theology

Reasonable Theology: A Firm Foundation

The Christian must put an end to reason where faith begins.

For the last century, this has been a common assumption, even among evangelical believers. But what is reason, what is faith? While there certainly should be a distinction made between the two, are they to be seen as totally estranged from one another? Faith in one sphere and reason in the other? I do not see why this would be so.

Unbelievers often define faith as some sort of blind belief. Faith is, to them, believing things without any evidence, without any good reason. This is sometimes why the Christian community is perpetually mocked by atheists and agnostics. After all, when believers lazily respond to objections with the common mantra, “God works in mysterious ways,” what is one to do? It is true that God is mysterious, and it is true that His purposes are fathomless to the human mind. But is this a God-glorifying response to give to the unbeliever? Of course not!

Unbelievers will not respond to “God works in mysterious ways” like the believer will. They will take that statement to be a cop-out, an escape hatch for the ignorant faith-having fool. Afraid of reason, for years Christians have evaded the rationalistic situation. They have clung to their Bibles (a good thing, to be sure) without obeying the greatest commandment of all: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Matt. 22:37).”

The mind (dianoia) is the faculty of understanding, according to the original use of the term. Loving God entails applying our faculty of reason within our daily lives and especially within our defense of the gospel. Faith, then, involves reason. This is not to say that a person who has a low IQ or those with disabilities cannot have faith because they find themselves unable to reason properly. Faith may exist in one’s heart without a keen ability of reasoning. Faith is not dependent upon high intellectualism or extravagant rationale. God can save anyone. However, most of the time, even those with a low IQ or mental disabilities have the ability to apprehend the knowledge of the gospel provided God’s grace, and this, as simple as it may be, is making use of reason while having faith.

The gospel comes to the creature by means of communication (Rom. 10:17), and it requires a measure of God-given reason to apprehend this information. Thus, reasoning, in some sense, is involved in having faith.

Another way reason is found in faith is the reasonableness of Christian theology.

The Christian faith itself is reasonable. How is this so? There are three reasons why we can know this is true. First, God has created all people with an innate knowledge of the divine (Rom. 1:18-20). All people know God exists and are thus left without an excuse. Second, there are extremely powerful arguments for the Christian religion. Third, all other systems of thought are found to be incoherent upon internal critique. They either lack evidence altogether or they are self-defeating (e.g. in Islam, Allah created the world, but is unable to condescend to it; atheism can’t account for rationale in general, etc).

When defending the faith, then, one’s foundation must be the object of that faith, namely, the eternal Son of God. Without the object of faith, there is nowhere for faith to go. There is no faith where there is nothing to have faith in. Thus, our faith in Christ Jesus and the communicant of that faith, the Scriptures, stand as our firm foundation for gospel defense. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Col. 1:16)”

The Son of God, who is God, is Author of all creation.

What does this mean? It means that all creation is fundamentally good. Matter is good, abstract laws, like logic, physics, etc., are good. These are good things. All of these things point to their Creator. All people know God through that which has been made, and this includes things invisible and visible.

This opens a whole other door through which the reasonable Christian may walk. Reason, it seems, may be used in a much more powerful way by the Christian defender of the faith. Not only does reason act as a sort of receptacle for knowledge of the gospel, it’s a tool for defending the gospel and tearing down unbelieving philosophy. Not only are we called to love God with our minds, but we are called to be ready to defend the hope that is within us (1 Pet. 3:15).

It’s starting to sound like the Christian faith is reasonable through and through. I first started by pointing out how Christians must have apprehended the knowledge of the gospel, which is a rational act. This involves hearing the gospel and making a grace-enabled decision, not based on a blind guess, gullibility, or arbitrary choice, but upon circumstances and information which, in God’s providence, led to true belief. There, then, cannot be a Christian faith without some measure of reasonability.

I then pointed out how, not only is rationale involved in coming to faith in Christ, but it’s relied upon in the rigorous defense of the Christian theological system. The task of the apologist is to glorify God in communicating the gospel by means of argumentation. More specifically, the task of the apologist is to present the gospel, argue reasons to believe the gospel is true, and show the unbeliever how their position is incoherent.

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