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Is Christianity a Reasonable Faith?

There is much in the Christian faith that appears unreasonable: a baby born to a virgin, a man comes back from the dead, a giant flood covers the whole earth, an angel shuts the mouths of lions. All these miraculous events stand contrary to observed phenomena. But, the faith of the Bible is not antithetical to reason. Christian faith is not willing to believe something despite evidence to the contrary, rather faith in Christ is built on the foundation of who Jesus is, what He has done, and what He continues to do in the lives of those who believe in Him. If one allows for the evidence and experience that there is a God who can do miracles—as the Bible clearly shows—then Christian faith is reasonable.

Reason and faith are often presented as opponents, especially by atheists. But Christians know that reason is not opposed to faith. Saint Augustine wrote, “I believe in order to understand.” He also frequently quoted a version of Isaiah 7:9, “Unless you believe, you cannot understand.” Augustine said, “Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand.” 

Anselm also applied reason to questions of faith. He believed faith was the beginning of knowledge, and that, once someone accepts a truth by faith, they can learn more about it through reason. As a result, one’s faith becomes greater as one applies reason to what one believes. He said, “Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this, too, I believe, that, unless I first believe, I shall not understand.” 

Aquinas argued God can be known through both faith and reason. Truth about God is known through two ways: natural revelation and supernatural revelation. Reason discovers what can be known about God from the natural world; faith discovers what can be known about God supernaturally (through the Bible, through miracles, through prayer and the like). Rather than being opponents, for Aquinas faith and reason are allies.

Both faith and reason can lead to God. However, in matters of faith and reason, one must follow either Plato or Aristotle. Either one begins with faith by receiving “a word from on high,” or one begins with reason which is “a word from within.” When using faith, a person begins with what God has chosen to reveal and then works their way down from “on high” in order to understand themselves and their world here below. This deductive approach was used by Anselm. When using reason to understand God, a person begins with what is seen with the eyes here “below” and works their way up to understand who God is. This inductive approach was used by Aquinas. In the inductive approach, reason leads to faith; in the deductive approach faith leads to reason. In neither are faith and reason opposed. 

According to John Locke, to believe something, apart from reason, is an insult to our Maker, the One who created reason. Galileo wrote, “I do not feel obliged to believe that same God who endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect had intended for us to forgo their use.” The Bible commands Christians to, “Love the Lord your God…with all your mind” (Luke 10:27). Thus, the Christian should strive to use, understand, and improve his faculty of reasoning. God wants us to be rational. Reason is not contrary to faith, rather it should be complementary to faith. 

Faith is bigger than reason

Most humans do not believe because of reason, they believe because of emotion, feelings, intuitions, prejudices, and impressions. They believe because of what is in their hearts. When the Bible talks about the heart, it isn’t referring to the physical organ that pumps blood, but to the center and essence of a person. The Apostle Paul reminds us that it is “with the heart that one believes” (Romans 10.10). Because of what is in a Christian’s heart, she believes in God. Because of what is in an atheist’s heart he does not believe in God. This makes it hard to reason either the Christian or the atheist out of their deeply held beliefs. As Jonathan Swift, the Irish author and satirist pointed out, “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.” Blaise Pascal wrote, 

The heart has its reasons which reason does not know. We feel it in a thousand things. I say that the heart naturally loves the Universal Being, and also itself naturally, according as it gives itself to them; and it hardens itself against one or the other at its will. You have rejected the one, and kept the other. Is it by reason that you love yourself? It is the heart which experiences God, and not the reason. This, then, is faith; God felt by the heart, not by reason. 

Faith could be called a “sixth sense.” The idea of a sixth sense is a sense that operates beyond our five senses of sight, touch, touch, hearing, and smell. Even so, faith does not go against reason, faith goes beyond reason. By using faith, we sense things in the spiritual realm. When we sense a truth by faith, we do not need to experience it with our other senses to know it is real. This truth can be demonstrated by how we use our other senses. When you see a building off in the distance, you do not doubt it’s existence until you are close enough to touch or taste or smell it. No, you believe the building is there even when only one sense confirms that it is real. When you smell a delicious BBQ, you don’t need to see the meat roasting before you will believe that someone is cooking a steak.

Faith is similar to the title deed to a property you have never seen. Once the title of a property belongs to you, the property also belongs to you. You can say with assurance, “I own this land” even though you have never seen it. Recently I purchased a plane ticket. When I bought the ticket, I did not demand to see the plane I would be riding in. I had faith the plane would be at the airport when the time arrived for me to leave on my trip. The ticket represented the promise of the airline. Faith is like that ticket; it is the substance that guarantees God’s promises will come true. Faith is your ticket to heaven. 

We should “live by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Ultimate proof of God’s existence comes from faith. One must use the proper instrument for the object of study. To study the stars, one would not use a microscope. To study an amoeba, one would not use a telescope. The proper instrument for the study of God is faith. Faith is the telescope we look through in order to see God.

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About the Author:  Dr. Daniel King is a missionary evangelist who has traveled to over seventy nations in his quest for souls. His goal is to lead 1,000,000 people to Jesus every year through massive Gospel Festivals, distribution of literature, and leadership training. Because of his experience and research on evangelism, he is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in mass evangelism. As an evangelist, he has a deep interest in using apologetics to convince skeptics that God is real.

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