A friend of mine just sent me this picture of a church sign. While this seems like an easy target for fundamentalist irrationalism, there is a very plausible charitable interpretation. (By the way, given the number of fake church signs out there, I did a quick google search and confirmed that Paoli Wesleyan is, at least, a real church.)
As for the message on the sign itself, I will say that I am not a fan of it because it is prone to misunderstanding. That said, I do believe there is a rather obvious charitable interpretation.
The key is to recognize that the word “fact” is not only defined in common parlance as a true claim. It also is sometimes defined as a claim that is believed to be true. For example, Dictionary.com offers the following as their fourth definition of “fact”: “something said to be true or supposed to have happened.” The dictionary then gives this example: “The facts given by the witness are highly questionable.” In this usage, a “fact” is a claim which is presented as true but which may actually be false.
As for the word “faith”, that refers to the act of exercising trust in someone or something.
And so, we can now finally close in on our interpretation. The church sign is saying the following:
“If you have sufficient trust in someone or something, apparent counterevidence to that testimonial witness will not be sufficient to overwhelm your trust in it.”
And that, it turns out, is a perfectly sensible claim. So here’s the lesson: before you make fun of the church sign, try interpreting it charitably.