Last week I met with some Mormon missionaries to learn more about their faith. And one of my go to questions brought up an interesting perspective that Mormons have on faith and knowledge. They believe that you cannot know something and also have faith in it.
In the Book of Mormon it says “Yea, there are many who do say: if thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe. Now I ask, is this faith? Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe for he knoweth it.” Alma 32:17-18
Without all the yea’s, thou’s and eth’s this passage is basically saying that one cannot believe in a thing that he really knows. The prophet Alma in this passage refuses to give a sign because if they had a sign then they couldn’t really believe. This whole premise is first of all illogical but secondly unbiblical.
Faith and Knowledge together is Logical
Of course someone can know something and also have faith in it. I know that 2+2=4, I have faith in and I trust it. I know that I can trust my parents does that mean I can’t believe in them? Of course not! Furthermore what if we applied this same logic that Alma uses in other parts of life.
I believe that I have $1000 in the bank, but I don’t ask for a sign that I have $1000 in my bank because I want to believe I do, and if I know then I can’t believe anymore. So I just go make a $1000 purchase believing that I have the money but not knowing it. Or perhaps while in a serious relationship I believe that my girlfriend wants to be married for life but I never ask her for proof or a sign of such a thing. Instead I just take it on faith an pop the question.
This sort of logic doesn’t work in real life why should it work here?
Alma in verse 18 is basically says “if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe, for he knoweth it.” Yes, you read that right he is saying “if a knows something he has no reason to believe it, because he knows it.” Alma could have put it this way “I know something. Which means I have no reason to believe that thing”.
So, “I know 2+2=4 but I don’t believe it.” Or “I know 2+2=4 so I have no reason to believe 2+2=4”. Say what? This makes to sense, when we know something is true that IS the reason we believe it, not the other way round.
Faith and Logic together is Biblical
In John 6:30-40 we see that Jesus is basically questioned in the exact same way as Alma. The people ask Jesus to give them a sign so that they may believe, but Jesus answer is vastly different then Alma.
While Alma denies them a sign because a sign would ruin their belief Jesus denies them a sign because he has already given them a sign, in fact he is the sign. The people have rejected all the signs that God has given them thru Moses and others and so another sign will not convince them. In other words Jesus refuses the sign because he knows that they will still reject it.
So Jesus is willing to give a sign if it will convince someone and we see this all throughout scripture. When Thomas doubts and asks for a sign so he may believe, Jesus appears and gives it to him. When John the Baptist doubts Jesus is really the Messiah Jesus points to the signs and miracles that he performs. When he forgives the crippled man of his sins and the Pharasees doubt his authority to do so he gives them a sign by healing the crippled man. When Gideon doesn’t believe that God will give him victory he asks for a sign and God gives it to him. Twice!
So is faith opposite of knowledge? Apparently not! Otherwise God would not have gone through so many circumstances to give people knowledge of himself. And if faith and knowledge were opposites we would soon find ourselves making everyday decisions on faith without knowledge, which is obvious foolishness.