Friday, May 13, 2005

Faith and Reason

Matt over at Back Home Again left the following comment about my series of posts relating to societal degeneration.

By the way, one of the things that caught my eye is the whole issue of
rationalization with reason. Too many folks spend too much time trying to
rationalize our ideas with the enemy but fail to see the futility in doing such
things; our worldviews are often based upon different axiomatic foundations and, Dabney, I
think, hits the nail on the head concerning covenant breaking (this is something
that the Religious "Right" cannot seem to fathom). Reason and science have their
limitations and contexts in the scope of any philosophy as they are merely
logical formalism based upon axioms. We too quickly forget that logical
formalism cannot be accepted in one context without often invoking, perhaps
implicitly, "axioms" from a foreign worldview (which is why I get so irritated
with the church's blind acceptance of Freud, Jung, Dewey, etc and the rejection
of Darwin - it indicates that they have put little, if any thought into
understanding why they believe what they do).

The points are items I have pondered often over the course of the last couple years. This is nothing new of course. Since Paul went off to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles and they in turn began to analyze the truth with their Western minds the debate over faith and reason has raged.

There have been high and low points. The lowest point may be said to have been that of Gnosticism. Others may say, and they may be correct, that this debate has yielded no good fruit at all. There are many that would dismiss all reasoned thought arising from the Western tradition. This camp would ignore the ideas of Augustine, Calvin as others as merely the thoughts of men that attempted to reason out their faith.

Just as there was much debate and nearly a split in the early church between Hebrew Christianity and Gentile (and primarily Greek influenced) Christianity we very much retain many of the aspects of this divide even still.

Most of us that are Christian fall somewhere in between, I would venture to say that the majority of Christian denominations fall somewhere much closer to the Western side of thinking today. We may have started somewhere closer to the middle but a large segment of us have shifted slowly over time toward the Western view.

This is not unexpected from a purely humanistic point of view. We are a Western culture. We borrowed much from the East but all that we borrowed was long ago sifted and strained.

As Matt points out there are serious limitations to the application of axioms to issues of universal right and wrong. In fact, the mere attempt at such often leads to fallacies and has the potential to provide support to false doctrine.

This is something we must realize and accept. History ought to teach us the danger of trotting carelessly down a road of reason exclusively.

However, I wonder, what might be the proper role of reason and logic in our theological outlook. Surely, God provided us with the intelligence to reason, the capacity to learn, the desire to question. These are all gifts from God. Failure to use these gifts seems as much of a sin as gluttony or any other sin (all sin is sin and improper stewardship of a gift is a sin).

Considering the path many churches and pastors have taken of late in redefining theology and rationalizing scripture my first impression would be that reason and logic seem just too fraught with danger and ought never be applied to any theological discussion.

After consideration this seems a position of weak faith. If we are of true faith and walk with God and rest in His word it seems we ought to be capable of measuring the reason and logic of man accordingly. It would seem that true men and women of God ought to be able to use reason and logic reasonably in their own questions and in the discernment of the postulations of others.

This would seem to be the case, if it were not for the fact that so many are led like sheep to the slaughter under the influence of faulty reason that does not measure with the word of God.

I do not have the answer to what role reason and logic ought to play in our Christian walk. I fear that if we abandon it entirely we are abandoning a gift for God. If, however, it is indeed a fire too hot for mere men to handle properly then our failure to rebuke it would seem also to be a serious mistake.

I would truly enjoy reading the opinion of others on this subject (Flannel, this seems to be a wonderful topic for your weekly Blogspheric Bible Study).

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