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  • Writer's pictureScott Carr, Jr.

A Leap in the Dark

The proverb, “Faith is a leap in the dark” implies that faith is “something you do without being certain what will happen as a result" [1]. It is certainly true that Christianity does not have what Alvin Plantinga calls “propositional evidence”, drawn from “self-evident or incorrigible” beliefs [2]. Faith involves accepting beliefs that cannot be proven with airtight evidence. “Faith is a leap in the dark” in that faith does not have completely verifiable evidence to base its certainty on. However, that does not mean Christian faith has no evidence to base its claims on. While Christianity cannot be explicitly proven, it is a reasonable faith. It possesses a variety of evidentiary clues from which Christian faith may logically follow.

In this, Christianity does not stand alone. All worldviews, whether religious or secular, rest on certain basic beliefs that are accepted on faith rather than "self-evident or incorrigible” beliefs [3]. Tim Keller, summarizing scientist and philosopher Michael Polanyi, writes that these beliefs are formed "through bodily experience, authorities we trust, and communities we are a part of [4]”. While secular persons assume their worldview is only based on evidence and reason [5], they also have basic beliefs that are not self-evident but are accepted based on faith. Keller provides two key examples. First, most secular persons claim to only believe what they have an empirical proof for. However, there is no way to empirically prove that the only things which can be believed must be empirically proven. It fails its own criteria. Second, secular persons assume that each human being ought to be treated with dignity and have their rights respected. This is not evident to all the world and cannot be proven [6]. All worldviews, secularism and Christianity included, rest on prior faith assumptions which cannot be proven. In this sense, they are a “leap in the dark”.

Yet merely because Christianity, like all other worldviews, rests on basic beliefs which are not self-evident, it does not mean Christian faith is unreasonable. Theologian Herman Bavinck argues that because Christianity professes God as the source of all wisdom, it must prize knowledge and philosophy [7]. The problem of evil is often raised as an example of why belief in God is unreasonable and should serve as a test case for whether or not belief in God can be reasonable.

The argument from evil against God’s existence is that because God is perfect and because He has all power, knowledge, and is all-present, He has the ability and motivation to eradicate evil. However, evil still exists, so the God of Christian faith must not exist [8]. It is a profound argument that seems airtight logically. A God who only desires the Good and has all power to enforce His will would remove evil which is contrary to His will. Evil still exists, therefore such a God does not exist. However, this argument contains an implicit basic belief which is not based on evidence, namely, “If evil appears pointless to me, then it must be pointless” [9]. In light of this basic belief, apologist James Taylor revises the argument to say, “If God exists, then there is no evil unless God has a reason that would justify him in permitting it…There is evil….There is no reason that would justify God in permitting evil….God does not exist” [10].

For a Christian to demonstrate belief in God is reasonable in light of the problem of evil, the Christian needs to only demonstrate there are possible reasons for God to allow evil in certain instances. Keller argues, “If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn’t stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same moment) a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can’t know” [11]. Indeed, in human experience, individuals grow and learn most through periods of suffering. Suffering often produces good growth in our lives. An example is the story of Joseph in the biblical book of Genesis whose experience of being sold into slavery by his brothers led to him climbing the ladder of Egypt to serve as prime minister and save the region during a period of famine [12]. Hence, it is possible, and even likely, that God can utilize evil to bring about good effects. Both the secular and the Christian approach to the problem of evil assume basic beliefs. The Christian approach to the problem of evil is reasonable in that it logically follows its belief commitments.

[1] “A Leap In the Dark: Definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary.” A LEAP IN THE DARK | definition in the Cambridge English Dictionary. Accessed April 30, 2020.

[2] Plantinga, Alvin. Knowledge and Christian Belief. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015, pp. 14-15.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Keller, Timothy. Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical. London, UK: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd, 2018, p. 36.

[5] Ibid. p. 30.

[6] Keller, Tim. “Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the skeptical.” Talks at Google Youtube video, 57:53. October 19, 2016.

[7] Bavinck, Herman. Our Reasonable Faith. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publisher, 2002, p. 20.

[8] Taylor, James E. Introducing Apologetics: Cultivating Christian Commitment. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013, p. 144-145.

[9] Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God. London, UK: Hodder & Stoughton, 2009, p. 23. Italics in original.

[10] Taylor, p. 147.

[11] Keller, The Reason for God, p. 25.

[12] Keller, pp. 24-25.

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