Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Are Faith and Reason Incompatible?

“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. Isaiah 1:18a

            I was listening to public radio the other day and heard an interview with Alain De Botton. He is the author of a new book titled Religion for Atheists: A Non-believers’ Guide to the Uses of Religion. His premise is that religion, in all its forms, offers some insights and wisdom that can be beneficial even to those who do not believe in religion. Then he made this statement. “This is religion for reasonable people.” Whether he intended to or not, what Mr. De Botton implied by his statement was that people who are “believers” are not reasonable people. I was immediately struck by the question are faith and reason really incompatible?
            In the former Soviet Union, Christians were looked down on as uneducated, simple-minded people. Recently a similar attitude has been espoused in America. Evangelical Christians have been portrayed as mindlessly following their leaders without any careful thought. They are seen as irrational because they believe what the Bible says is true. After all everyone knows that there is no such thing as a miracle. All of the supernatural things recorded in the Bible are only myth. Anyone who takes them at face value must be unintelligent.
            We live in an amazing world filled with complexity, diversity and mystery. Contrary to common belief, to believe that this all came to be by chance is an unreasonable response. Creation points to intelligent design from an intelligent designer. Doesn’t it seem just a little strange that a world that holds tenaciously to a cause and effect approach to life believes that life itself has no cause?
            Being a follower of Jesus Christ is anything but unreasonable. In fact the Bible challenges us to examine our faith and our world thoroughly. Jesus didn’t let people blindly follow him. He insisted that they count the cost. He was very upfront about what it really means to believe in him.
            It is not unreasonable to believe in God. The Psalmist points us to creation as a reason to believe.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. Psalm 19:1-4 (NIV)
            Paul was among the elite intellectuals of his day. He was also a man of deep, enduring faith. He agreed with the Psalmist that the evidence for belief in God is overwhelming. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Romans 1:20-23 (NIV)
            In 1 Corinthians 1Paul challenged the “wise” of his day.                                      Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 (NIV)
            Faith and reason are not incompatible. God invites, even challenges us to use the minds He has given us to question, explore and discover. Reason can take us a long way, but it can only take us so far. Where reason ends faith takes over; not in mindless belief, but in confident assurance of the one who is ultimately in control.

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