Reason in Religion
by Paul Buller
Imagine that you are involved in leadership at a church that is bursting at the seams (a dream for many). You seriously need an upgrade to your facilities to keep up with what God is doing. You find a great piece of property for $800,000 that would serve you much better in the present and could easily be expanded in the future. All things considered, God is moving in your midst, the facility would help, it is available; why not go for it?
So you go to the bank. They evaluate your finances. You get into lengthy conversations about equity, interest rates, mortgages, terms of payment and so on. Wait, what is this? Is your church now governed by money? When we consider financial constraints as we make our church plans do we put God’s sovereignty in the passenger seat and let the almighty dollar do the driving? Where is “faith?” This all seems so “unspiritual!”
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By talking to the bank we are not under any delusion that they control or mitigate God’s plans. Rather, we appreciate that God moves within the human experience and he chooses to use human means and methods to do so. That God works within human limitations is the central theme of the Bible, the incarnation of Jesus. However, I have seen church schemes that focused much more on God’s alleged plans for the church than they did on practical realities that the church faced. Some people focus so much on what they think God is doing that they do not take the time to consider the pragmatic boundaries within which God chooses to work. In the end they often prove not only less effective for God than they might have otherwise been, but in some cases their efforts are flatly counter-productive to God’s work.
What does this have to do with reason in religion as the title says? Reason, like finances, is a practical reality that has been overlooked by large swathes of the Christian church in Western Civilization. Religion is supposed to be about spirituality, our relationship with Jesus, about visceral experiences and euphoric insights. The feeling of mountain top elation is what it’s all about. Logic, analysis and rationality are for mathematicians and scientists, not the spiritually minded. We have been led to think that if we apply our intellectual faculties to the realm of religion that we somehow undermine the essence of a relationship with Jesus…
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