"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.
"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
One of the greatest assets that we have been given, as beings created in the image of God, is the ability to reason. This ability is one of the things that sets us apart from the rest of creation. Animals react to their environment. Humans respond to it. Over time, animals can learn that certain actions produce certain outcomes, and so they adjust their actions accordingly. But humans look at their environment and ask rational questions. Why does this happen when I do this? What would happen if I did that instead? What are the long term consequences of this action? Can I do this a different way and get a better result? This ability to reason has allowed humans to develop all kinds of things that have made life better. This is the up side of being a rational being.
But there is a down side as well. In the early 18th century, a movement arose in England called deism. At the heart of this movement was the call for “free rational inquiry” into all subjects, especially religion. Deists embraced a Newtonian worldview that contended that all things in the universe, including God, must obey the laws of nature. This led to skepticism about miracles in general and specifically the miracles recorded in the Bible. God was seen as the first cause or prime mover of creation. He designed the world with natural laws that cannot be altered. This new theology was picked up by Thomas Paine in the late 1700’s. He wrote a series of pamphlets that were collected together under the title “The Age of Reason; Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology.”
What this movement toward an “age of reason” did was convince people that we, as human beings, should be able to explain all things rationally. If something cannot be explained rationally, then it was to be discarded. The influence of this way of thinking still holds sway today. Many people in the science fields have elevated reason to the highest level, even above God. Science has much to teach us and much to offer, but when we expect science to be able to clearly explain all things, we have fallen off the cliff of true irrationality.
This is what I mean. Deism actually put man on the throne and took God off of the throne. Deism views man’s ability to reason as ultimate, and subjugates God to it. But if we think “rationally”, if there is a God who has created all things, should we, as a part of that creation, think that we have the ability to understand that God or His actions completely? If God is the author of these natural laws, as Deism contends, then is He also not the master of those laws, and not a slave to them? By saying that miracles are impossible, because God must obey the natural laws of the universe, then are we not making natural law higher than God?
As the created beings, we should not assume that we can completely understand the actions of God. As Isaiah and Paul both point out, we are but clay in the hands of the eternal potter. He has the right to do with us as He chooses, and we do not have the right to argue. Now, it is important to point out that God has invited us into a personal relationship with Him through faith in Christ. We are not unthinking, inanimate objects. God has given us the gift of understanding, but our understanding is limited. He has allowed us to come to a large, but partial understanding of our universe. But there will always be things that are beyond our grasp.
I am using a computer to write this article. I understand how to use my computer and I understand a few things about how it works. But there are many things about my computer that I do not understand. If my computer were to stop functioning, I would be at a loss to fix it. But I am confident that there are others, who have a more complete understanding of computers, who can.
We live in a marvelous world, with many surprises, discoveries, and wonders. God has allowed us to interact with our world in a unique way. He has given us the ability to have partial understanding of the workings of our world, but we do not have full understanding. God has given us amazing insights into who He is. He has invited us to know Him on a personal level. Yet, our understanding of God and His ways is only partial. Being the created beings, we will never have full knowledge of God and how He operates. But we can trust Him. We can trust that He is faithful, gracious, merciful, and compassionate. We can trust Him that all that He does is right. We can trust Him to set aside His natural laws, if He so desires, in order to accomplish a higher goal. We can trust Him to be God, and not just the first cause or prime mover of the universe.
The greatest up side of rationality is the ability to think and reason about our world. The greatest down side of rationality is to fall into the trap of arrogance, thinking that we can understand and explain everything. The truly wise person is the one who understands that there are things he/she will never fully understand. There is mystery in our world, and I believe God likes it that way.