventually disappear and faith will simply dry up.

Simply put, faith and knowledge are functional opposites. The only place for faith, then, is in the shadows of ignorance.

Ironically, this same perspective has been promoted by Christians themselves. “If I know that God exists,” they challenge, “or that Jesus rose from the dead, or that Heaven is real, then where is room for faith?” Note the same inverse relationship between knowledge and faith held by atheists: Faith and knowledge are functional opposites.

This view is obviously false if you pause to think about it. The opposite of knowledge is not faith, but ignorance. And the opposite of faith is not knowledge, but unbelief. It’s certainly possible to have knowledgeable faith and ignorant unbelief.

More importantly, the knowledge vs. faith equation is not what the Bible teaches. In fact, Scripture affirms just the opposite. In this month’s Solid Ground, I lay out the case that biblical faith is based on knowledge, not contrary to it. Once you see the textual evidence, I think you’ll agree that faith and knowledge are compatible, shoring up our confidence in the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

With confidence in Christ,

Greg Koukl

(Greg recently has recently interviewed author David Berlinski about his book, The Devil’s Delusion that has just been released on paperback. This was very interesting discussion and recommended. Listen Here.)

4 replies
  1. Damian
    Damian says:

    Perhaps the problem here is that Greg has pitched the word “knowledge” against the word “faith” where, more often than not, atheists (and Christians) in fact talk about “evidence” vs “faith”. I rarely whip out the term “strawman” but I guess that’s the only word to apply to this kind of argument.

  2. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    As one can have an evidence-based faith your distinction, Damian, is equally erroneous. Evidence and Faith are not functionally opposite, just as Knowledge and Faith are not. I don’t see how the distinction between “knowledge” and “evidence” that you highlight makes any difference. And I don’t buy your premise that knowledge and faith are not contrasted at all, so your accusation of this being a strawman argument is also in error.

  3. Damian
    Damian says:

    Stuart, we obviously have very different working definitions of the word “faith”. Have you ever heard the tiresome creationist line, “I don’t have enough faith to believe in evolution“? Aren’t they implying that there isn’t enough evidence (in their enfeebled minds) for evolution and that therefore the evolutionist must have, instead, “faith”?

    Either way, I think we both agree that, no, faith and knowledge are not functionally opposite. But then I’ve never heard the two pitched against each other before (hence the strawman comment).

  4. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    Damian

    Faith is of course used by many to mean “without evidence”, but that is actually “blind faith,” which in my book is foolishness. As a Christian I am fortunate that blind faith is not the brand of faith that is advocated in the Bible. Properly speaking the concept, as fleshed out in the scriptural understanding and captured by the Reformers includes three components; notitia (understanding the content of the Christian faith), assensus (the assent of the intellect to the truth of some proposition) and fiducia (trust). It is that last, when it is alone which is blind faith. But according to scripture, saving faith combines all three. Faith then involves placing your trust in what you have reason to believe is true. Trust (fiducia) is based on understanding and knowledge (notitia) and the intellectual ascent (assensus) to it.

    So I have faith in Jesus who saves me. But I wouldn’t have trust in Jesus if I didn’t have evidence Jesus is God. But even if I had the evidence, that wouldn’t be enough for salvation because my will would still need to accept what that evidence points to. And then if my will accepted that, it still wouldn’t be enough for salvation because there would need to be some kind of commitment on my part, a reliance or trust, as in to “cast my lot in with him.”

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