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…

Published by cwoznicki

Christ Follower. PhD Student in Systematic Theology at Fuller Seminary. UCLA Philosophy Grad. Former college minister at The Church at Rocky Peak. I'm into theology, philosophy, the Gospels, culture, and mission.

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