Neil Shenvi - Apologetics

II. Areas of purported conflict between science and religion

If you listen carefully to statements made by prominent atheists, you'll find that there is not one claimed conflict, but actually several different conflicts. Let's look at four major categories - definitional, metaphysical, epistemological, and evolutionary - and I'll show you why I don't think they're valid.

A. The definitional conflict

First, let's look at the definitional conflict between science and religion. Here are some statements made by three of the four horsemen of the New Atheism about religious faith:
"Another meme of the religious meme complex is called faith. It means blind trust in the absence of evidence, even in the teeth of evidence." - Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
"every religion preaches the truth of propositions for which it has no evidence. In fact, every religion preaches the truth of propositions for which no evidence is even conceivable." - Sam Harris, The End of Faith
"Religion is poison because it asks us to give up our most precious faculty, which is that of reason, and to believe things without evidence. It then asks us to respect this, which it calls faith." - Christopher Hitchens, god is not great

Here, the Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens all define "faith" as "belief without evidence," which is a fairly common understanding among the Neoatheists. Unfortunately, these authors have misunderstood the word "faith", at least in a Christian context. The Bible does not use the word "faith" in this way and this is not how Christians have thought about the concept of faith for thousands of years.

The Greek word pistis which is translated as faith in modern Bibles does not mean "belief without evidence." In the Bible, "faith" is better understood to refer to "personal trust in God." Examples can be furnished by any personal relationship. For instance, if I said "I have faith in my wife," I would mean that I trust her. Now, is that trust necessarily contrary to evidence? Not at all! Over 11 years of marriage my wife has given me plenty of evidence to show me that she loves me, keeps her promises, and is eminently trustworthy. The same is true of God. Faith is not opposed to evidence because our trust in God can be based on evidence that He is good and is worthy of our confidence. So this first idea that "science is based on evidence, while religion is based on faith" is predicated on a faulty understanding of biblical faith and does not represent a real conflict between science and religion

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Next: Areas of purported conflict - metaphysical

If anyone reading this essay has questions about it or about Christianity in general, feel free to e-mail me at Neil -AT- I also highly recommend the book The Reason for God by Tim Keller. It is phenomenal. Free sermons treating many of the topics covered by this book can be found here.

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