Faith and Reason: Better Together in a Christian Worldview

Have you ever misplaced your trust in something or someone? Maybe even yourself? I remember when I bought my first motorcycle. I had never ridden a motorcycle before and yet trusted myself that I could figure it out. You could say I had faith I could do it. My friends and I picked it up using a van and took it to my house. We unloaded it and walked it into the street and pointed it straight. I jumped on it, strapped on my helmet, and fired it up! A flick of the wrist and I was off. On one wheel. Only by the grace of God, the bike didn’t flip back on me as I rocketed down the street. My street had a boulevard and was fairly busy. As I approached the stop sign, well over the speed limit mind you, I didn’t stop or turn and just went down the opposite side of the road. I don’t think my friends stopped laughing for a couple of days. I walked away with only a bruised ego. My faith in my ability to just ride a motorcycle was unreasonable; I had no real evidence to believe I could do it, or at least do it safely. Imagine that I had taken motorcycle lessons beforehand or had grown up learning to ride motorcycles. Then, when I first jumped on that bike, I still would have faith that I could ride it. Except, unlike what happened, my faith would have been reasonable because I would have had real evidence to believe I could ride it.

In a previous post, I attempted to show how logic and theology go together after a friend had asked me. I concluded that a question regarding the two is a matter of faith and reason. As I worked on this post, I attempted to count the number of times I have heard that faith and reason are opposites. Compound that with the number of times I’ve heard that echoed in popular culture and I quickly lose count. Our culture wrongly divides faith and reason. But as you see in my example above, the issue isn’t if faith and reason are opposites. The real question is if our faith, whatever it may be in, is reasonable or unreasonable. And everyone puts faith into something, even if that something is yourself.

The world and far too many Christians, define faith as believing something without evidence though. If that is true, if you define faith as such, it logically follows that faith cannot exist with reason. At times you act out in faith, and other times you act out of reason. Holding that view of faith, I can see why an atheist or agnostic, will claim to believe in science instead of God, quickly dismissing Christianity.

But, is it justifiable to define faith that way in a Christian worldview? While I am not going to go through every religion and examine their definitions of faith here, I can demonstrate that the above use of the word faith is not how the Bible uses it. In other words, God never demands of His followers a blind faith. So, while some other religions and worldviews do ask for blind faith, Christianity is not one of them. Christian thinker Greg Koukl argues he no longer even likes to use the word faith because of the negative baggage that comes with it and prefers to use the word trust when speaking of Biblical faith.

The New Testament writers offer their testimony as eyewitness testimony. Jesus did not merely go around saying wise things. He demonstrated He was trustworthy by his actions and miracles. He never asked for blind faith. Consider the following examples:

Luke 1:2 – 4 “…just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write and orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

Acts 1:3 “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.”

1 Corn. 15:5-8 “…and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, be appeared also to me.

1 Corn. 15:16,17 “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”

Hebrews 2:3,4 “It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”

2 Peter 1:16 “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”

Further, consider these reasons:

God, through both natural revelation (nature) and special revelation (His word), gives us more than enough reasons to place our trust in Him. Putting aside the Old Earth versus Young Earth arguments (I side Old Earth), the Biblical account of creation is of ex nihilo, out of nothing (not as an extension of himself, not out of matter which already existed). The cosmological evidence supports this. The Big Bang Theory matches what we would expect in an ex nihilo creation event; there was nothing, then all of a sudden there was something.

The way the Bible so accurately describes human nature makes it trustworthy. It never asks us to deny what we experience and feel, including suffering and evil (look at Job, David, or Paul for example).

Archaeology has confirmed a lot of Old Testament people and places.

The evidence for the resurrection is outstanding, even according to atheist scholars (see here and here for more)!

The God of the Bible is a God who has acted within history. Not contrary to real events or contrary to what we experience as humans. God has a pattern through the Old and New Testament of showing people He is who He says He is before asking for people to trust Him.

Even with a pile of evidence and reasons, someone may find that mental “escape hatch” and say miracles are not possible, making Christianity unreasonable. I understand that. My question to you is, do you not believe in them because your worldview does not allow for them to be possible (you do not believe in the supernatural)? Or, do you not believe in them because you have never witnessed one (how do you define a miracle)?  But, is that the intellectually honest approach? Should we not ask ourselves first does God exist? And if God does exist, a divine being outside of space, time, and matter who created the universe, indeed we can conclude that miracles are at least possible. I had an atheist friend who said one reason he did not believe in God was that Jesus could not have walked on water. That is putting the cart before the horse. Of course, if you don’t accept there is a God, then it logically follows miracles are not possible. Later I asked him what evidence he would accept. He said that Jesus would have to appear in front of him. I reminded him that the Bible notes many witnessed Jesus in the flesh, saw firsthand His miracles, and still didn’t believe. We must be careful and make sure we are not just defining faith to work with the assumption miracles cannot happen.

God has given us plenty of reasons to know He exists. Jesus proved himself trustworthy. Yet, faith is not purely a rational exercise because it does involve trust with some unknown with God. We do not have answers to everything. Ravi Zacharias comments “God has put enough into the world to make faith in Him a most reasonable thing. But He has left enough out to make it impossible to live by sheer reason or observation alone.” The question is, for whatever you place your trust in, do you have good reason to do so? Is your faith reasonable? I’ve been asked several times regarding my trust in Christ, “How can you know for sure?” The short answer is I can’t, and this is why it is not by reason alone. As in entering any relationship, there is a stepping out to trust that person.  I did not marry my beautiful wife as a blind leap of faith. We dated, and I got to know her. Before I married her, she had demonstrated herself to be trustworthy. That did not mean there were not some unknowns. But, I could take a step of faith, or trust, and enter into marriage with her because I had good reason to believe it was the right decision even though I did not know everything. Also consider how detectives work. Many cases are built upon deductive reasoning; making the best and most reasonable decision in light of the evidence. Similarly, God has given us more than enough reason to trust him.

It is important to note that some worldviews do ask for blind faith in their core teachings. For Hindus, how do they know karma is real? Or what about reincarnation? There is no way to know. Is it reasonable to put your trust in such things? As I’ve engaged in lengthy conversations with Mormons, I always end our talk by just asking them “Why should I place my trust in what Joseph Smith said?” I have yet to receive anything close to a convincing or slightly reasonable answer. For materialist, how can we know for sure the physical world is all that exists? Both Mormonism and Islam asks we deny some historical facts. These are honest issues. If Joseph Smith, or Buddhist teachings, or the materialist worldview, were more trustworthy than Jesus Christ, then I would jump off the Christian ship. Because, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15, my faith would be in vain. But even a brief examination of these other worldviews reveal they lack the explanatory power and scope of the Christian worldview, the coherence of the Bible’s revelations to reality.

But the Christian faith is not just accumulating facts. It is not an ascent to knowledge, but entering into a relationship with God as He descended to us. Here the mingling of faith and reason continues. If what the Bible teaches corresponds to reality, maintains an internal logical coherence, if Jesus can most accurately describe the condition of the human heart, and we have good reason to believe the New Testament writers were reliable, then God, and specifically Jesus, is worthy of our trust.

We all place faith in someone or something. Timothy Keller likes to talk about how we all worship something. Each day, we are trusting in something or many things. Maybe working towards a career goal, being a better parent, spouse or friend, or investing in a hobby. None of which are obviously bad things, unless they are ultimate objects of our trust. Why? Either those objects of our faith will fail us, or we will fail them. Things can change day to day whether I have sound reason to trust myself to be a good spouse, a good worker, or always succeed at something. What if my ultimate faith is in my job and I lose it? What if all I live for are weekend getaways to go skiing and I lose the physical ability to do so? What if that job that has blessed me financially all comes crashing down? Maybe none of that will happen in the next 30 years or so. Ok, but then what about upon death? If there is an afterlife, none of those things will save, none will make you righteous in God’s eyes, none of them will make a difference at all.

The object of our faith is what is most important. Entering into a relationship with Christ is not unreasonable in light of the evidence; it is the most reasonable course of action because of the evidence (I’ve had this phrase in my head for a long time and do not recall from who I originally heard it).

 

PC: The Dawn of Reason by Robert Weber, New York Cartoons

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