Faith and science conflicting

The idea that faith and science conflict is, I think, largely the result of a category error.

That is, the primary sense of ‘faith’ within Christianity is that of trust (see here). I.e., it refers to a relationship that exists between a person and (say) God, and the attitude of listening to and then trusting the guidance one receives from God on various issues. The trust is warranted because one can trust and then see what the results are, and repeat this pattern – as trust is warranted in almost any relationship. To say faith and science conflict would be like saying warranted trust in a given person and science conflict. It doesn’t make much sense.

What is typically being referred to when people talk about a conflict is ‘faith’ in the sense of certain abstract beliefs that Christians might have. This is ‘faith’ in a secondary sense. For example, was there an historical person, Jesus of Nazareth – yes or no? Did he resurrect bodily? And so on. Relevant investigation or new evidence (archaeological, historical, experiential (such as St. Paul’s purported experience), and so on) can shed light on, and make more or less plausible, these ideas.

However, if this is what people mean, it’s not clear why they don’t say this. So, instead of ‘faith and science conflict’, they rather should say ‘the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth and science conflict,’ or ‘resurrection and science conflict,’ or ‘Lutheranism and science conflict,’ or ‘theism and science conflict’, or some such thing.

This is more accurate, and linguistically more sensible. Using ‘faith’ here is bound to lead to confusion, and I think gets its source in a kind of conceptual laziness.

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