WHICH SHOULD YOU choose as the source of your beliefs — faith or reason? Many hold the opinion that they are irreconcilably contradictory so you have to choose one or the other. But they complement each other, not contradict each other, and both are vital to Christians. Faith without reason will crumble; reason without faith will let you down. The "Faith and Reason" series of publications aims to strengthen faith by helping provide reasons to believe.
Faith is not just a set of beliefs. It is total trust in God and Jesus Christ; trust in their infinite power, goodness, and wisdom. If one trusts God, one will also believe God. In that sense, faith involves beliefs — whatever God tells us we accept to be true. And if we truly trust in God, we will walk the way He has revealed to us, even though it may look silly to human reason.
Having faith in God means we will believe things that we cannot prove. No amount of rigorous reasoning from first principles would ever compel belief in a resurrection of the dead and judgment. Logic could never prescribe the need for an atonement for sin, nor the value of forgiveness towards another person, nor the assurance of eternal bliss in the kingdom of God, nor the importance of keeping God's commandments. These, and numerous other propositions, can be believed and depended upon for one reason only — God has revealed them to us in His Word.
The kind of rationalism that preaches the gospel of reason above revelation, insisting that one should not believe anything that cannot be established by reason, is a distinctly destructive idea because it denies trust in the testimony of God. This brand of rationalism, taken to an extreme, denies even the resurrection of the dead on the grounds that one can't prove it. In recent centuries, Protestant theology has been much afflicted by this ill — a case of the cure being as bad as the disease. What began as a laudable goal — to base doctrine on reasoned interpretation of Scripture, instead of on church tradition and dogma, some of which consisted of little more than dolled-up Athenian philosophy — later deteriorated into de facto rejection of the authority of Scripture.
Does faith, then, elbow reason out of the way? Not at all. Unfortunately, many believe it does, and hold tenaciously to a faith that is not faith at all, but mere hard-headed opinion. To believe that God exists, without having any reason for doing so, is definitely better than believing He doesn't exist without having a reason. To believe that the Bible is the Word of God without having a reason is better than believing blindly in Voltaire-like atheism. But trust in God without a foundation of reason will inevitably crumble, usually in the face of personal suffering.
To build such a foundation requires that one be willing to go the distance and prove, with reason, that God exists, that Jesus is His Son, that the Bible is His Word. Merely hoping these things are true is not enough. Though in some cases an experience sparked a quest for God, not one biblical case exists in which a person's faith was based on an ecstatic experience. The servants of God took a rational, measured approach to their faith. We are encouraged to do the same — see John 20:31.
The flip side of reasonless faith is faithless reason. Some study deeply into the reasons for faith, giving credence to the arguments, but failing to develop a personal relationship with God by walking and talking with Him. Establishing solid reasons for faith will not automatically produce faith. The seeker must go further and, having been enlightened with reason, use it. Having seen God, one must knock, and He will open the door of living faith.
Job believed in God, but it appears his faith was shallow. He had heard about God with the hearing of the ear, but had not really seen Him. Was he guilty of holding faith without reason, or reason without faith? What is the real rock on which we must build our house? Intellectual reason, or personal experience? In short, both. Building on the sure foundation of Jesus Christ means both proving to one's satisfaction His uniqueness and drawing closer to Him in daily prayer, study and meditation.
This series cannot give anybody a personal experience with God and Christ. That's between God and the individual. But it does aim to provide thought-provoking reasons for believing. Click on the index link below for a list of articles that explore the topic of faith and reason. You will quickly discover that some of the articles come in a long version and a short version. Long version articles are available for purchase as a reprint.