Faith Essay

Recently, I spoke about Alvin Plantinga's definition of faith and various other definitions of faith given by theists in my philosophy essay. I'll post it here with some modifications.

I explore...
Is faith sufficient grounds for belief?
Does the Holy Spirit imbue believers with faith?
Do the claims of Christianity require evidence?

Faith, according to Plantinga, is the internal instigation of the Holy Spirit that is not a product of evidence, rationality, or argument. According to Plantinga, a person with faith accepts the basic beliefs of the Christian doctrine (virgin birth, Apostle's Creed, etc).

Faith is often used in several different ways:
  • belief in God's promises and scriptures being true (a trust)
  • belief on little or no evidence
  • belief in any "higher power"
  • belief coupled with reason, evidence, and rationality
Individual theists may have differing ideas about faith that don't match Plantinga's definition. Plantinga would say that a Muslim's faith is not the same as a Christian's faith although a Muslim may claim "correct faith." Plantinga describes this knowledge as a tube of sorts placed by God inside of our heads.

I disagree with Plantinga's definition because faith in a religious/supernatural sense can be had by any sort of person who believes in the supernatural. I'm not going to deny belief in belief or the idea that people do believe, but will deny the idea that the Holy Spirit exists and that the Christian faith is real.

Apologists, believers, and theologians of all stripes proclaim that faith is a good reason to believe when they say things like, "God can't be proven, that's why it's called faith" or "I don't have evidence, but I believe regardless." The curious "God won't reveal himself because he wants our faith to be tested" is a common response. After numerous personal correspondences, debates, and arguments with theists, I've never heard one person using faith in the sense that Plantinga uses it.

Many atheists like Dan Barker and myself agree that faith is intellectual bankruptcy, a cop-out, and an admission that your claim can't hold its own ground. I don't need to have faith in gravity, evolution, or thermodynamics because I can discuss these ideas while appealing to evidence.

Christianity needs evidence for its claims because it makes very specific claims about the nature of reality and many of its claims tread on our knowledge of the natural world. There is no convincing reason to suggest that the Christian faith is imbued within us and that the central claims of Christianity are true.

If Plantinga wants to assert that the Holy Spirit gave us faith, he needs to establish an argument for the existence of the Holy Spirit and how he knows faith is within us. Why can't someone say "Allah put something in us so we can believe in the literal truth of the Koran, but this is not based on argument, evidence, or reason?" Claims that can be asserted with evidence, like Christopher Hitchens likes to say, can be dismissed without evidence. If we're to allow the Christian Holy Spirit, why not allow any other religious claim?

We need very good reason to suggest that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit actually exist and are triune. We need a good reason for how we know this and how we know it is true.