Philosophical

Faith and reason

Ah yes, I’ve reached the point in my argument where I’m really going to have to tackle that old chestnut. It’s been around since who knows when, and it’s still regularly trotted out as a way of sidelining Christian opinion: “You religious people have your faith; we scientific people work by reason. You do your thing and we’ll do ours.” Unspoken is “Therefore, you can be left to do your little rituals and we will get on with running the world.”

It still comes up regularly in the media. The devil of it is that people in the church will even say the same thing, playing into the enemy’s hands. Their line is “Leave us in peace to have our faith, and we’ll leave you in peace to act by reason.” Unspoken: “Leave us in peace, and we’ll let you push the world to hell on a handcart!”

There is no conflict between reason and true faith. When I get out of bed in the morning, I don’t check first to make sure the floor is there. I have faith that it will still be there, based on observation and experience. That is reasonable. Likewise, when I believe that God will provide for my needs, that is reasonable faith, based on observation and experience. Only faith in the nonexistent or silly is unreasonable.

Paul told Festus, “I…speak the words of truth and reason.” To the Romans he wrote, “…present your bodies a living sacrifice, …which is your reasonable service.” Believing in Jesus is sensible, reasonable. Not to follow him is madness, suicidal folly. Faith is reasonable when it is faith in something reasonable, something that makes sense, like the existence of an all-wise creator. Faith in an untenable theory, like evolution or the existence of the tooth fairy, is unreasonable. The Christian’s faith in that which is unseen, or in that which has not yet taken place, is based on incontrovertible facts, such as the resurrection of Christ.

That is not, however, how humanism sees it. To a humanist, anything to do with God or the spiritual belongs to the realm of faith, while reason has to do with the material world and the human mind’s autonomous perception of it. This is one reason why humanists have so much difficulty in understanding the claims of Christian education. Against all the evidence, they persist in believing that their worldview is fact as established by reason, and that Christians (and other theists) only want to expunge from it anything that would conflict with their ‘faith’. Alas for us Christians, too often our reasoning is not unlike theirs. We, too, think that we can start with the world’s view of education and just cut out the bits we don’t like and sprinkle on a few pious decorations. We need to challenge ourselves to put to death our old ways of thinking and start again with faith in that which is reasonably to be trusted, namely God our Creator and his message to us in the Bible. If we don’t have a radically different view of education from the humanist view, we are not making that our starting point.

Praise and glory to God, he always gives us another chance. His mercies are new every morning. Every evening we can bring him the tally of our day’s failures, and every morning we can get up to walk before him as innocent in his sight as if we had never sinned. And if we are thus walking by faith in the greatest logical argument in the universe – that an infinitely holy God can love sinners because he himself paid the infinite penalty for their sins – I don’t think we should be content to let the enemies of God push the world to hell on a handcart. I think we will fight for the truth on whichever battleground we find ourselves on. And we should arm ourselves with the knowledge that the science and technology which have brought us so many benefits are firmly based on the work of men who firmly believed that the God who speaks in the Bible had created an orderly and rational universe. Science today, which is cutting itself loose from that foundation, is more and more giving itself to the service of death and destruction.

Never despair! On to the battle – to fight for life, for freedom, for truth, for joy, for marriage and family, for whatever is worth fighting for. Whether we see victory or not, let’s reach the end of our earthly course knowing that we have fought the good fight of the faith – the reasonable faith.

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