Reason in religion – part 2
by Paul Buller
In a recent post I commented on the role of reason in religion and how the Church has become lopsided away from using our higher intellectual faculties with respect to matters of faith. I briefly touched on the fact that some in the church look at us “weird smartie-pants” types and think that the Christianity that we offer is somehow different from what Christianity ought to be. In this post I want to consider how and why we might look different and what to make of that.
There is some merit to the observation that some “intellectuals” seem to want to redefine Christianity though the problem is with the people not the cause. That the Western Church needs to raise the bar with respect to its intellectual footing is demonstrable; that some of the people attempting to do so are out-of-balance in another direction is equally demonstrable. Some of us who are trying to solve one problem are introducing another problem. What to make of this? Must we choose between two extremes?
Suppose I were to read in the Bible that walking involves the use of my left foot. Well, that seems correct, after all my left foot is one of those body parts that is naturally quite close to the ground. So, I walk around on my left foot. Just my left foot. It’s not walking, of course, but hopping. Relative to walking, though, hopping is far less efficient, far slower and far more likely to injure a person if that’s all they do. It will also atrophy the right leg from lack of use.
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Along comes another person who looks at us and shakes their head in dismay. They point out many other Bible passages (ones that we either overlooked or incorrectly interpreted) that tell us that walking involves the right leg. They show us that they have a much better system; they hop around on their right leg.
The truth of the matter is that both of these groups are right, but only partially so. God does expect us to walk with our left foot, and he also expects us to walk with our right foot. We need them both. When used properly, we can move with significantly greater ease, walk (and run) much faster and we are far less likely to suffer long-term ill effects like strained joints and atrophied muscles.
Many in the Western Church see Christianity as primarily spiritual and emotional, and they understand this to mean that we ought to exclude rationality or logic. I have actually heard pastors make snide remarks about the study of theology, and go out of their way to paint themselves as intellectual simpletons in some kind of misguided effort to connect with their audience. The glamourization of a “child-like” faith has gone a little overboard. Most of the Western Church is hopping on its left foot.
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