PAPER NO. 21
FAITH AND REASON IN CHRISTIANTY
- The Logos is the eternal Word of God who makes God known (John 1:1).
The life of the Logos is in all men as light, that is, reason (John 1:4).
Jesus is the Logos incarnate (John 1:14).
Where this is understood in Christianity, there is no conflict between faith and reason.
- Faith and reason are inseparable. Faith is to reason as truth is to meaning.
As truth cannot be separated from meaning so faith cannot be separated from reason. By faith we believe a statement to be true; by reason we understand its meaning.
Faith grows as understanding grows; faith is tested as understanding is tested.
- Faith is not contrasted with reason but with sight.
Faith is the substance (hupostasis/underlying support) of things hoped for, the evidence (proof) of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).
The proof of things not seen is based on understanding: By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God (Hebrews 11:3).
- Scripture presupposes that the basic things about God and man and good and evil are clear to reason (Romans 1:20; 2:14-15).
The clarity of general revelation is the basis of the inexcusability of unbelief.
The clarity of GR in the problem of evil shows the necessity for Scripture to show how God can be both just and merciful to man in the state of sin.
- Scripture requires the use of reason (good and necessary consequences—inference) to understand the meaning of Scripture in context.
Reason, through inference, recognizes rational assumptions and implications.
Hermeneutics is contextual, from more basic to less basic, not presumed to be literal, and not allegorical (using foreign or unwarranted assumptions).
- What is clear in GR can be known by critical thinking about basic belief (presupposition).
Reason, as the laws of thought, is most basic and is the test for meaning.
Therefore critical thinking, as the test of meaning, when applied to basic belief, is called rational presuppositionalism (RP).
Understanding what is clear in GR by RP is necessary to understand what is clear in SR.
- Faith and reason are exemplified in Abraham, the father of the faithful, when he was called to sacrifice his only son Isaac as a burnt offering (Genesis 22).
Abraham reasoned, from all the particulars of his life, that God would raise Isaac from the dead to fulfill the promise through Isaac (Hebrews 11:17-19).
In doing so Abraham came to see what God would himself do to fulfill the promise of redemption to mankind (John 8:56).
- Christ commends those who hear with understanding: Who has ears to hear, let him hear (Matthew 13:9, 13).
The faithful are those who hear and understand the Word of God and so produce fruit (Matthew 13:23).
Christ reproved the lack of faith in his disciples, then enabled them to hear the Scriptures by opening their understanding (Luke 24:25, 45).
- Paul reasoned in his speaking and in his writing to both believers and non-believers.
Paul presented the faith rationally by starting with what is foundational (1 Corinthians 3:10; Hebrews 6:1).
Paul described spiritual warfare as rational activity: demolishing arguments and every pretension raised up against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:4).
- The Historic Christian Faith is the work of the Holy Spirit leading the church into all truth (John 16:13), through the pastor-teachers (Ephesians 4:11-14) who, after much discussion in response to challenges, come to agreement summed up in its creeds and confessions (Acts 15).
Discussion is the process of mutual questioning and reasoning to come to a common understanding.
Insight has accumulated from the Council of Jerusalem (A.D. 50), to the Apostles’ Creed (ca. 185), to the Council of Nicea (325), to Chalcedon (451), and has reached its current level in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1648).