Faith is not blind; reason is not Godless
(Editor’s note: This is part one of two columns by Dr. Guy)
An ethereal faith, a faith reaching beyond explanation and logic, does little or nothing to acknowledge or remedy practical problems. Such a statement would generate heated comments in many circles of contemporary religion. The focus of such argumentation would probably focus on the little or nothing statement, but most of the debate about such a proclamation should concentrate on the implications of the word ethereal. Many would consider how faith is defined or even if it needs to be defined as inconsequential or perhaps even unnecessary. What role the reasonable or intellectual side of man’s composition should play in matters of faith is an issue that those following the teachings of Christ have long debated. The debate is far from being resolved.
If faith is ambiguous, as it most surely must be considered if it exists outside the realm of reason, it is then practically impossible to establish appropriate and inappropriate actions and systems. If no well reasoned proof is necessary to substantiate what one believes, then any belief is valid, no matter how contrary it may be to society, culture, common sense or logic. It seems to make sense that worship should be intelligent, but there are those, even within the belief system of Christianity that would like to argue that point. They fail to see that knowing why one worships or why one believes a certain thing, further substantiates belief in the object. Something that cannot stand up to intellectual examination and assessment is not worthy to be believed.
What is it that persuades someone to believe something or causes someone to agree with a proposition? It would be a long discussion in considering whether faith takes reason beyond its boundaries or whether reason takes faith beyond its supposedly ethereal limitations. Whatever terminology may be used to describe faith and reason, it seems clear that they need each other and may in fact occupy the same ground of deliberation. Someone chooses to believe something, at least in the initial stages, because what is presented to them seems to make pragmatic sense in their world relating to the past, present and future. They can see how what is proposed applies and could be useful in making their life better. All of that is a consideration of the intellect although it will undoubtedly appeal to the affective as well. That appeal though is still based on one’s ability to reflect, consider and project. Reflection takes places when it is realized that a better proposition is available and could have reduced the trauma of decisions already made. That appeal is also based on how a proposition has the components necessary to make life better in the here and now. Making sense of the past and even the present is relatively easy compared to how valid a proposition is for the moment to come. That may be where the two camps of faith and reason find their greatest struggle: what is next in the progress of man?
Due to a lack of understanding regarding the intellectual nature of faith, those following Christianity have, for the most part, been unsuccessful in answering what is next to anyone’s satisfaction; even their own. Among those that profess it, there seems to be little consensus on precisely what faith is or how it is to be defined. This has certainly not added to the credibility of Christianity in general and those that profess to follow Christ in specific. There is a significant difference between finding out how faith and reason fortify each other’s position and compromise that results in a lack of distinction or uncertainty. Man’s capability to reason is subjective and limited. There are many questions that remain unanswered, although as time goes on, the library of facts continue to expand. There might be some that would suggest that this means that reality itself is constantly changing and that supposition is probably true. If true ideas are those that we can assimilate, validate, corroborate and verify, then the truth fits in very well with the formula given by Christ in John 5:31-39. Some paraphrasing is needed, but in that important passage, Jesus said that if all He had were His own ideas, then they weren’t worth very much, no matter how strongly He felt them or even how intellectually convinced He was about them. He said that colleagues involved in similar endeavors must also come to the same conclusions, if those conclusions are really true. Additionally, Jesus said that His own experimentation about His propositions must show that they are accurate and pragmatic. Those conclusions must also be consistent with how the world operates at the immutable level rather than at the ever fluctuating level of social and cultural mores. Another part of the test of validation must also be that of precedent; is there some past occurrence that lends to the conclusion that a supposition is true? That five point test could not have been discovered unless faith in what Jesus said gave place for reason to consider it at a deeper level. If that formula were followed by more followers of Christ, the movement itself would be revolutionized.
This column is the opinion of Dr. M. Hildon Guy, President of the University of Christian Studies and Seminary in Eagle River. He has a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies, a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Theology, a Doctorate in education and a Doctorate in Christian Counseling.