"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." 1 Peter 3:15

Monday, November 30, 2009

Faith and Reason

I frequent Patrol Magazine's site from time to time. I recently read a blog about faith and reason, by Tim Raveling titled How I became Agnostic; You can't have faith and reason at the same time. I had to choose.

A very well written, well thought blog. I enjoyed it, and was excited to see that he originally posted here, and that there were many comments. It's such a refreshing rarity to read respectful debate in comments on such a topic.

I wondered, is it true? Is it impossible to have faith and reason at the same time?

Tim states,

"Faith exists in the absence of reason. The two cannot coexist for any given belief."

and at another point in his post,

"Every action we take as human beings has something of reason and something of faith, but those “somethings” do not coincide."

He goes on to explain...

"When you fly, your reason tells you first that airplanes work, and rarely crash, based on the evidence of your knowledge, your visual perception of other planes taking off and, if you are a physicist, your knowledge of aerodynamics. Your faith tells you that your knowledge is accurate, that your eyes are working, and that the laws of physics will continue to function. Coincidentally, the less faith you have in these things, the more nervous you will be to fly."

I believe I disagree with Tim here. It appears to me that even in this example, faith and reason do coincide. When we climb into a plane, we believe it will fly because it is reasonable to believe it will fly. Faith and reason are serving the same purpose and acting at the same time; a reasonable faith and a faith-filled reasoning.

But what if reason and faith do conflict? Can faith and reason then coincide? Tim states that there are three responses to such an apparent contradiction; blind faith (who cares what it looks like, I know this is true simply because I believe it's true!), rationalization (bringing reasoning to the level of faith; at surface level this doesn't appear rational so there must be a reason beyond the surface level that can explain it). Or rejection, simply accepting that what was believed to be true was not true; believing that putting faith in the irrational is insane.

One of my favorite Theologians, Thomas F. Torrance, (a student of Karl Barth) spoke on the relationship of Faith and reason. His book Incarnation says,

"For Torrance, faith may be defined as what happens to our reason when it encounters the nature and reality of God. It encounters a personal reality it has not met before, which it cannot fit into its predefined categories, which far outstrips its powers of comprehension but which makes itself intelligible in terms of its own unique reality. Reason must either reject such a reality or recognise it and learn to reshape its whole way of perception in accordance with the nature of this new reality. If it does the latter, reason becomes faith" (xliii).

I guess this means, in Torrance's understanding, that reasoning is rationalized into faith.

And that is the thing. Sometimes it seems ludicrous to live in faith. But even then, it is reasonable. In my last post, I wrote of the faith of George Muller. God provided for all his needs. He never once had to ask for finances in his different ministries. It certainly seems foolish to count on an invisible hand to provide for the physical needs of hundreds of orphans under your care; downright irresponsible! Common logic would say if you don't ask for money to go buy and prepare food for the kids, there will be none. George stepped out in blind faith, and God provided.

Was he unreasonable to do this? God had always provided. should he not expect that God would do so again?

Sometimes its just more reasonable to believe in the unreasonable.

Tim says, in his last paragraph, "...I still believe in God, and I still believe that Christ was humanity’s best incarnation of him."

I have other friends who have left the Christian faith who would probably say similar things.

My question is this: Is it rational to believe that Christ was a good man; the best incarnation of God, if he was not God himself? To me, this seems far less reasonable then Christianity itself.

C.S. Lewis said it best,

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -- on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg -- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. "

I do not know Tim. He is quite obviously a talented writer, well-read, and intelligent. I am sure he exceeds me in all these areas. I also do not believe he came to this decision lightly. In many ways I understand his struggle recognizing that there is a lot to our faith (much of which Tim mentions) that just doesn't seem to make sense. I can hardly imagine the struggle and how fearful it must have been to leave a life long faith and hope behind. The only difference between Tim and I in our struggles with the Christian faith is the direction our reason took us. He chose reason over faith and my reason became faith. I pray that as Tim continues to seek truth, the true God will guide him to His arms.

Check out Faith and Doubt by Aaron Espe. Good song.

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