November 15, 1994
A couple of centuries ago, some philosophers and theologians began to promote the idea that faith in God is contrary to reason. They decided the spiritual realm is unseen so any ideas concerning it are speculative and too subjective. Thus faith is illogical for modern man.
This reasoning came when the scientific community began to discover and experiment with concrete examples rather than myths and folk lore. During this time of “Enlightenment,” many thinkers were impressed with their findings and with themselves. They decided their own ability to discover and reason was superior to faith in a God no one could see and in a theology that no one could prove in a laboratory.
The argument grabbed hold. Soon theologians separated human rational ability and faith. For many years, thinking and believing were considered incompatible.
Since then, rationalism is regarded as an unbalanced way of interpreting the religious side of man. Other theological concepts have been introduced to correct the imbalance and reason is now seen as important to faith. Those who believe do not throw away their brains.
However, many people are still affected by rationalism. It is demonstrated every time someone says, “I will only believe what I can see” or “If God exists, prove it.” People who consider faith belongs in the realm of personal subjectivity say things like, “Christianity is fine for you... but not for me...”
Such talk is contrary to something I heard a few weeks ago. A man told others that God helped him through some difficult times and, while many people become fearful during trials, none of us need to be afraid. He added, “If we just stop and think objectively about this, we realize God is big enough to take care of our needs.”
For him, objective thinking did not put God outside the realm of reason but smack in the middle of it. How could he say this?
He gave his reasons. The Bible says certain things about God and he believes it. In other words, he is not making up a god that suits his own personal desires but allowing an outside objective source, Scripture, to tell him what God is like.
For him, believing in God is perfectly rational. How could anyone not trust Him? His revelation of what He is like make it perfectly logical to not only rely on Him but have a certain amount of distrust in human reasoning. So how did philosophers come to their conclusion that our reasoning should be above faith?
Romans 1 provides a clue. It says God does make Himself known through objective means, that is, creation gives enough evidence to verify His existence. However, human beings who rely only on what they see of Him in nature refuse to acknowledge and trust Him.
This passage of Scripture indicates nature’s concrete, objective evidence is misunderstood or rejected. Those who know of God only in this way, turn from Him and “worship the creature rather than the Creator.” They eventually become unthankful and caught away by their sin.
On the other hand, Christians understand that God can be known only through the revelation He gave as recorded in the Bible. Romans 10:17 puts it this way: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”
We need our ability to reason when we study Scripture yet God is not discovered by reasoning alone, either in a lab or a think tank. We need the message He gave to us in His Word.