Faith and Reason
By Kenneth R. Samples
Skeptics often charge Christians with “blind faith.”
And at times even believers have spoken of faith in less-than-rational terms. However, historic Christianity affirms a necessary and proper relationship between faith and reason. There has been a broad measure of agreement in Christian history that the two are indeed compatible. The Christian faith is reasonable in four distinct ways.
First, the Christian faith affirms that there is an objective source and foundation for knowledge, reason, and rationality. That source and foundation is found in a personal and rational God who is infinitely wise and all-knowing. This God created the universe to reflect a coherent order, and he made man in his image (with rational capacities) to discover that intelligible organization. Logic and rationality are then expected features in the Christian theistic worldview.
Second, Christian truth-claims do not violate the basic laws or principles of reason. Christian faith and doctrines (for example, the Trinity and the Incarnation), though they often transcend our finite human comprehension, are not irrational or absurd.
Third, the Bible itself encourages the attainment of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding (Job 28:28; Prov. 1:7) and promotes such intellectual virtues as discernment, testing, and reflection (Acts 17:11; Col. 2:8; 1 Thess. 5:21).
Fourth, the truths of the Christian faith correspond to, and are supported by, such things as evidence, facts, and reasons. Biblical faith (Greek: pisteuō, the verb “believe,” and pistis, the noun “faith”) can be defined as confident trust in a reliable, reasonable, and viable source (God or Christ). Faith (or belief) is a necessary component of knowledge and reason since a person must believe something in order to know it. Yet reason can be properly used to evaluate, confirm, and buttress faith. Faith and reason therefore function in a complementary fashion. While reason in and of itself, apart from God’s special grace, cannot cause faith, the use of reason is normally a part of a person’s coming to faith, and serves to support faith in innumerable ways. In summary, faith is foundational to reason and reason can serve to evaluate or confirm faith.
In the New Testament, faith is always focused upon an object. And the trustworthy object of a person’s faith, according to Scripture, is God or the Lord Jesus Christ. Even the very faith that results in salvation involves knowledge (of the facts surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ) and discursive reasoning (as to what the facts about Jesus Christ really mean). Saving faith then includes knowledge (of the gospel), assent (to its truth and importance), and confident trust and reliance (upon the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ). Such faith engages all the human faculties: mind (knowledge), will (assent), and heart (trust).
Christian faith and reason can also be connected in another important way…
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