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What is faith?

Summary

Alister McGrath on why faith isn’t about believing despite the evidence, it’s about warranted belief.

Summary

Alister McGrath on why faith isn’t about believing despite the evidence, it’s about warranted belief.

Alister McGrath, one of the world’s leading historians of science, on what faith is.

This is a short grab from a longer interview first published as an episode of our Life & Faith podcast. To listen to the episode, click here.

Transcript

ALISTER MCGRATH: I think when I was an atheist, I assumed faith was simply believing something that was clearly not true and running away from the evidence. But I was very young then, and the world seems very simple to a sixteen-year-old. Nowadays I would say something like this: faith is the irreducible condition of humanity to live authentic lives. Whether you’re an atheist or whatever, you have to believe certain things you cannot prove to be true. And therefore it’s not about proving things, it’s about saying: here are good reasons for thinking this is right. It’s about warranted belief. It’s not about, in effect, arbitrary decisions, it’s about saying: I can’t prove this to be true, but everything seems to point in this direction.

So for me, faith is a reasonable way of looking at the world which makes sense of it, recognising these are such big questions, we cannot hope to prove these things, but nonetheless saying: this makes sense, and perhaps more importantly, this is a way of thinking, a way of seeing things, that is to be trusted and is to be inhabited. What I mean by that is, the world of faith is a landscape, and you step into it, and you say: I could live here, this makes so much sense, it’s so engaging, so exciting, you want to go in and be there.