Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that proceeds
from the mouth of God.”
Jesus, Matthew 4:3
“I’ve seen it done, but I’d like to have a little more
scientific backing before I risk my own feet.”
Grant Imahara, Mythbuster
We’re committed to helping students understand God’s world and His Word. This commitment to education involves affording opportunities to students for growth in knowledge, understanding and wisdom and faith, hope and love.
This desire to combine faith and knowledge makes us unique in a culture that attempts to drive a wedge between those two. Richard Dawkins, for example, carelessly defines faith as “believing what you know ain’t so.” In a slight improvement, faith is sometimes taken to be what’s left over when knowledge goes as far as it can. Still another definition of faith takes it to be a blind leap in the dark.
In each of these definitions, faith and knowledge are taken to be distinct. So distinct, in fact, that having both at the same time is impossible. Thus, the believer faces a choice: it’s either knowledge or faith. Unfortunately, many Christians have accepted (and initiated) definitions of faith like those above. They have bought in to the false choice and opted to pit faith against knowledge. Christians, however, ought to reject this choice between faith and knowledge is a false one. We needn’t choose between having faith and having knowledge. In fact, true knowledge involves true faith, a point that came home on a recent foray into one of my family’s favorite shows.
My family and I often re-watch Mythbusters and we found in the “Fire Walking” episode a powerful example of true faith’s relation to true knowledge. If you’re unfamiliar with Mythbusters, it’s a Discovery Channel show that applies the scientific method to various myths in an attempt to determine whether the myth is true or false (I’ll flee the temptation to digress into a discussion of true nature of myth).
In this episode, three Mythbusters – Carie, Grant, and Tori – explore whether it takes being in a trance to master walking barefoot on hot coals heated to more than 1,000 degrees. To test the myth, the three travel to meet a fire walking guru who trains others to walk across glowing coals and, having spent time with him, they then spend an entire evening watching a dozen men and women make the walk unscathed.
With the evidence of an authoritative instructor, the evidence of the testimony of the coal-walkers, and the evidence of senses, Grant has a fascinating reaction. Watch this two-minute summary to see what I mean:
Despite having that evidence, he won’t step out onto the coals. What more could he want? Grant says that he wants to see the science. He won’t believe until he sees. So, he and the others spend time making life-like feet out of rubber, running experiments on the physics of heat transfer, and covering all their scientific bases.
So, now Grant has the evidence of science to go with the previous evidence gained at the fire walking demonstration. But it’s here that things truly get interesting. It’s most interesting that even after he has the science, Grant still doesn’t have knowledge. Grant is looking for a certainty – a certainty that fire walking is safe. He looks for this certainty in science, or better, he thinks he’s looking for certainty in science.
The trouble is that science cannot provide the certainty necessary to drive the wedge between knowledge and faith. Having the date is not the same thing as actually stepping out on the coals. It is not knowledge until feet touch heat. Grant must literally step out in faith. Science and senses, testimony and training can only go so far. In the end, it takes that first step and that first step is nothing less than faith. So, science and knowledge require action and acting requires faith. Grant lives by faith as much as any believer does.
What all this gives us is a beautiful picture of biblical faith. Faith is another way of knowing that which is built on solid evidence. God does not call us to follow him without knowledge; he doesn’t ask us to fling ourselves off a cliff in a desperate hope that something is there on the other side. Faith is essentially trust – trust that God will continue to keep his promises, trust that the promise-keeping God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be my promise-keeping God. I see and study his work in His world and Word and step out with him in trust on that basis. He’s given me all the reason I need to trust him, but until I actually live that out, I have neither faith nor knowledge.
We must continue to combine faith and knowledge and remain committed to training students to live out Augustine’s maxim, “I believe that I may understand.” There need not be a dichotomy between knowledge and faith; God has provided each to lead to the other…and both to lead to Him.