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Friday, June 17, 2022

Another False Dilemma: Faith vs Reason

Too many Atheists and Christians believe that faith is incompatible with reason. This belief blinds both sides to how faith and reason actually relate to each other and consequently distorts their understanding of them as concepts. In short, they view faith as being the antithesis of reason - opposites of each other. Of course, Christians believe that faith is superior to reason, and atheists believe that reason is superior to faith (and never the twain shall meet). From this perspective, faith is defined as a belief in something that cannot be sensed by humans (without evidence), and reason is defined as arriving at a conclusion about something by employing logical thinking (relying on evidence).

However, other folks who have considered these issues have offered alternative definitions for faith and reason which demonstrate that the contest between them is an illusion! In the article Are Faith and Reason Compatible? by Greg Koukl (At "Stand to Reason, Clear-Thinking Christianity"), reason is defined as the process of evaluating whether or not there is "adequate justification for a belief." Likewise, the same article defines faith as having three components: 1) the object - the "something or someone you have faith in," 2) the content - the "details about what it means to put your faith in that thing," and 3) the trust or commitment that demonstrates your faith. The article went on to observe: "If you define what reason is, and you define what faith is, you realize that there’s no conflict. Reason assesses, faith trusts. Reason assesses whether or not something or someone is trustworthy, and then faith believes that certain things are true in light of the reasons. Not blind faith, but a reasonable step of trust."

The folks over at Capturing Christianity liked the logic behind Greg Koukl's definitions (which Greg admitted are really David Horner's definitions). In their article On the Conflict Between Faith and Reason, they point out that the way that many Christians and atheists define faith contradicts principles laid out in Scripture. We read: "As Greg Koukl points out, if this definition were correct, then faith increases as knowledge decreases. And so, giving a fact-based defense of Christianity would be misguided. It would produce the opposite of faith. However, Peter commands believers in 1 Peter 3:15 to always be 'prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks for a reason of the hope that is in you.' Moreover, Paul, author of 2/3 of the books in the New Testament, gave similar commands in 2 Cor 10:5, 2 Tim 4:2, Phil 1:16, and Eph 5:11. So it turns out this definition is scripturally absurd, it leads to contradiction." The article went on to point out that Paul wrote to the saints of Corinth that "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." (I Corinthians 15:17, 19) In other words, "according to Paul, we need more than hopes and dreams for our faith to be worth anything."

Moreover, this is consistent with the famous definition of faith found in the New Testament epistle to the Hebrews (11:1). Indeed, we read there that the anonymous author of the epistle looked at faith as a kind of "evidence." This, in turn, is followed by many tangible examples of the power and reality of faith exercised by biblical personalities down through the ages. Paul wrote to the Romans that "the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead." (Romans 1:20) In other words, faith is supported by real/tangible evidence! Indeed, in the Gospel of John, we are told that Jesus once pointed to the works which he had done as a justification for belief in him! (John 14:11) Scripture also informs us that David considered/thought about the moon and stars in connection with his faith in God and his plans for humankind (Psalms 8:3-5) Hence, from a Scriptural perspective, we see that evidence compliments faith, and that reason is portrayed as being consistent with that faith!

Nevertheless, those Christians who insist on faithism/fideism are fond of pointing out that "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death." (Proverbs 14:12) Well, there you have it! Human reasoning is flawed and inconsistent with faith! Really? What are the Proverbs? Weren't they designed to impart wisdom and instruction in righteousness? (Proverbs 1:1-10) Hence, isn't the proverb quoted above clearly dealing with human reasoning about morality - right and wrong? In other words, isn't making this statement a blanket condemnation of all human reasoning twisting/perverting its clear intent and meaning? What about God's invitation for us to reason together with him? (Isaiah 1:18) What about Peter's instruction to be prepared to give an answer which was already referenced above? (I Peter 3:15) What about that instruction to meditate on God's laws? (Joshua 1:8) If the other guys are right, what is there to think about? What did Paul mean when he told the saints at Thessalonica to "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good"? Why were the Bereans more noble than other folks? (Acts 17:11) So, we see that thinking/reasoning is NOT inconsistent with faith. In fact, it supports it!

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