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Authentic faith and acknowledged risk: dissolving the problem of faith and reason


One challenge to the rationality of religious commitment has it that faith is unreasonable because it involves believing on insufficient evidence. However, this challenge and influential attempts to reply depend on assumptions about what it is to have faith that are open to question. I distinguish between three conceptions of faith (faith as belief-plus, trusting acceptance, and hopeful affirmation) each of which can claim some plausible grounding in the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Questions about the rationality or justification of religious commitment and the extent of compatibility with doubt look different on accounts of faith in which trust or hope, rather than belief, are the primary basis for the commitments. On such accounts, while the person of faith has a stake in the truth of the content (e.g. that God exists), practical as well as epistemic considerations can legitimately figure in normative appraisals. Trust and hope can be appropriate in situations of recognized risk, need not involve self-deception, and are compatible with the idea that one's purely epistemic opinions should be responsive only to evidence.

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Religious Studies
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