Saturday, November 24, 2012

Being Well-Rounded and Getting Coffee

You can overhear some of the most interesting conversations while standing in line for coffee.  We missed a some friends and I decided to get the coffee anyway, and while I was in line I heard a couple of people over my shoulder talking about having faith versus being a ‘well-rounded’ person.  The fella’s concern was about limiting himself as a person if all he did was have faith in Christianity.  The implication seemed to be that there was more to life – specifically his ‘reason’ – that could not be captured by faith alone.

I have a couple of thoughts about this relationship between faith and reason that seems to confuse and even frustrate a lot of people.

First of all, is there a genuine conflict between faith and reason, or more colloquially, between having faith and using your mind?  The right kind of faith is never opposed to reason or the use of your intellectual faculties.  How would you answer this question – what kind of person would you trust with your life?  You would probably tell me they would have to be someone reliable, someone you know and know to be trustworthy, and someone you believe will do what they say they will do in the future (especially at a moment of crisis).  And this answer is entirely reasonable.  You have based your faith (the same Greek word for ‘trust’ in the Christian Bible) in the right person on good reasons. 

So it is with faith in Christ.  The Christian has good reasons to believe in the existence of God, his good and powerful character, and the belief that he will keep his word in the future.  There is nothing unreasonable in that kind of biblical faith.

Secondly, Christian faith, rightly exercised, excites the life of the mind and intellect.  Though large segments of the Christian church in the last century have demeaned the life of the mind, for two thousand years many of the great figures in Western history (and not a few around the globe) have advanced civilization because of the love for Christ.  Rightly understood there is no conflict between the use of your capacity of reason and your faith in Christ, and through the lens of history, the two have been necessarily connected.  In fact, it would be reasonable for the orthodox Christian to ask another who has left behind the exercise of their rational capacities what is wrong with them.

There is no good reason to believe the popular point of view that religious faith, specifically Christian faith, is for the young or weak mind and science and reason are for the advanced and mature.  This has always been and continues to be a false dichotomy.  And the Christian should live and think in such a way as to demonstrate that.

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