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Can Faith Be Empirical?

MARK J. BOONE
S & CB 32 (1)
April 2020

Abstract

It is sometimes said that religious belief and empiricism are different or even incompatible ways of believing. However, William James and notable twentieth-century philosophers representing Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity have argued that there is a high degree of compatibility between religious faith and empiricism. Their analyses suggest that there are three characteristics of empiricism - that an empiricist bases his beliefs on past experience, that he seeks to test his beliefs in future experience, and that he holds his beliefs with a degree of tentativeness in case future experience should uncover evidence against them. The epistemological insights of these philosophers, along with Augustine, show that Christian theology is consistent with empiricism. Indeed, reliance on faith fails to distinguish Christianity from science, and Christian theology is even to a significant extent both verifiable and falsifiable.

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