TWADE: The Panini Poisoner of Pimlico (Ch 10)

Hi @Interested_In_Book_Studies!

Chapter 10 addresses the often-repeated claim, “I only believe in things that can be proved! Faith is just believing in something you want to be true without any evidence or reason!” and its many sub-versions. Andy cuts to the heart of the matter and addresses the two main points: 1) Does the word faith really mean belief without reason (or even despite reason)? 2) Can one day to day without exercising any faith?

The chapter addresses question one quickly. In short, no. The word faith is quite similar to the word ‘trust.’ In fact, the English language gets the word faith from the Latin word ‘fides’ which means to trust or reliable. The next logical question is, “what does it mean to trust?” To trust means to place your confidence in a thing (or person) based on the evidence you have of the thing (or person).

The 2nd question is answered right after the first by showing how it plays out in life. For example, beginning on page 196 there is a list of great examples, and I urge you to examine it again. A few examples include trusting a used car salesman, politicians, jetliners, friends and family, etc. The overall point being made in the chapter is that we take the evidence we have and move from “belief that” to “belief in.” No matter how much I believe THAT the car will take me to my destination, at some point I’m going to have to get and put my trust IN the vehicle (and those who manufactured it) if I want to arrive.

The same, says Andy, goes for Christianity. The Christian life is not simply holding to certain intellectual beliefs but rather it is a life lived in which we trust in the one who created the universe. Since all people, both Christians and non-Christians, use faith every day, the big question is not, “Why faith?” but it is this, “Is what you’re placing your faith in trustworthy?” That’s the question we all must wrestle with.

  1. When presented with questions/objections to Christianity we can respond in 1 of 3 ways: 1) We can give a wrong answer 2) We can give an accurate answer, or 3) We can give an answer like Jesus would give. How would you answer the objection/question, “Why do you believe in things you cannot prove?”

  2. What’s the best thing you learned (or re-learned) in this chapter?

  3. The “Problem of other minds” was discussed in the chapter (but not in the above summary). Tell us your thoughts about it; the good, the bad, the ugly, and perhaps the wonderful.

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you write great summaries. Much appreciated. :slight_smile:

you’ve got my curiosity up with your question 1.
When talking to people about Christ how would you see the difference between 2 (accurate) and 3 (answer that Jesus would give). You could argue that Jesus gave a lot of answers in the Gospel’s that were sometimes cryptic and sometimes downright confusing - perhaps designed to really make a person think. There’s no question that Jesus used very different approaches to every different person. Do you think that Jesus was more willing to talk to those that were already humble and seeking after God, than those (religeous) that had closed minds thinking they had it all together?

with your question 2. i did relearn that faith is based on evidence. as you said at the top of your summary

this I think goes back to wish fulfillment, or a psychological crutch etc. This argument cuts both ways; those that want to live their life without God believe that He doesn’t exist. compelled by the prior commitment/constrained by paradigm pressure to believe atheism and refuse to think about alternatives; because of the moral implications it has on their life.

I’m reminded of part of a debate between John Lennox and Peter Aitkens; as part of Lennox’s book “Can science explain everything?”; where a member of the audience asked the question of both men: What new piece of evidence would lead to them taking the alternative worldview? Lennox says if there was evidence disproving the ressurection; he would change his mind. Aitkens said there was nothing whatsoever because of Hume’s argument against miracles. Aitkens would think he’s gone mad and put it down to a hallucination. Sometime after I watched this, I read William Lane Craig’s book Historical Evidence for the Resurrection. (video below at 61mins if interested)

What’s clear to me, having read both this book, and several others is that all worldviews are taken on faith. Anything that is historical/forensic science (and this is covered in the next chapter), and not repeatable in a laboratory, must be taken on faith/trust based on the evidence available.

re 3. I’m not sure this ‘problem of minds’ is something that ‘normal’ people talk about every day. If I raised this in a conversation, I think people would stare at me strangely, to be quite honest. I understand where Andy has gone with this; you can’t prove that other minds exist, you can’t prove the universe wasn’t created 5 minutes ago; you can’t prove you are not a brain in a jar etc. It’s all nice for shock value, but I wonder in what scenario would this be a helpful thing to bring up? what are your thoughts.

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@matthew.western, those are fantastic answers to the discussion questions and I really hope that leads to good discussion this week! And, you’re very kind regarding my quick summary. I actually thought as I was writing the above, “This doesn’t feel like a good summary, I hope nobody notices.” So, again, thank you.

Question 1 always makes me think about how I answer a person. Obviously, we don’t want to give an incorrect answer, so what do we do? We give a true answer. But, many times that isn’t enough for us to point people to Jesus. Jesus very rarely gave a direct answer to a question and we would do well to imitate him. He usually responded with a question or a story, and his answer made the questioner stop and pause for a bit. And, Jesus’ answers always drew people towards him or pointed them to God the Father. A modern day example might be, “Why does the Bible affirm slavery?” Your options to respond could be 1) Yes, it does affirm slavery and here’s why (wrong) 2) It doesn’t affirm slavery and give a lecture about the differences between slavery in ancient Israel and the trans-Atlantic slave trade (true, but unhelpful) or 3) You could reply with a question to start a conversation that points the questioner to Jesus (maybe something like ‘what do you mean by slavery?’ And, leads to ‘we’re all slaves to sin but Jesus has come to set us free’). The answer doesn’t have to be mysterious or aloof, but simple and redirects the conversation back to Jesus. So, when I say we can give an accurate answer or give an answer like Jesus, this is what I mean.

I also agree with your assessment of question 3; it’s not really something the Average Joe is thinking about. But, I think it’s good to remember this problem because when this objection does come up and you give this as part of your response, you tend to see the reaction of, “Oh, I hadn’t thought about that but this Christian has… Maybe I should investigate this a bit more.” That’s best case scenario, at least. Then, you get to steer the conversation a bit more and the goal is to work it back to Jesus

Working the conversation back to Jesus is something I’ve really picked up throughout the book. There’s been times when I’ve read an answer or response from Andy and thought, “He could have dropped the hammer a bit more and given a stronger academic argument.” But, instead of him giving air tight logic he usually gives a good response that leads us back to Jesus and the cross. Which is, after all, the goal of the Christian. It’s made me more mindful and really caused me to think more deeply before I respond. Has anybody else noticed this?

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Hello. I enjoyed this chapter and think it is so important to regain the definition of the word ‘faith’. In atheist writings it simply means ‘believing what you know ain’t so!’ (ala Mark Twain).
As already mentioned that is not the historical or Christian understanding of faith.
In one of his debates with John Lennox, Richard Dawkins rattled out this misuse of the word faith. Lennox corrected him and said his faith in God was based on evidence’ at which Dawkins scoffed. Lennox then said, “Let me ask you, do you have faith in Mrs.Dawkins?”
Dawkins: Of course I do
Lennox: Even though there’s no evidence?
Dawkins: No, there’s plenty of evidence.
Lennox: Hmmmm!
People are often surprised when I talk about a relationship with God and experience of Him and that all my arguments are not only intellectual but I am talking about personal testimony. Sometimes people think I’m mad, but mostly they are intrigued.
We ran an Alpha course recently and one chap who attended started with the belief that Jesus never existed. Having listened to ‘evidence’ he is amazed that there is so much and it has started him on a search. Originally he thought 'faith’was just blind belief. He has now been challenged by the idea that ‘faith’ is based on something real.
As @matthew.western said, using the ‘problem of other minds’ in discussion hasn’t really come up before for me. It might be a good point for those who are insistent that you can only believe what is testable, measurable and repeatable. However, I would hesitate to trot it out willy-nilly in our post-truth cultural for fear that it would result in the response, ‘Exactly, we can’t know ANYTHING for sure, therefore, your confidence in God is as misguided as my belief that you have a mind at all!’

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I’ve encountered the post-truth response a few times. How do you handle it?

I usually try to push the issue a little further until the folly is clear. For example, “Exactly, we can’t know ANYTHING for sure, therefore, your confidence in God is as misguided as my belief that you have a mind at all!” “Are you saying we can’t know anything?” “Yes!” “How do you know that we can’t know anything?” “Because…xyz” “How can you know xyz if we can’t know anything?” and then repeat until he or she sees that it’s self-refuting. Not sure if it’s the best way to go about it, so I’d love if you have a better way to engage?

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Yes the argument “we can’t know anything for certain” undermines itself. How can you be sure (for certain), that you can’t know anything for certain?

Lennox quotes Charles Darwin on this as well in one of his books;

Sometimes, when in conversation with my fellow scientists, I ask them “What do you do science with?”

“My mind,” say some, and others, who hold the view that the mind is the brain, say, “My brain”.
“Tell me about your brain? How does it come to exist?”
“By means of natural, mindless, unguided processes.”
“Why, then, do you trust it?” I ask. “If you thought that your computer was the end product of mindless unguided processes, would you trust it?”
“Not in a million years,” comes the reply.
“You clearly have a problem then.”

After a pregnant pause they sometimes ask me where I got this argument—they find the answer rather surprising: Charles Darwin. He wrote: “…with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy.”7

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