Faith and Reason
Two animals were having an argument about the nature of God. One side based its argument on intuitive factors and things which "just seemed right". The other based its argument on evidence, including the bible and personal experience, logic and reason. The latter made a pretty sound case, but the first continually repeated "But I KNOW..." This left him so frustrated that he threw up his paws and gave up, but not before lambasting his opponant for being impervious to logic. "But if it's all logic," said the other side. "Where is there room for faith?"
This is a true story. And in fact, it it happened very recently. I won't tell you who the other side was, but the logic side was me. And so I am going to answer that question publicly to get the question answered once and for all.
It is a common misconception, even among accomplished philosophers, that faith and reason are diametrically opposed. I'd like to begin chewing on this point by opening with a quote from Pope John Paul 2.
"Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves."
There is a classical definition of faith as belief in something which is not supported by evidence. This is cartainly ONE way to look at it. Take the classical proverb "Faith is the evidence of things not seen and the substance of things hoped for." One can look at this and say that faith denies evidence, inserting itself in the place of whatever evidence is demanded.
Thomas Aquinas defended a view of faith which can be supported by evidence in his "Summa Theologica". Aquinas defines faith as being a belief which is both voluntary and confident. Now there are certain facts I know which I do not believe voluntarily. For example: 2+6=8. Or the fact that I have two eyes. The evidence for these facts leaves no room for dispute. I have no choice but to believe them. There are other facts which I cannot prove indisputably, yet I know to be absolutely true. I know, for example, that my friend Martin has two eyes. I can't prove it because I have never met him in person. I have seen his photo, but those can be faked. I really only have his word. But that is sufficient evidence for me. My faith in Martin allows me to make that last jump in reasoning and conclude that he is telling the truth. This is how faith serves as the evidence of things not seen. It is not independant of facts or logic. It is dependant on them. I know that Martin will tell me the truth because I know his character. I am familiar not only with his mannerisms and appearance but the way he thinks. At least to the degree he has confided his thoughts in me.
If someone contacted me under the name Martin Billany and asked for my help getting 4.3 billion dollars out of his bank account in a troubled 3rd world country, there would be insufficient evidence for me to put my faith in him. I'd be stupid to trust this person because I know that Martin isn't rich, doesn't live in the 3rd world, and wouldn't ask me to do something that's obviously a scam.
As another example, let's use the classic example of a chair. This is usually used to illustrate the difference between faith and belief. Today, we take a slightly different tack. (pulls out the chair which has been sitting behind the pulpit.) Now I can choose to believe that this chair will support me. I can't prove it without sitting on it. But I have faith that it will because of what I know about this chair. People I know have sat on it. It was designed to be sat upon. It looks sturdy. An intelligent person whom I trust gave it to me to use in my office. there is no reason for me not to sit on it. I have faith based on what I know about this chair that it will support me. (sits on chair.)
Now take this chair. (pulls out one made of tinker-toys.) I know certain things about THIS chair as well. I know that tinker-toys are not really known for their tensile strength. I know that this chair was not designed to be sat in. No one has indicated that they mean for me to sit in it. To place my faith in this chair would be stupid. But just to prove the point... (sits on other chair. Winds up on the floor of the dias with a piece if tinker-toy stuck in his tail.)
This is the difference between blind faith and proper faith. Faith is supposed to be backed up by logic and reason. God has never, NEVER asked us to have blind faith. He has always provided proof of whatever He asks us to believe about Him. Take the great test of Abraham's faith- the sacrifice of his son, Isaac. Abraham believed that God would provide a reprieve for Isaac. He was ready to sacrifice his son, yet he knew that even if Isaac did die, God would bring him to life again in order to fulfill His promise. This faith was not based on nothing. Abraham knew God. He had spoken face to face with God. He watched God walk between the rent carcasses of several animals to seal His covenant with Abraham.
God didn't ask Moses to have blind faith. As if the burning bush was insufficient, he had Moses perform the two miracles which he was to use to verify God's orders to Pharoh. God could have ordered Moses to perform these miracles for the first time in Pharoh's presence. But He didn't. He gave Moses what He needed to believe. The plagues upon Egypt and the subsequent miracles done for Israel were done to verify God's power, authority and care, not only for Israel, but for all generations.
Nor does God ask us to accept even this story without proof. He has left the physical evidence in place so that we can know that the events depicted in the books of the law really happened. You can go diving in the gulf of Aqaba and see the remains of Pharoh's chariots for yourself if you like.
Now earlier, I spoke of what would happen if someone impersonated my friend but failed to act like him. Let me relate to you a case in which this actually happened.
there is a Christian woman- I won't give you wer name- who was married to a practicing psychic. The man's activities were an open invitation to demons of all kind. To this day, he has never lived in a house that wasn't haunted. Though she hated what her husband was doing to the household, she stayed with him out of love. This meant, unfortunately, that she had frequent encounters with demons. (as have I during the times I was in their abode.) There was one particular demon who took up residence in the bedroom closet. From time to time, it would emerge in the form of the husband. It looked exactly like him. It spoke with a voice that was indistinguishable from his. The wife might have been convinced that it really was him, except that it did not behave like him. For one thing, she knew that her husband did not live in the closet.
In my short lifetime, I have known Satan's troops to take on all kinds of forms to attempt to gain people's trust. Fairies. Bug-eyed aliens. Ascended masters. Dead friends. Angels. Talking animals. Even God himself.
I have heard one preacher say that if He wanted to, God could strip him naked, paint him blue and hang him upside-down from a tree. But if God ever came out with a directive like that, he'd have to ask for ID.
Many of you have seen the comic strip in which Abbot Babbit asks the angels at St. Fred's for their ID. You may think this anal or beaurocratic. Actually, Babbit's got the right idea. There are a lot of people who claim to be from or speak for God. There are a lot of people who claim to BE God. Some of them pretty convincing. All of them should be challenged to find out whether they are truly speaking God's word.
Consider the Bereans. The Bereans took absolutely nothing on blind faith. Paul, it is said, had a rather slow time of it when he preached at Berea, because the Bereans would rush to check each point against the scriptures. they questioned everything that Paul said. Paul could have blasted them for not having faith. Instead, he commended them. He called them noble, even. He could have seen them as closed-minded, but instead, he saw them as being READY-minded. They were eager to learn, and to prove or disprove whatever they heard. We should be the same way.
And so I say "QUESTION EVERYTHING". I can imagine that some of you are surprised to hear a preacher say that. I encourage you to have faith, but NOT blind faith. NEVER blind faith. Use logic and reason to establish faith. If something is wrong, you'll clear space to establish what is right in its place. If something is right, you will be able to hold fast to it with confidence.
And to help you distinguish what is from God from what is not, here are some questions to ask.
1. Does the speaker or the message advocate the worship of anyone but the triune God?
2. Has the speaker ever ever made a prediction that failed? (these two are the two tests of a prophet taken straight from scripture.)
3. Does what is being said jive with God's character? Does it jive with scripture?
4. Was the message obtained in a manner that is forbidden by the bible? (I.E. reading omens, consulting the dead, ouiji boards, etc.)
5. Has God given any means of confirming or verifying the message?
To my non-Christian friends, I have said that you should examine the evidence and I'm not going to leave you without a way to do so. Here are the words of a scholar more accomplished than I.
This is the text of C. S. Lewis' Mere Christianity. You may wish to buy the book if you can. If not, I'm sure Lewis won't mind if you read it online. It's for a good cause.
Another one I reccomend is "Evidence that Demands a Verdict" by Josh McDowell.
Here is a short work by the same author giving evidence of the resurection.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Epesians 1:17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,