THE CONCEPT OF “RATIONAL BELIEF”
here are two extremes that must be avoided, whether in a study and presentation of Christian
apologetics or in a Christian’s daily life: the use of reason alone; and the use of revelation
alone. In practical terms, this is not a situation of “either/or” but “both/and.” The
proper relationship should be that of reason and revelation. Though many religionists posit some sort of
separation between faith and reason, I argue that such is not the case. Faith and reason are to be distinguished,
but never separated. To illustrate this, consider the relationship of the mind and body. The body
is not the mind, nor is the mind the body. Yet they are inseparably joined in this present mode of existence.
Therefore, the mind and the body can be, and ought to be, distinguished, but not separated. In a
similar way, faith and reason are distinct, but not separate. Both are essential to Christianity, though each
must function within its proper sphere. Faith is primarily an act of both the intellect and the will, whereas
reason is essentially an act of the intellect.
The word family of pistis and pisteuo in Scripture is related to the term peitho. These three words are
used 244, 248, and 55 times, respectively, in the Bible. The verb pisteuo primarily has reference to the act
of faith, while the noun form more clearly depicts what faith means. Liddell and Scott define the noun as
follows: “a means of persuasion, an argument, proof ” (1869, pp. 1272-1273). Peitho, in the active voice,
means “to be fully persuaded, believe, trust: of things, to be believed” (1869, p. 1220). At the very least,
the terms imply a prior understanding (i.e., knowledge) of what is to be believed or trusted. In other
words, faith is based upon a foundation of knowledge. Moreover, faith can lead to a greater expression of
Faith is used in Scripture in a general way to refer to those things both supernaturally and naturally
revealed by God (cf. Hebrews 11:1,3,6, Psalm 19:1-14, Romans 1:18-22, and 10:9-17). Scripture records
at least seven different ways in which the term “faith” is used, five of which (the first five in my listing)
play an indispensable role in man’s salvation. First, faith is used to designate “belief ” (John l2:42; Hebrews
11:6). Second, faith sometimes means “trust” (John 14:1; Romans 4:17-20; Luke 7). Third, faith
often refers to “obedience” (Numbers 20:12; John 3:36, ASV; Hebrews 10:39; Romans 1:5,8; 16:25-26).
Fourth, faith frequently refers to steadfastness, loyalty, or “faithfulness” (Habakkuk 2:4; Galatians 3:9;
Hebrews 10: 23,38; Revelation 2:10). Fifth, the word is used objectively to refer to the content of faith,
hence, “the faith” (Romans 10:9; Jude 3; Galatians 1:11,23). Sixth, at times faith is used of strong personal
conviction (Romans 14:2,23). Seventh, faith also is used on occasion to speak of a spiritual gift (1
Corinthians 12:8-9; Matthew 17:20, 1 Corinthians 13:2). While faith sometimes is contrasted with sight
(2 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 11:1; cf. John 20:29 for an exception), doubt (James 1:6; cf. also Matthew
14:3 and 21:21), and deeds of the law (Romans 3:28; Galatians 3:2-5), it never is contrasted with knowledge
so as to imply a separation.
In John’s Gospel, pisteuo with the dative is employed frequently (John 2:22; 5:46; 8:31-47). With
regard to the nature, mission, and role of Jesus, John utilized pisteuo with a hoti clause, as in John 8:24
(“be convinced that I am”), John 20:31 (“be convinced that Jesus is the Christ”), as well as several other
passages (see John 13:19, 14:11, and 17:8). Pistis (belief) here is close to gnosis (knowledge), as in John
6:69: “...we have believed and have known that you are the holy one of God.” Both faith and knowledge
are concerned with the fact that the Father sent Jesus (faith—John 11:42; 17:8,21; knowledge—John
17:3). Both faith (John 16:27-30) and knowledge (John 7:17) realize that He and His teaching are from
the Father. If knowledge relates to the truth (John 8:32), faith relates no less to Him who is the Truth
(John 14:1,6). The fact that He is the Christ is an object of faith (John 11:27; 20:31), but it is also an object
of both faith and knowledge together (John 6:69).
Scripture refers to itself as having been written to produce both faith (John 20:30-31) and knowledge
(1 John 5:13). Furthermore, there are numerous passages in which faith and knowledge materially pertain
to the same object at the same time and under the same aspect (see 1 Timothy 4:3, 2 Timothy 1:12,
4:42, 6:69, 17:8, 1 John 4:6,16, and 5:13). Moreover, the apostles used a variety of types of evidence to
lead men to a commitment to Christ. For instance, in Acts 2:14-40, Peter used eyewitness testimony (see
John 4:39), the miracles of Christ (see John 20:30-31), and predictive prophecy (see Isaiah 41:21ff.). Indirect
credible testimony is also a predominant line of evidence leading to faith (see Luke 1:1-4, Acts 1:3,
2.36, 9:22, and 13:38). Thus, faith often is portrayed biblically as knowledge based upon testimony.
Though this issue will be addressed more thoroughly later in this study, I already have said enough
to advance the following thesis: Any concept of faith that severs it from its objective, epistemological
base (foundation of knowledge) is at variance with biblical teaching. Biblically speaking, one does not
believe that God is (or any other item to be accepted “by faith”): (1) against the evidence; (2) without evidence;
or (3) beyond the evidence. Rather, one believes on the basis of evidence sufficient to establish the
conclusion (1 Thessalonians 5:21; Isaiah 41:21).
Biblical faith is built upon a prior understanding (knowledge) of what is to be believed. Information
regarding “saving faith” (i.e., what one must do to be saved) comes only from special revelation (i.e.,
Scripture—Romans 10:17; John 6:44-45). But there is another type of faith that is derived from general
revelation (i.e., nature—Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:19-22; Hebrews 11:3,6; et al.). Later in this book, when
I speak of proving the existence of God, I shall be speaking primarily about this second type of faith. I
hope to make clear that such a faith is built and based upon evidence—that is, it is “rational belief.” I intend
to make clear that I am opposed to every notion of faith that is irrational.
ARRIVING AT KNOWLEDGE
I cannot survey in this limited space the various words from the Greek text translated “know” in the
Scriptures (there are several). I will, however, examine numerous ways of coming to knowledge as revealed
in the Bible. In short, I will be examining the types of evidence that can be used to prove one’s
case. I argue that the term “proof ” cannot be limited to what is seen, felt, heard, tasted, or smelled (i.e.,
concerning only empirical evidence). What, then, are legitimate means of coming to knowledge?
1. There is induction, which is simply a “gathering together” of available evidence.
2. There is deduction (Scripture abounds with examples), which is the marshaling of evidence in
such a way that conclusive results can be obtained (see Mark 3:4, et al.).
3. There is the use of empirical data (see Luke 12:54-56), which is simply a direct experiencing of
an object (for instance, a door) or an event (such as the weather outside).
4. There is credible testimony (see John 20:25-31, 1 Peter 1:8-11, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, et al.),
which is testimony from witnesses who either are known to be trustworthy, or whose testimony cannot be
5. There is intuition (see Matthew 12:24-28), which must be distinguished from a mere hunch or
guess (the usual modern understanding of this word). By intuition, I mean a knowledge that does not depend
in any way on sense perception or empirical experience. It is evident immediately, even though it
may require some effort to grasp. The passage alluded to above is an example in Scripture of such. It is
intuitively absurd to suppose that Jesus would cast out Satan’s coworkers by using Satanic power. Other
examples include the metaphysical principle of non-contradiction (“a thing cannot both exist and not
exist at the same time and in the same sense”), and the logical law of contradiction (derived from the
metaphysical principle) which states that “contradictory statements cannot both be true.” These principles
are known immediately and with absolute certainty. Any attempt to deny them, in fact, presupposes them
(i.e., if you deny either principle, then your denial is either true or false; it cannot be both true and false).
And this knowledge does not depend upon even a single empirical observation. For instance, these principles
hold true for the Universe as a whole, and even for God Himself. I know with certainty that God cannot
both exist and not exist at the same time and in the same sense. He either exists or He does not. Empirical
observation is worthless here. Yet this is a legitimate pathway to knowledge.
6. There is metaphysical deduction, a term that I have coined to refer to a deduction made from
things that can be observed to things that potentially may never be seen (see Luke 17: 20-21 and Hebrews
11:3). Robinson Crusoe (so the story goes) was marooned on an island. While walking on a beach, he discovered
a footprint in the sand that clearly was not his own. He deduced accurately: (1) that there was
another being on the island; and (2) that this other being was a human being. If he had never seen “Fri-
day” face to face, the certainty of his knowledge nevertheless was not jeopardized. This same concept
relates to the arguments for God’s existence. God has left His “footprints,” as it were, throughout the
Universe (note Acts 14:17: “Yet he left not himself without witness...”). Naturally, each person is responsible
for reasoning properly and for drawing correct conclusions from the available evidence (Romans
1:19-22; Psalm 19:1-6; Hebrews 3:4; et al.).
There is nothing, in or out of Scripture, to suggest that only one of these ways of arriving at truth results
in “proof,” while every other means is denied such a status. One may prove his case using any, or
all, of these legitimate means of coming to knowledge (so long as the limits of each method are understood).
It has become apparent that many today hold that “knowledge” or “proof ” is restricted to scientific
investigation alone, and that whatever is not “scientific” then is designated as “faith.” Such a dichotomy
accounts for the strange things one reads on the subject of faith and knowledge. One author suggested,
for example: “Scientific knowledge we know, and things seen we know, but faith is the assurance
of what we accept that we do not yet know but are hoping for” (Thomas, 1974, p. 137). This position
agrees with that of philosopher Bertrand Russell, who said: “Whatever knowledge is attainable, must be
attained by scientific methods; and what science cannot discover, mankind cannot know” (1935, p. 243).
Such a position is patently false, because it disregards other important means of arriving at a knowledge
of the truth.