"Faith takes over where reason leaves off."
"Christians don't know their theological beliefs are true, they believe them on blind faith."
Well, that's certainly one way of looking at it. But what if "taking something on faith," in the Christian worldview, is something like forming a belief upon the testimony of another? Knowledge by testimony is regarded as a valuable way to acquire knowledge. If believing something on faith -- not soteriologically speaking -- is like this kind of knowledge, then it is false to claim that when a Christian believes something on faith he believes irrationally. Indeed, believing something on faith wouldn't be to believe in the absence of evidence, but it would be to believe something on the testimony of another person. Perhaps faith is similar to this? Perhaps the oft repeated charge that believeing something on faith is irrational will be seen to be groundless?
The SEP states that,
The main epistemological problem of testimony is that an enormous number of our beliefs originate in the assertions or testimony of speakers, but our accepting or believing those assertions merely on the word of the speaker does not seem sufficient for those beliefs to be justified, warranted, or knowledge. The problem is diminished but not eliminated if it is assumed, as is standard, that the speaker is justified or warranted in the beliefs that his assertions express, and even if he knows them.
And so without confusing the de jure with the de facto, does the Christian theist who holds, say, some basic beliefs of the Christian faith -- e.g., God's existence, God reveals himself to humans via holy Scripture, Christ's divine-human nature, salvation by grace alone, -- on the basis of faith, or, the say-so or God, or, on the testimony of the word of the living God, know (say, WTB) the above Christian dogmas?
If the speaker, in this case Jehovah, is justified or warranted in His beliefs -- and surely on the Christian story God has maximal, supreme, super warrant or justification, or, fill in the appropriate terminology -- and if the Christian takes the say-so of God as a source for his/her beliefs, then isn't the Christian entitled to "know" these things?
On this theory, if one starts out trusting God, as indeed s/he should, then one never undermines the credibility of the testifier. In debates about knowledge by testimony, one can say that if the testifier has been shown to be unreliable, then that might issue a defeater for a belief you have obtained by his testimony. But, if the honesty was never called in to question in the first place, taking his word, especially about, say, the color of his mother's hair, would be quite natural. And, if his mother's hair was blonde, and that's what he told you, then you knew it. (At this point Plantinga would admit warrant, but he would say that you would have more warrant if you verified what was testified to you. I think that fine as far as it goes, but in our case, surely the word of an omniscient being who cannot lie carries more weight than my "checking up on" the testimony. My own verification would seem to be ranked lower on list of epistemic authorities in a situation like this.) So, why should we even begin the relationship with God by doubting His honesty? Thomas Reid,
"I believed by instinct whatever my parents and tutors told me, long before I had the idea of a lie, or a thought of the possibility of their deceiving me. Afterwards, upon reflection, I found that they had acted like fair and honest people, who wished me well. I found that, if I had not believed what they told me, before I could give a reason for my belief, I had to this day been little better than a changeling."
And, wouldn't knowledge gained in this kind of way -- the testimony of God -- constitute a belief that had such warrant that if you remained in the natural state of faith, i.e., trusting the word of God, taking things on His say-so, it would be a defeater-deflector for challenges to the above types of beliefs? That is, a person does not have an automatic defeater for his/her belief that God exists since the warrant of the belief that is the subject of attempted defeat is such that it deflects the defeater.
Now, if this person began to think autonomously, i.e., begin with the premise that God's say-so should be doubted unless otherwise verified (remaining unwarranted until then), then the defeaters, if not themselves defeated, would constitute defeaters for the above beliefs for that kind of person.
But, doesn't the layman Christian, who takes this roughly Van Tillian/Plantinganian approach to faith, knowledge, and warrant (in an epistemological sense, not a soteriological sense of trusting and resting in Christ alone), know the above dogmas? Furthermore, doesn't he have an automatic defeater-deflector to challenges to his faith such that if this model is roughly true, then all Christians, not just ivory tower apologists who can think long and deep about challenges to the faith, and come up with defeater-defeaters (which are needed for various situations, like the autonomous man above who may one day start to doubt Christianity because he can't defeat a defeater) who hold to something like this model can be said to "know" their core dogmas and, furthermore, not be irrational in asserting their truth?
If something like this model is accurate, and surely it needs to be developed as the above is just rough thoughts and chicken scratching, then if the Christian story is true, and something like the above epistemology of faith is true, then Christians are rational in their beliefs, and are not affected by certain defeaters to certain core Christian beliefs. Wouldn't the atheologist need to disprove Christianity and a model of this kind before they could call the Christian in the pew, say, Sophie the washwoman, irrational? If a model of faith had close similarities with the respected notion of knowledge by testimony, then wouldn't the pejorative 'blind faith' be seen to be nothing more than that? A pejorative. Isn't the atheist, in most cases, simply begging the question against a Christian epistemology when he says we are irrational in our beliefs that we say we know by faith? Anyhow, rough thoughts, as I said....