God is evident

"....that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them...." Romans 1:19 NASB®

What is faith?  And how does it relate to knowledge?

by Tom Crawford


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"...faith and knowledge are related as the two scales of a balance; when one goes up, the other goes down."   - Schopenhauer

I saw this quote on a bumper sticker the other day while on my way to work.  A more complete version of the quote is:

"In the whole course of the events which I have indicated, you may always observe that faith and knowledge are related as the two scales of a balance; when one goes up, the other goes down."  from The Essays of Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schpenhauer (1780-1860) is a 19th century German philosopher.  From my research on the internet, his quote seems to be a favorite quote among atheists.

What Schopenhauer and his atheist followers are saying in this statement is that faith and knowledge are incompatible.  That the more knowledge you have, the less faith you exhibit and/or need.  Mathematically, they would argue that the amount of faith you have is inversely proportional to the amount of knowledge you have, or:

Faith = const / Knowledge

Now this statement may be true of most of the religions of the world – the more you know, the less you can trust that religion.  In fact, many Christians that I know, think they have to have “blind faith”.  They are afraid to look at the evidence behind their faith.  So in reality, they are affirming Schopenhauer's philosophy.

But Schopenhauer’s statement is false.  I certainly have not found Schopenhauer’s philosophy to be true in my life.  Instead I have found the opposite to be true – that knowledge about the truth increases the amount of faith I can exercise in that truth, therefore

Faith in the truth = const * Knowledge of that truth

Here are three simple examples of this statement:

Example 1 – Sitting on a bench or chair – While typing this essay, I am sitting on a bench at a table in my dining room.  I have faith in this bench – I am trusting this bench to support my weight.   But before I ever sat down on this bench, I knew a lot about this bench:

  • This bench looks sturdy.  I looked at the bench and saw that it was made sturdily, out of hardwood lumber that should have no trouble holding me up when I sit on it.
  • I have past experience sitting on benches similar to this one.  All of them have held me up.
  • I have previous experience sitting on this bench and the duplicate bench on the other side of the table.  When my wife and I were buying it at the furniture store, I tested one of the benches.  I have also sat on both of these benches quite a few times since we purchased them, and every time, I found them to be trustworthy in supporting me.  In fact, I have experience sitting on these benches along with 3 or 4 other people, all at the same time, while eating Thanksgiving dinner.  I have experiential knowledge that it will hold me up.  The bench has been faithful to hold me up in the past, therefore I can trust it now to hold me up.
  • I could have done scientific analysis and experiments on the design and structure of this bench to determine that it would definitely hold me up.  (I’m not quite this geeky, though sometimes my wife and kids think I am.)  If I had had any doubts about this bench, this step could have been done to increase my faith in this bench.

My point is, the more knowledge I have about this bench, the more I know that I can trust it to hold me up.  My faith in the bench is proportional to my knowledge about the bench!  Schopenhauer’s statement is false!

Example 2 – My faith in the speed of light – I believe that the speed of light in a vacuum is 3x10^8 (300,000,000) meters per second!  (Note – exact value is 299,792,458 meters per second.)  In fact, I believe this fact so much, that I am willing to stake my career on it.  In reality, I am also willing to stake my life on it, and I have done so many times.  (And, by the way, you probably have too!)  Every time I fly on a plane, I put my trust in the speed of light.  How?  I believe that the ring laser gyroscopes (RLGs) on board the plane will give the pilots the right information so that they can guide the plane.  I believe that the radar signals and GPS signals and radio transmissions will all travel at the speed of light, again so that the pilots can avoid other planes and also properly guide and control the plane.  Everything that I have just mentioned, to one extent or another, depends on the fact that light (and radio waves) all travel at 3x10^8 meters per second.

Now why do I believe that light travels at 3x10^8 meters per second? 

  • My father told me.  (Actually he told me 186,000 miles per second.)  My father as an engineer was knowledgeable, and as my father, I knew he was faithful.  I knew I could trust him.
  • I learned it in my high school science classes.  Again, I believed my teacher and my science text book, because both were trustworthy sources.
  • College and graduate school classes taught the same thing.  I majored in physics in both college and graduate school.  I learned who all had measured the speed of light and how they measured it.  Every time it has been measured by someone, its speed has always been measured to be 3x10^8 meters per second to within the error bars of the experiment being done.  I also learned the theoretical, electro-magnetic basis for why light travels at this speed.
  • I have experimental knowledge of the speed of light myself.  If I wanted to, I could do an experiment myself to measure the speed of light.  I don’t remember that I have ever done this, but I have done other lab experiments in college, grad school, and during my career, that depended on the speed of light being 3x10^8 meters per second, and my findings from those experiments have always been consistent with that value to within the error bars of my experiments.

I take the speed of light on faith.  I trust its value to be 3x10^8 meters per second, and it has never failed me yet.  I have a significant amount of theoretical and experiential knowledge on the subject.  The point is, my faith is based on knowledge; it is not a blind faith.  Again Schopenhauer’s statement is proven to be wrong!

Example 3 – My wife loves me – I believe my wife loves me!  Now this may be a little closer to “blind” faith.  I cannot go into the lab and prove it, as I could with the bench or the speed of light, but I still have a significant amount of experiential knowledge that this is indeed a fact that I can put my trust in.  She tells me she loves me.  She kisses me goodbye when I go off to work or on a trip.  She puts up with my quirks, and has done so for the 32 years that we have been married.  She enjoys my company, and misses me when I am away.  We still enjoy sleeping together.  We know each other very well after the 33+ years we have known each other.  She has been faithful in her love, so I can put my trust in the fact that she loves me.  Schopenhauer is wrong again!

All of these examples illustrate that the more I know about the truth of something, the more I can put my faith or trust in the truth of that thing.  To be fair to Schopenhauer, there are times that the more I know, the less I believe.  For example, I do not believe that the speed of light is 2 miles per hour.  Nor do I believe that the speed of light is infinite.  These statements are not consistent with the knowledge thatI have about the speed of light.  They have been proven to be wrong.  So I have strong faith that they are not true.  My point is however, if I am firmly convinced about something being true, then I will believe it.  My goal then should be to investigate the truth of the things that I believe, so that I can have true faith instead of a blind faith.  And the more I know about the truth of the subject in question, the more faith I can exercise in that truth.

So why should my faith in God be any different, if my faith is in the One True God?  In fact, the Biblical definition of faith assumes knowledge of facts!

The Bible tells us that:

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1 NASB®


“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17 NASB®


Therefore the Bible emphasizes that our faith in God is proportional to how well we know Him.  It comes from a knowledge of the word of Christ.  It is assurance and conviction.

Even the main definition of the English word for faith shows that it is based on knowledge, not that it conflicts with knowledge.  According to the American Heritage Dictionary (1981 version), faith is defined as:

“Confidence or trust in a person, idea, or thing.”

How does one have confidence in a person, idea, or thing, if he or she has no knowledge of that person, idea, or thing?

Similarly, the Greek word for faith used in the New Testament of the Bible is the word pistis (Strong’s Concordance word #4102).  Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D., in his The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, states that the word pistis is “....from peitho (3982), to win over, persuade.”  He then states that pistis subjectively means “....firm persuasion, conviction, belief in the truth, veracity, reality or faithfulness....”  How can one be persuaded, or hold a conviction, or a belief in the truth, without having knowledge about the truth?  In fact, Dr. Zodhiates comments on the Hebrews 11:1 passage I quoted above as follows:

“In Heb 11:1, ‘faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’ means that persuasion is not the outcome of imagination but is based on fact, such as the reality of the resurrection of Christ (I Cor. 15), and as such it becomes the basis of realistic hope.”  (my emphasis)

So Schopenhauer, and my atheist friends driving cars with Schopenhauer quotes on their bumpers are both wrong.  In fact, the atheist with the bumper sticker is exercising blind faith in Schopenhauer’s quote – he or she has never really looked at what true faith is!  Faith is proportional to knowledge.  I do not have to be afraid of knowledge, because knowledge about the truth of God will increase my faith in Him, not decrease my faith in Him!  One of my goals for this website is to present evidence for increasing your knowledge of God, and thereby giving you reason to trust Him.

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