The Nature and Value of Faith: Four Problems

Last week Dan Howard Snyder (Western Washington University) came to the Analytic cfyvn_euyaabdtqTheology seminar to throw out some ideas about the nature of faith. Here are some notes….

  • The Problem of Trajectory – Typical College Student
    • Doubt to getting “out”
    • If I lack faith (i.e. doubt) maybe I should just drop out of this whole Christianity thing
    • Problem: Stay in or get out
    • Supposedly: You can’t have Christian faith if you have doubt (to be a Christian is to be a “believer”
  • Theorizing About Faith
    • Claim: You have Christian faith only if you believe in BCS (Basic Christian Story)
    • Distinction between “Faith in” vs. “Faith that” (person/relations vs. propositions)
      • Maybe Third: Global Faith – Ability to Bring a narrative together
    • Claim: You can have Faith that the BCS is true only if you believe that it is true.
      • Which of these 3 kinds of faith apply to this claim?
      • This claim is true only if “Faith entails Belief”
        • Necessarily S has faith that p only if S believes that p.
      • Two part view – Necessarily S has faith that p only if (1) S has a positive conative orientation toward p and (2) S believes that P.
      • Three Part View (Doxastic Version) – Necessarily S has faith that p only if (1) S has a positive conative orientation toward p and (2) S believes that P, and (3) S is resilient in the face of challenges to living in light of the good S sees in the truth of what she believes.
  • Faith Without Belief
    • Thesis – Faith entails belief: Necessarily S has faith that p only if S believes that p.
      • Issue: Ignores Seeming vs. Believing
      • Specificity problem: Makes “p” too specific, that’s not how it is with other complex cognitive attitudes
      • Alternatives Problem
        • Case: The Defensive captain example
      • Three Part View (Non-Doxastic Version) – Necessarily S has faith that p only if (1) S has a positive conative orientation toward p and (2) S has a positive cognitive stance towards p, and (3) S is resilient in the face of challenges to living in light of the good S sees in the truth of what she believes.
  • Faith and Resilience in the Christian Life
    • Resilience in the face of counter-evidence
    • Resilience in the face of contrary emotions (dryness, diminution of desire)
      • No longer desiring, but still intending
    • Application to the problem of Trajectory
      • Apply these 3 requirements to faith to the student
        • Believing is out of the question right now, but for now let “assumption” be the leading cognitive state
  • Problems for this account of faith:
    • Unity Problem – two versions
      • Faith is defined in many ways, there isn’t anything which unifies them, so we can’t define “faith” in this one way.
      • What unites these 3 aspects into one attitude?
    • Fictionalist Problem
      • If you think you can have faith in BCS without believing it then you have to believe that a religious fictionalist could have faith as well. (Religious Fictionalist – acts on/engages on story that she doesn’t believe but sees pragmatic value in it)
    • The Bible Says Problem
      • This theory is just not what the Bible says about faith.
      • Can’t have faith w/o propositional belief, can’t please him if you don’t believe he exists.
      • In Bible Faith and Doubt are contrasted
    • The Problem of Practice
      • How can a skeptical Christian engage in Christian practices with integrity?
      • What will prayer be like for her? All her prayers will be insincere or malformed…
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