I closed my last post on Tim Keller’s new book Making Sense of God with a comment made on my post None and Fine With It:
The evidence is the evidence, and science follows the evidence. Christianity comes to the evidence with a preconceived premise that there is a supernatural creator, which then biases all the conclusions that follow.
And later in response to another commenter:
But as to the supernatural – it is normal to adopt the null hypotheses.
“Bottom line, we are all living by faith.” No – we are not. Faith is an utter failure as an epistemology. You might live accordingly, but I do not – nor do many others.
Let’s see where Keller takes us in response. This question drives chapter two of the book: Isn’t religion based on faith and secularism on evidence?
Do we all live by faith?
In a rather elementary sense this is clearly true. We generally have faith in our reasoning capabilities and in our senses. We don’t believe that we live in a Matrix-like world. I’ve never seen this movie, but I have seen other shows, books, or movies with a similar premise. The characters perceive an illusion and believe it to be real. This doesn’t really address the meat of the question though, and Keller quickly moves on to more important points.
Whether we believe in God (or the supernatural more generally) or not, we all shape our lives around ideas that we believe on faith. In particular, the secular humanism of the Western world – dominant in the academic circles I frequent – is a faith based system.
Besides a set of beliefs about rationality, most secular people today also hold a set of ethical beliefs about the nature of human life. Many would describe themselves as “liberal humanists” who are committed to science and reason, to progress and the good of humanity, and to the rights, equality, and freedom of every individual human being. Secularity is marked by a call “to take active responsibility for the progressive improvement of the world …[to] work for the betterment of other humans, even strangers beyond our shores.”* And, it is argued, removing the influence of religion in the world will help us realize these values.
However, where did these values come from? Not only can none of these humanistic moral standards be proven empirically, but they don’t follow logically from a materialistic view of the world. (p. 41, *Keller’s source for the quote: Luc Ferry, A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living pp. 72-73)
Secular humanism can be a valid foundation for life – but it is a faith based foundation. Keller will argue that the humanist part of this philosophical approach to life derives from the influence of Christianity on Western culture. This is probably true, but whether it is or isn’t derived from Christianity, it is affirmed on faith not evidence.
If it was natural for the strong to eat the weak in the past, why aren’t people allowed to do it now? I am not, of course, arguing that we should not love one another. Rather, I’m saying that, given the secular view of the universe, the conclusion of love or social justice is no more logical than the conclusion to hate or destroy. (p. 42-43)