Jason Lisle: The Logic of Faith

This one will drive you right over the edge of the flat Earth. It’s at the website of Answers in Genesis (ol’ Hambo’s online ministry). The title alone is interesting: Is the Christian Worldview Logical?

Another interesting thing is that it’s by Jason Lisle, who left AIG a couple of years ago to become director of whatever it is that they call research at the Institute for Creation Research. For some reason, Jason’s latest is posted at AIG.

He’s written a few times before about this mind-bending subject. See Jason Lisle: Faith vs. Reason, and before that Jason Lisle Tells Us How To Think, and we’ll never forget this one — Mathematics is Creationist.

He’s doing it again, so hold tightly onto your brain — or you’ll lose it. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

The notion of “faith versus reason” is an example of a false dichotomy. Faith is not antagonistic to reason. On the contrary, biblical faith and reason go well together.

Yes, we’ve seen how well that works at AIG and ICR. But Jason’s just getting started:

The problem lies in the fact that many people have a misunderstanding of faith. Faith is not a belief in the absurd, nor is it a belief in something simply for the sake of believing it. Rather, faith is having confidence in something that we have not perceived with the senses.

Jason then refers to the scriptural definition in Hebrews 11:1 — “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” But a more rigorous definition is that faith is belief which is not based evidence or logical proof. Let’s read on:

Whenever we have confidence in something that we cannot see, hear, taste, smell, or touch, we are acting upon a type of faith. All people have faith, even if it is not a saving faith in God.

Then he gives an example:

For example, people believe in laws of logic. However, laws of logic are not material. They are abstract and cannot be experienced by the senses. We can write down a law of logic such as the law of non-contradiction (“It is impossible to have A and not A at the same time and in the same relationship.”), but the sentence is only a physical representation of the law, not the law itself. When people use laws of logic, they have confidence in something they cannot actually observe with the senses; this is a type of faith.

Aaaargh!! Jason is totally wrong here. Logic isn’t an example of faith — it’s an essential premise for all rational thought. A premise like that isn’t held by faith, but by necessity. Religious doctrines, in contrast, are entirely optional. The doctrines of one religion can contradict those of another, yet they all have happy adherents, despite their incompatible dogmas. To further illustrate their optional nature, people can and do function quite well without any of them. Jason continues:

When we have confidence that the universe will operate in the future as it has in the past, we are acting on faith. For example, we all presume that gravity will work the same next Friday as it does today. But no one has actually observed the future. So we all believe in something that goes beyond sensory experience.

Aaaargh!! There’s also the little detail that all the evidence we have, which is considerable, shows us that the laws of nature haven’t changed from what they have always been. Further, we routinely make predictions that depend on the constancy of natural law, and such predictions always work out. So there is, shall we say, slightly more involved in the constancy of natural law than blind faith. But Jason sees it differently:

From a Christian perspective, this is a very reasonable belief. God (who is beyond time) has promised us that He will uphold the universe in a consistent way (e.g., Genesis 8:22). So we have a good reason for our faith in the uniformity of nature. For the consistent Christian, reason and faith go well together.

Aaaargh!! But what about all those miracles that violate the laws of nature? No problem — Jason’s essay seems to ignore them, at least so far. Here’s more:

According to the Scriptures, the Christian faith is not a “blind faith.” It is a faith that is rationally defensible. It is logical and self-consistent. It can make sense of what we experience in the world.

Aaaargh!! Genesis makes absolutely no sense when compared to the evidence of this world. But then Jason surprises us. He boldly confronts some of the scriptural absurdities:

There are those who would challenge the rationality of the biblical worldview. Some say that the Christian worldview is illogical on the face of it. After all, the Bible speaks of floating ax heads, the sun apparently going backward, a universe created in six days, an earth that has pillars and corners, people walking on water, light before the sun, a talking serpent, a talking donkey, dragons, and a senior citizen taking two of every land animal on a big boat! The critic suggests that no rational person can possibly believe in such things in our modern age of scientific enlightenment. He claims that to believe in such things would be illogical.

Indeed! Here’s how Jason deals with that:

The Bible does make some extraordinary claims. But are such claims truly illogical? Do they actually violate any laws of logic? Although the above biblical examples go beyond our ordinary, everyday experiences, none of them are contradictory. They do not violate any laws of logic.

Jason is struggling to confine his argument solely to the laws of logic, but even on his chosen ground, he’s in trouble. There’s that pesky law of non-contradiction. If the laws of nature are constant (and Jason just said they are), then things that violate natural law cannot exist. Oh, wait — Jason deals with that too:

The critic arbitrarily asserts that it is not possible for the sun to go backward in the sky, or for the solar system to be created in six days. But what is his evidence for this? He might argue that such things cannot happen based on known natural laws. With this we agree. But who said that natural laws are the limit of what is possible? The biblical God is not bound by natural laws. Since the Bible is indeed correct about the nature of God, then there is no problem at all in God reversing the direction of the planets, or creating the solar system in six days. An infinitely powerful, all-knowing God can do anything that is rationally possible.

Aaaargh!! We’re barely halfway through Jason’s essay, and we’ve reached the limit for what even your Curmudgeon can handle. Well, okay, one more excerpt:

The extraordinary claims of Scripture cannot be dismissed merely on the basis that they are extraordinary. If indeed the biblical God exists, and if indeed He has the characteristics attributed to Him by the Bible (all-knowing, all-powerful, beyond time, etc.) then the critic has no basis whatsoever for denying that the miraculous is possible. Clearly, an all-powerful God can make a donkey talk, can create the universe in six days, can bring two of every animal to Noah, etc. These are simply not problems in the biblical worldview. When the critic dismisses the miraculous solely on the basis that it is miraculous, he is simply begging the question.

That’s it! We’ve had enough. You can click over there and read the rest of it, but we’re outta here!

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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19 responses to “Jason Lisle: The Logic of Faith

  1. I actually have a dragon living in my garage. It is real, though you can’t see it because it’s invisible. I speak to it, and vice versa. It is sometimes helpful and consoling when needed. I have a book, authored many eons ago, by those who imagined my dragons characteristics, a book translated into many languages, e.g., runes, and which has been accepted by many who read it. Though they cannot see the physical presence of my dragon, we have absolute faith in its existence as well as the many creative things the dragon is said to have accomplished that no human nor nature could have done.

  2. Realist1948

    Lisle wrote, ” Faith is having confidence in something that we have not perceived with the senses.” Well said, I think. And it brings to mind something that Dr. Neil Shubin said in the first installment of “Your Inner Fish” on PBS. Dr. Shubin talked about transition fossils (between fish and land-dwelling creatures) that Charles Darwin had predicted might one day be found. Knowing approximately when transition species between fish and amphibians must have lived, and knowing where sedimentary rocks of that age could be found, Shubin et. al. ventured to the Canadian Arctic in search of what faith told them might be found there.

    Lo and behold, Shubin’s faith in the fact of evolution, and the persistence of his team, were rewarded with the discovery of Tiktaalik.


    Now we all know that Tiktaalik was real.

    Unfortunately, there are those who apparently lack faith, even when there is evidence. For instance:

  3. docbill1351

    DavidK Alas, I sent my teapot over to your garage and slew your dragon with lots of smiting and smoting. My teapot then dragged away your dragon’s lifeless carcass and cleaned up the mess except for what “appears” to be a stain on your garage floor of oil dripping out of your Jaguar.

    So, your dragon is gone.

    Oh, my teapot stole your Jaguar, too.


  4. Hey, DavidK, Doc Bill is telling the truth. My invisible pink unicorn saw the whole thing.

  5. The unicorn also stole [edited out].

  6. This is very strange that Jason Lisle wrote something for AIG that has today’s date on it so it is not just recycled ravings that date from his previous time at AIG. Is Jason going back to AIG? AIG already has a creationist astronomer, Danny Faulkner, but if you read some of the things Faulkner has written you will notice that they sometimes contain troubling moments of actual lucidity on the subject of Astronomy.

    Perhaps AIG will not settle for anything less than the bizarre writings that can only come from the uniquely insane mind of Jason Lisle.

  7. A friend (who, by the way, was a rabbi) told me when I was dithering between calling myself an agnostic or an athiest: “if someone on the street tells you there’s a dragon dancing in the air between you, and you make an honest effort to detect it and can’t, you’re perfectly entitled to tell him you don’t believe him”. Jason, get back to us when you’ve got some proof.

  8. “the sentence is only a physical representation of the law, not the law itself”
    Ah, Plato’s cave and Kant’s Ding an Sich. Both are a waste of time because by definition we cannot say anything sensible about them by definition.

    “For example, we all presume that gravity will work the same next Friday as it does today.”
    Lisle has a point here. This is called the Problem of Simple Enumeration; as David Hume showed (and I have strong faith that SC will recognize that name) pointed out this is why sheer empiricism is not sufficient. What Lisle misses here is what justifies his extrapolation: not faith, but the combination of all the observed data regarding gravity and a consistent and coherent theory (yup, there is our law of non-contradiction!) that describes gravity correctly.

    “Do they actually violate any laws of logic?”
    Such a nice deep question. They have never been observed and violate our best scientific theories. That’s enough to dismiss them indeed.

    “The biblical God is not bound by natural laws.”
    We’ve gotta love Jason for this. He proves meaningless what he just wrote before:

    “God has promised us that He will uphold the universe in a consistent way”
    except when he breaks this promise, because he is not bound.

    “These are simply not problems in the biblical worldview. ”
    No, that’s what I have learned from debating creacrappers for five years: their god is only consistent when it suits them.

  9. waldteufel

    Jason is a good example of how creationism destroys minds. Most likely, with his doctoral degree from a good university, he could have made a decent journeyman astronomer instead of becoming a third rate apologist who discovers no new knowledge. He has sunk to feeding garbage to Hambo so Hambo can lie to children about the nature and findings of science. What a [edited out].

    I agree with Dr. Kennedy that Danny the creationist “astronomer” has occasional lapses into reality, but his “cutting edge” research articles for Hambo’s in-house rag are written at a high school level at best, and not well written at that. Are these two clowns along with the creationist gynecologist and the idiot Australian geologist the best they can do?

  10. @David, Doc and MG: obviously you all three are the victims of another FSM prank. The FSM likes them because how else to avoid getting bored during eternity?

  11. Jason Lisle, Ph.D., P.D.Q., LS/MFT: “…faith is having confidence in something that we have not perceived with the senses.”

    Ok, Jason, so please explain — what is it, exactly, that gives you this confidence? And I mean explain — don’t just say “because the Bible tells me so.”

    You seem to be one who has been blinded by the (asymmetric) light.

  12. Oh, you guys and your jesting. But I did forget about His Noodleness, great that he is. Yet the FSM should be wary as my dragon can resurrect Himself and rise from the ashes, oil stain, whatever, and slurp up his Noodleness in one fell swoop.

  13. If indeed the biblical God exists…

    Aha. Therein lies the problem. Lisle needs to work on proving his initial premise before he can wax poetic about faith and miracles and the rest of the biblical mythology. It all rests on that one unprovable assertion.

  14. Charles Deetz ;)

    @Anonymous I thought that statement stunk of malarkey too. If god exists, if he has the powers ascribed to him in the bible, then of course you’d be right. IF is not the powerful work you think it is, Lisle. Logic, even though I can’t see it in this argument, I guarantee it DOES NOT EXIST in our argument. What hooey.

  15. waldteufel

    . . .”P.D.Q., LS/MFT” . . . retiredsciguy has a sense of whimsy that dates him~ As well as those of us who get it 🙂

  16. A couple of weeks ago I saw Jason on David Rives’ show. It was all about the big bang. First he started with how the big bang wasn’t Biblical. Then he compared it with heliocentric theory (good and simple explains retrograde and planetary brightness too!) and remarked that there have been so many revisions on the big bang that it is no longer a parsimonious theory. (And also the big bang theory also has a light speed problem and no magnetic monopoles!)
    He is interesting to listen to, unlike Eric Hovind, whom I can not stand. And despite David Rives being this fantastic astronomer I got the impression from his occasionally “this is true” and “a ha” the technical stuff was going in one ear and out the other. (David Rives = an empty suit)
    I agree with some of the other comments. It is unfortunate he isn’t furthering science along its twisted and difficult path, instead is pimping God for a paycheck.

  17. Jason Guile effluviates—

    “An infinitely powerful, all-knowing God can do anything that is rationally possible.”

    This assertion is where Jason really gets his feet all tangled in his premisses and inferences. A god who can only do that which “is rationally possible” is not “infinitely powerful” and “all-knowing” because there are things that such a god cannot do (or does not know how to do), namely that which is rationally impossible. Descartes was one of the rigorous few who saw the logical dilemma presented by omnipotence necessarily including the ability to do the logically impossible (e.g. make a square circle or a married bachelor) otherwise it’s not true omnipotence. In short, omnipotence is intrinsically a logically absurd concept (which absurdity extends to other proposed “omni” attributes). Moreover, if such a god is alleged to be the source and creator of everything but is restricted to doing only “rationally possible” things, the question of how/where/why this restriction arose becomes all the more pressing.

  18. An infinitely powerful, all-knowing God can do anything that is rationally possible.
    This means that there is no difference between any one state of affairs
    and any other from the point of view that God did it. Only if we assume constraints can we tell why it turned out that humans have eyes like other vertebrates rather than eyes like insects, or octopuses, or potatoes.
    Think about the probabilities: How likely is it, among all of the infinite possibilities that God can do, that God would choose this way?
    Surely, God could have caused birds to fly with their bones made of solid gold, with their veins full of quicksilver, with their flesh heavier than lead, and with their wings exceedingly small. He did not, and that ought to show something. It is only in order to shield your ignorance that you put the Lord at every turn to the refuge of a miracle. Galileo (see Wikiquote for citation)

  19. @waldteufel: “LS/MFT…”

    Yeah, and I used to smoke the damned things, too. I just hope I quit soon enough. (For the benefit of those too young to have seen tobacco advertising on TV, “LS/MFT” was a marketing catchphrase used by the American Tobacco Co. to promote their “Lucky Strike” brand. It stood for “Lucky Strike Means Fine Tobacco”.)