Is It Completely Unfair for Dawkins to Equate “Faith” with “Blind Trust”?

Is It Completely Unfair for Dawkins to Equate “Faith” with “Blind Trust”? May 12, 2017

While going through some old files, I discovered this passage at the end of a book review. The book being reviewed was Dawkins’ God: Genes, Memes, and the Meaning of Life by Alister McGrath. The reviewer was Paul Pardi, a philosopher at Seattle Pacific University. Here is what Pardi wrote:

“I also have one technical contention to make with McGrath on the topic of faith as blind trust. In taking Dawkins to task on this point, McGrath does not seem to account for the fideist tradition and the impact it has had particularly on modem evangelicalism. Perhaps the reason is that the phenomenon is a North American one. However, I have been a part of evangelical churches in North America where the idea that faith not only is blind and irrational but should be is a view held by many lay evangelicals. In the view of this writer, Dawkins’ criticism on this front does have a target and is not without merit. Evangelical philosophy has its work cut out for it on this front; and until the life of the mind again is a priority, the Dawkinses of the world will have plenty to caricature.”

Paul Pardi, Philosophia Christi 8:2 (2006), 514-517 at 517

If what Pardi writes is true, however, then it seems to me that one cannot simply dismiss the notion of “faith as blind trust” as merely a “caricature.” It may be a caricature in the sense that a correct interpretation of the Bible does not support it. It may also be a caricature in the sense that so-called “mainline” churches do not hold to it. But it it is not a caricature in the sense that “many lay Evangelicals” hold the view. Or, to put the point another way, it may be the case that, in theory, faith does not mean blind trust but, in practice, for many Christians faith does mean blind trust.

If I were going to write anything about the relationship between faith and reason, then, I’d probably make a distinction between, on the one hand, what Christian intellectuals and the mainstream Christian tradition has held and, on the other hand, what many lay Christians believe.


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