Monday, November 14, 2005

Is Christianity Rational?

Book and GlassesThere are two incorrect ways to look at Christian doctrine. One is to take an anti-intellectual approach; the other is to take an overly rigid rational approach

Unfortunately, too many modern Christians have made it all too easy for "evangelical humanists" to level the charge against Christianity of being irrational. I addressed this problem in a previous post called Battling Evangelical Anti-Intellectualism

Anti-Intellectualism has become the scandal of evangelicalism. Over the course of two hundred years, it has gradually become part and parcel of our evangelical identity. Yet today the failure to love God with our minds as well as our hearts is not only a sin - it’s a crippling cultural handicap in an age when ideas have greater consequences than ever.- Os Guiness

Fortunately, it has not always been this way. The Puritans in the early period of America were renowned for their impeccable logic and a scholastic emphasis that permeated to every person in society. They considered religion a very complex, subtle, and highly intellectual affair, and their leaders (both Civil and Religious) thus were highly trained scholars.

In fact, the most educated and best-informed scientists in history have been humble believers in the Scriptures (e.g., Francis Bacon, Copernicus, Sir Isaac Newton, Pascal, Pasteur, Kepler, Thomas Bayes, and others). For these great thinkers, the search for the laws of nature and understanding a rational order was an act of devotion that would reveal the glory and grandeur of God’s work. This is the paradigm for the great majority of all scientific discovery, even today.

However, the overly rigid rational approach is not a proper Christian perspective either. It is wrong and intellectually arrogant to think that we can explain every aspect of Christian doctrine. There are some things that are simply beyond our finite, human ability to grasp or understand, to speak nothing of our fallen nature which has corrupted our ability to always possess perfect reason. That is not to say that we can or should accept paradox, but we must, at times recognize those things which are a mystery. In a previous article I have stated that two ways to gain knowledge are through reason and experience, a third method is from the Bible. God reveals himself in us, being created in his image (a priori). He reveals himself in nature which we can search out via objective scientific observation/evidence (a posteriori). And finally he reveals himself in the Holy Scripture, the truth of which he confirms to us directly by the Holy Spirit.

When we find ourselves confronted with a mystery, it is at those times that we must cling to the Scriptures. Sola Scriptura! Monergism List of Articles

Colossians 2 (ESV)
1For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.

You see, the proper Christian view is a balanced one. It is humble and does not claim to "know-it-all." But the Christian faith is not irrational, nor is it anti-rational. It does not go against reason, but it does sometimes go beyond it.

Nonetheless, even without Scripture or the work of the Holy Spirit, the honest person must admit that while the there is more reason to believe in Christianity’s core doctrines than not to believe.

C.S. Lewis perhaps said it best: "the weight of the evidence" for mere Christianity--Christianity's core doctrines--is on the side of the Christian.

Bottom line: Christianity is overwhelmingly the most rational system of belief (or unbelief) in this world. Ours is a reasoned faith. It is not a blind faith but is, in fact, faith in based in reason, evidence, and revelation.

Next Post: The irrationality and the increasing irrationality of the post-modern scientific faith: methodological naturalism.

1 comment:

Sean said...

I fully agree.

I think the balance is very important in regards to worship as well. In my experience, the rigid intellectual approach is, sadly, far too common in churches I have visited. It is sometimes as if many people leave their 'selves' behind, and only their 2.5lbs brain walks in to listen.

When Jesus commanded us to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, I can't help but notice that he mentioned minds last. Christianity is certainly rational, but God is not too concerned with our personal intellectual prowess. He didn't give everyone the same brain after all. Love is an active thing that is not about brain power... Yes, we do love with our thoughts, and rational explanation is necessary as grounds for our faith. But more importantly, I think, is our outward expressions which reflect the state of our hearts. And that means a lifetyle of worship.

Check out my post: Is Atheism Rational?