top of page

Faith Is Not Belief Without Evidence

Joseph Hinman

Jan 15, 2024

"Faith is not belief without evidence; it's the content of a relationship with God and is based upon the private experience of God's love."

I am tired of hearing atheists say "faith is believing things without evidence." No definition of faith in Christianity says that. Let's Get this out of the way up front. Heb 11:1: faith is the substance of things to be hoped for, the argument (argumentum) of things that are not apparent. Most translations say "evidence of things not seen."This does not say faith is belief without evidence it says faith itself is a kind of evidence because it points to the reality that caused one to have faith.

The most important dictionary in theology is the Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology. There are two kinds, one for theologians and one for ideas. Let's consult the latter.

faith (Gr. pistis, Lat. fides, “trust,” “belief”) In Christianity, belief, trust, and obedience to God as revealed in Jesus Christ. It is the means of salvation (Eph. 2:8–9) or eternal life (John 6:40). Faith affects all dimensions of one’s existence: intellect, emotions, and will. See also salvation.[1]

According to that definition there is nothing like a lack of evidence. There Is no hint that faith involves a lack of evidence. Consulting the same source for different uses of the term "faith:"

Faith, explicit (Lat. fides explicita) Faith in that of which one has knowledge. Thus the term may be understood as referring to what one professes to believe because of what is known.[2]

Here faith is equated with knowledge. Since evidence involves knowledge and builds on knowledge it would seem that faith is actually dependent upon evidence rather than being without it.

Faith, implicit (Lat. fides implicita) The Roman Catholic view that one believes as true “what the church believes,” even without certain knowledge. It was rejected by the Protestant Reformers as a true faith because the element of knowledge was lacking.[3]

The Catholic view seems closer to being without evidence, but not an exact fit. In any case that view was rejected by the reformers and is not really compatible with the Protestant view.The Protestant view rests upon knowledge, which again, would have to involve evidence at some point. Thus direct contradiction to the atheist bromide.

Then we turn to the protestant notion of "saving faith." That is faith that saves. Remember Paul tells us salvation is by Grace through faith:“For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).[4]

Faith, saving. The gift of God through the Holy Spirit whereby one accepts and believes the promises of the Gospel as the reception of salvation through the life and the work of Jesus Christ. One is incorporated into Christ, participates in his benefits, and is an heir of eternal life. [4]

No indication is given that there is no preliminary basis for belief which might involve evidence.Before one can trust God one must believe that God is. None of these definitions preclude basing that initial belief upon evidence. It is after one accepts the conviction that God is real that faith might supersede evidence in matters such as trusting God for salvation.

Let's turn to some major figures in Christian theology to see if they define faith as belief without evidence:

St. Augustine

Faith, to Augustine, is a humble posture of seeking and confession, in which the individual confesses their sin and brokenness before God, and by his Grace, is cleansed. The individual surrenders to the God who is already present in the soul. This initial work begins the process of cleansing the soul so that it can see clearly. As the individual continues to seek God, the soul is continually cleansed as a gracious process, which slowly flakes away the filth of the Fall. Augustine believed that much could be known through Platonic meditation: eternal things and God’s presence could be apprehended, but God could be known only for a moment.[5]

Thomas Aquinas

Popular accounts of religion sometimes construe faith as a blind, uncritical acceptance of myopic doctrine. According to Richard Dawkins, “faith is a state of mind that leads people to believe something—it doesn’t matter what—in the total absence of supporting evidence...Such a view of faith might resonate with contemporary skeptics of religion. But as we shall see, this view is not remotely like the one Aquinas—or historic Christianity for that matter—endorses.

To begin with, Aquinas takes faith to be an intellectual virtue or habit, the object of which is God (ST IIaIIae 1.1; 4.2). There are other things that fall under the purview of faith, such as the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation. But we do not affirm these specific doctrines unless they have some relation to God. According to Aquinas, these doctrines serve to explicate God’s nature and provide us with a richer understanding of the one in whom our perfect happiness consists (Ibid.).[6]

Here again knowledge, an intellectual thing, compatible with evidence. How could faith be based upon knowledge and be an intellectual act and yet without evidence? By intellectual he means one consciously assents to belief.

Marin Luther

... faith is God's work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn't stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.

Faith is a living, bold trust in God's grace, so certain of God's favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God's grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace.[7]

John Wesley

With a deep conviction, Wesley repeatedly stresses the necessity of faith. ‘Saving faith is a sure trust and confidence which a man has in God, that by the merits of Christ his sins are forgiven, and he is reconciled to the favour of God.’1 It is also clear that Wesley sees faith as a gift of God, although he does not emphasize that very much.[8]

There is an initial coming to faith where one decides "I do believe in God." In that stage evidence is not a contradiction to belief. Most of the activity of faith involves personal trust in God's salvation and his providential care. In this regard evidece is irrelivant, unless we want to think of the content of personal experience of God as evidence.It is evidence of God's goodness. I think for the most part evidence is irrelevant to faith. Faith is not belief without evidence, it's the content of a relationship with God and is based upon the private experience of God's love.

Source: This originally appeared in Metacrock's Blog and is seen here without any edits.


[1] "Faith," The Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms,SECOND EDITION, Revised and Expanded,Donald K. McKim ed.,Louiscille Kentucky:John Knox Press, 2014.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Mark Hansard, "Faith and Reason, Part 2 Augustine," Intervaristy: Emerging Scholars Network, (August 18,2018)

[6]Shawn Floyd,"Aquinas Philosoph8ical Theology,"Internet Encyclopedia of Philosphy,

[7]An excerpt from "An Introduction to St. Paul's Letter to the Romans," Luther's German Bible of 1522 by Martin Luther, 1483-1546. Translated by Rev. Robert E. Smith from DR. MARTIN LUTHER'S VERMISCHTE DEUTSCHE SCHRIFTEN. Johann K. Irmischer, ed. Vol. 63 Erlangen: Heyder and Zimmer, 1854), pp.124-125. [EA 63:124-125]

[8]J. W. Maris, "John Wesley's Concept of Faith," Christian Library taken from Lux Mundi 2010

Joseph Hinman's new book is God, Science and Ideology. Hinman argues that atheists and skeptics who use science as a barrier to belief in God are not basing doubt on science itself but upon an ideology that adherer's to science in certain instances. This ideology, "scientism," assumes that science is the only valid form of knowledge and rules out religious belief. Hinman argues that science is neutral with respect to belief in God … In this book Hinman with atheist positions on topics such as consciousness and the nature of knowledge, puts to rest to arguments of Lawrence M. Krauss, Victor J. Stenger, and Richard Dawkins, and delimits the areas for potential God arguments.


Click above to return to Winter 2024.

Have a comment about this ATM essay Join the conversation, and share your thoughts today..

Do you like what you just read? Subscribe today and receive sneak previews of Aletheia Today Magazine articles before they're published. Plus, you'll receive our quick-read, biweekly blog,  Thoughts While Shaving.

Thanks for subscribing!

bottom of page