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Christian Faith and Reason

Updated on December 18, 2017
cam8510 profile image

Chris spent 50 years in the Evangelical world as a layman, as a student at a prominent Christian University and as a missionary and pastor.

Science and Religion

Searching for a Reasonable Faith

I am attempting to take a stand between two philosophical worlds, each of which has played an important part in my intellectual and spiritual development. Faith and reason are often pitted against each other. In this world there are people of faith and people of reason. I believe that both faith and reason are compatible enough to be held simultaneously by a single individual. This has been referred to as a Reasonable Faith.

The Pew Research Poll which I have included in part below shows that the youth of America are opting for a life based primarily on reason. The fact that they are not religiously affiliated does not necessarily mean they have no concept of faith. But it does show a movement away from the faith based living of many older Americans. View the complete poll and results at Pew Research.

Poll Results (partial): What is your religious preference? Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Other, None

 
No Religious Affiliation
 
Millennials (Born 1981 or later)
26%
 
Gen X (Born 1965-81)
20%
 
Boomer (Born 1946-64)
13%
 
Silent Gen (Born 1928-45)
8%
 
Greatest Gen (Born before 1928)
5%
 
Results taken from Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project http://www.pewforum.org/2010/02/17/religion-among-the-millennials/

Francis Schaeffer on Faith and Reason

"Every generation of Christians has this problem of learning how to speak meaningfully to its own age. It cannot be solved without an understanding of the changing existential situation which it faces. If we are to communicate the Christian faith effectively, therefore, we must know and understand the thought forms of our own generation.

Philosopher/Theologian Francis Schaeffer, from his book, Escape From Reason.

Faith

Source

Faith and Reason: We Need Both

Reason is often considered by Evangelical Christians to be the opposite of faith. At the mention of the word "Reason", many Christians become defensive and set up a false dichotomy between reason and faith.

Let's consider some questions about the process of choosing a particular religion. This should illustrate that all of us use reason when we choose what religion, if any, we will follow.

1. What are the characteristics of God which are acceptable to you? e.g. love, peace, anger, jealousy, justice, mercy, grace.

2. What kind of religion would you choose? e.g. introspection, informality, formality, liturgical, spontaneity.

3. What is the purpose of religion? e.g. theology, fellowship with God, humanitarianism, worship.

4. Is there one true religion, or are all religions legitimate routes to the divine?

5. Is the religion in the place you were raised the right religion?

If you answered these questions in any way at all, then you were using reason. Simply put, reason is thinking. Anyone who has ever become a Christian, has done so as a result of reason.

Reason

Faith and Reason are Inclusive, not Exclusive

Reason and faith really do not need to be compared and contrasted. That is like contrasting and comparing doors and door knobs. They are related, but they are designed to perform different functions. Faith was never meant to replace reason, nor reason, faith. They actually enhance and compliment each other. Faith focuses on trusting what has been proven. Reason focuses on knowledge as a basis for trust. A truly balanced life requires both.

I just returned from a vacation. Even though I thought and planned, I had no idea how the vacation would turn out. I put the car in gear and drove out of the driveway as an expression of faith that all would go well. And it did. Reason and faith were necessary for me to have a successful vacation. Reason determines where to go. Faith steps out to begin the journey.

I have already referred to the analogy of a door and doorknob. Reason is the door. Faith is the door knob. Reason shows us which is the correct door. Faith opens it and causes us to pass through.

When a person chooses what to believe, it is reason. When he actually does something practical with that knowledge, it is faith. Faith animates knowledge.

Faith is energy. It is action waiting to be released into a particular direction. A person sets out in faith after they have used reason to choose the direction.

Bill Moyers: On Faith & Reason-Sir John Houghton

The Practical Use of Faith and Reason

Here are several areas in our lives in which both Faith and Reason should play a role:

  • Personal finances. Christians speak of trusting God for their every need. That is faith. The Bible also says that the ant "stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest." Proverbs 6:6-8. This requires planning and reasoning.
  • Dating and marriage. It is appropriate to pray about dating relationships and marriage. But it is also prudent to consider compatibility. This requires thought. Thinking is reasoning.
  • Raising children. Christian parents pray for their children. But is this all that is required to be considered a good parent? Of course not. Raising a child to be a responsible adult requires a plan. Planning is reasoning.

Faith AND Reason, not Faith OR Reason

Faith and Reason are meant to be together, not pitted against one another. They are like peaches and cream, hammers and nails, Bonnie and Clyde. A hammer cannot be driven into a wall so that a picture frame can be hung on it. Neither can a nail drive the hammer into the wall. Each has its unique purpose. Faith and reason are not vying for the same position any more than the hammer is attempting to be a nail. They take their positions next to one another and accomplish many important human tasks.

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    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      ajwrites, Your thoughts are encapsulate exactly what I have attempted to describe in this hub. Christianity without reason is a slap in the face of the God of Christianity. If Christianity was truly without reason, then it would also be without content.

    • ajwrites57 profile image

      AJ 

      5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      cam8510, interesting way you have woven your story to make a point. There are so many thoughts vying for attention, but I'll just say that many Christians would do well to read your thoughts so simply and clearly written here. Apologetics, being able to defend the Faith, is an important part of the Christian life. Without reason, we are left with an emotional religion that can come and go based on how we feel. Also, Jesus is the Logos or Word and the original Greek emphasis and use of the word logos included reason. Thanks for an interesting Hub. Sharing!

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 

      5 years ago

      Oh, Chris , even when I say you're blessing to me might be insufficient to express gratitude for your kind words as well as patience dealing with my amateurishness . Instead of take it out, you chose to teach and educate me to the point of my incomplete thoughts explaining correctly.

      Your quote " those are things which the scientific method can deal with " says it all ( a separate article... )

      Likewise my statement " faith goes alone ," came alive in your choice of words ," this seems to mean that our belief cannot supply the measurable data." Great statement! ..." Faith goes alone thus cannot TO reason ( in my prior saying noun instead of verb) additional explanation , (scientific?)- plainly ' faith' , period, stop right there.

      Thanks again , and let me repeat myself, God bless you continually, so you can never run out of being a blessing .

      ( as for me, reconsideration is an issue...)

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Michael, First of all, your English is improving every time we talk. I am very impressed with how you have expressed some of the concepts in your latest post to me. Thank you for your input here. I think this one phrase, "going distance faith goes alone." I can accept that at some point and on some topics we may run out of information, evidence, observable data. Those are things which the scientific method can deal with. There are other topics in which the data and the thing believed are contradictory. Finally, there are times when there is no data and only belief. Am I understanding you correctly. Is my last sentence what you were speaking of when you said "going distance faith goes alone?" These are such hard, deep and personal things.

      The second thing I want to clarify is from the sentence that says "however we can't use it to say there is a faith to reason." This seems to mean that our beliefs cannot supply the measurable data.

      I appreciate the depth of your thinking, Michael.

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 

      5 years ago

      Nice and challenging.

      Hi Chris, you have got your day-work- worth anyway , mastering a dialogue leading to an interesting subject involving faith,religion, Christianity, Jesus Christ and more...leading to " close to home" subjects reason and faith. You've mastered the topic. Only after second time reading I could see the depth of it. Faith is so simple as a part of our everyday living application; the suddenly it becomes controversial and in a sense abused when it comes to " God and supernatural ."

      Another man's opinion? Just a contribution, please: both reason-ing and faith- ing is a personal decision. [ Why the English language refuses to use faith as a verb when in action? Most other languages do, especially the Greek where we see mostly applied " faith " as believing. "

      So we can say, there is a reason to believe , to have faith; however we can't use it to say there is a faith to reason. These two can co-exist though each having its own distinct meaning , going distance faith goes alone.

      Perhaps that is expressed when you've said, " faith is energy..." ' having endless potential '(my conclusion.) energy of 220 volts electrical current with potential to be consumed by the equivalent appliances . The argument comes if someone tries 110 v. appliances and the outcome mostly denial of the " higher " voltage. [ adjustment doesn't hurts ].

      Voted Up & useful.

      Thanks for privilege.

      Have a safe, saved and a blessed journey.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Thank you Martin, I have a bare bones understanding of Fremasonry, but I'm glad that in some fashion you found the article helpful.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      As a Freemason, the most I can say is:Thank you for this well written opportunity for reflection. :-)

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Becky, thank you for sharing that story, it is very interesting. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 

      5 years ago from Hereford, AZ

      Interesting and useful. "God stopping the sun from setting for Joshua"; was actually used to set up the first computers for NASA. They had to account for every minute of time throughout the history of this world. They were short a certain number of hours. One of the scientists remembered two times in the Bible when time was stopped or ran backwards. They input those times into the computer and they added up to the exact number of minutes that had been missing, enabling them to get the space program going. Science using the Bible to advance science, proving that the Bible was true.

    • Emanate Presence profile image

      Gary R. Smith 

      5 years ago from the Head to the Heart

      Yes, it is told with humor that lightens the reading of a message containing profound points.

    • cam8510 profile imageAUTHOR

      Chris Mills 

      5 years ago from Missoula, Montana through August 2018

      Hello Gary, nice to see you. Thank you for those words. The article needed something to lighten it up a bit, so I threw in a little flash fiction. I'm glad it came across to you as it did.

    • Emanate Presence profile image

      Gary R. Smith 

      5 years ago from the Head to the Heart

      A delightfully funny and insightful hub. Great storytelling that delivers a valuable message. Poignant without being painful. Voted up, funny and useful.

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