The argument goes like this:
At the end of the day, the scientist who boasts evolution has the same faith that the Christian creationist does. Since no one beheld the creation of the world, both the Christian and the scientist have to have faith in their own explanations of how the world came into existence. Simply put, evolutionists have faith just like creationist do. Or maybe: atheists have faith similar to that of theists.
I used to use this argument a lot to get evolutionists to admit that their conclusions were no different than my former creationist ones. I even used this argument to further conclude that the atheist evolutionist was being just as religious as I, since his conclusions were also based on faith. Since he wasn’t there at creation, he’s just guessing how things came into being. But it frustrated me how often my argument didn’t work! Here’s the heart of the problem: What do you mean by faith?
Here are the basic definitions for faith (COED, 11th ed.).
1. complete trust or confidence.
2. strong belief in a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.
Notice that the two definitions are distinct. Let’s use them both here:
1. Atheist/evolutionists have complete trust or confidence in their conclusions just like Christian/creationists have complete trust and confidence in their conclusions.
2. Atheist/evolutionists have a strong belief in religion, based on spiritual conviction just like Christian/creationists have a strong belief in religion, based on spiritual conviction.
Do you see the problem? If faith means definition #1, then the statement really doesn’t affirm anything remarkable. You’re confident in your system and I’m confident in mine. So what? Further, it doesn’t solve any problem at all, it just hurls us back into a debate over which side best handles the burden of proof. We might as well discuss our ‘faith’ in our favorite football team. Such faith is only proven when the Crimson Tide easily dismantles LSU in the national championship.
…but I digress.
If faith means definition #2, then the statement accuses the atheist of a strong belief in religion based on spiritual conviction. The Christian would be accusing the atheist of being just as religious a person. But the atheist is not burning candles to saints, he’s not devoting himself to an hour of prayer each day, nor is he trying
to have a relationship with any deity. He’s coming to conclusions based on his own studies. Those conclusions might be wrong. Only then will he re-evaluate. Christians do the same thing. A crisis of faith can lead to a paradigm shift and modification of theological thinking.
But here’s the big difference. Part of the reason Christians believe in the triune God is because of their personal experience with Christ. That experience also influences the way they see the world. Christians grow as they continue to interact with the Bible,other Christians, and God. This is a worshipful activity, a religious enterprise.Science is not a religious enterprise. It looks at empirical evidence and makes conclusions based it. Scientists (evolutionists included) may be Christians, but relating their work to religious activity is a misrepresentation of their efforts. Sure, they have faith (confidence) in their conclusions but there is no mysticism involved.
I also think that some people actually mean this:
Atheist/evolutionists have confidence in their conclusions just like Christian/creationists have a strong belief in religion, based on spiritual conviction.
Technically they would be right. But of course, the definitions are different; so it amounts to a word game or rhetorical trick.