Another article in The Times, this time by Monsignor Roderick Strange on the interesting subject of faith and doubt. He quotes Jesus's comment to Doubting Thomas;
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe. - John 20:29And the article points out how faith and doubt *are* linked. He ends the article:
Doubt need not be the enemy of faith, but its ally. Thomas knew faith, wounded by doubt. Faith is deepened when we wrestle with ambiguity. Then indeed they are blessed who without seeing have come to believe.When I was growing up this was how faith was presented to me; doubt (we have insufficient evidence) overcome by faith. Without doubt there is hardly any need for faith, is there? But one also sees theists arguing that there *is* good reason to believe - see my discussion of John Polkinghorne's article on that subject.
These positions are not compatible, and, oddly, perhaps, I think both positions are untenable!
'Faith overcoming doubt' is the *expressed* position of Jesus Christ in the Bible. It can scarcely be any clearer from John 20:29, and the Monsignor also argues this point. This exercise of free will seems to be something that many can identify with. There are two problems here for me. First, it is not clear why this is supposed to be a *good* thing. Why is it good to believe when something is doubtful? That is a recipe for believing every charlatan that comes to town. That is a recipe for believing in *any* god created by man. Second, Jesus says that those who haven't seen are blessed who come to believe. Leaving aside that this is a very convenient doctrine for subsequent proselytising, it is also not thought to be a good thing for the disciples and others who *have* been granted a 'visual'. Why are *they* allowed to be persuaded by evidence but not us? How do the disciples and Doubting Thomas have faith - they have no *doubt*, they've got the main man standing in front of them! So the Monsignor's position fails, IMO.
For the 'Faith justified by reason' position, I'll assume for the sake of exploring the validity of this that there is good reason to believe (there isn't!), as such apologists think. The flaw in this position leaps out at one. If the believer genuinely thinks that there *is* good reason for faith it no longer becomes 'faith', but a justifiable scientific position. There is now *insufficient* doubt to allow faith, and there scarcely is any need for free will -reason is *dictating* one's position. I suppose in principle such a person could defy reason and say, 'No, I don't believe it, despite the evidence that shows it's true!'. This would just be the act of an irrational person, as the act of believing with insufficent *evidence* is as well. So the exercise of free will seems to boil down to acting irrationally.
We have here a credo that flies in the face of reason whichever way one looks at it.