To tackle this issue is to tackle one of the perennial questions that has faced the Church for ages, and I make no claim of “answering” it in this little post. But I do think I would like to throw a couple of ideas out there resulting from some of the comments and back and forth on the last couple of posts.
First, when working out the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church, and more specifically, the life of the mind, I think it is useful to ask, “How does the Holy Spirit work?” I think there are two basic answers: through the gifts and abilities of God’s people and miraculously. If that, or something like it, is true then it is incumbent upon me, a believer striving to be faithful, to use my gifts and abilities as best as I possibly can.
Now I believe every human has been created with the capacity to reason-it is part of being an image bearer of God. If I fail to work that mental muscle to the best of my ability, it is not all that different from being gifted as an evangelist and refusing to evangelize. Therefore, I should strive to think as well as I possibly can.
This point of view cuts against the grain of what is usually thought of as the work of the Holy Spirit. Typically people believe that the H.S.’s work is excluded to the realm of the miraculous. What I am arguing for is a both/and kind of view. The H.S. works miraculously and through the lives and actions of believers submitted to the Lordship of Christ. In this case there need not be any conflict between the two.
The point is often raised that there are sometimes sharp and irreconcilable differences between people when they “use reason.” And thus, it is said, we cannot rely on reason but only on faith. One of the things I think that objection misses is that there are sharp and irreconcilable differences between people who believe on “faith alone.” What then? Equally sincere and religious people hold to certain things on faith in Jesus Christ, but they often conflict with each other. We are left with the same problem, and thus it is not a very good argument against “using reason.”
Disagreement between equally intelligent and faithful people is an interesting issue all by itself, but note that disagreement does not by fiat mean the baby should be thrown out with the bathwater. Because people disagree does not make postmodern relativism true; disagreement does not negate the usefulness of the process of reasoning; and disagreement over issues of faith does not mean there is not one true Faith out there.
So what do we do when people disagree? The nutshell answer is, "think some more."
Thinking through issues or “using reason” to the best of our abilities is something we could use more of in this world and not less. It is a tool God has graciously given His creation so they can understand Him and His world better-it is a tool that can and should be used to great practical, pastoral and theological advantage.