Must faith always be reasonable?

faithMatthew 19 records an encounter between Jesus and the rich young man. Upon asking Jesus what he must do to obtain eternal life, the rich young man knew that he has two choices: obedience or disobedience.[1] Jesus presents the rich young man with two choices, with two comprehendible consequences for each action. Thus, the rich young man has a reason, or basis, for his belief, rather than faith, or simply a confidence in a decision. Too often, Christians do not make decisions based on reason. J.P Moreland writes, “I was saddened to be reminded of how unusual it is for Christian people to be taught how to think carefully and deeply about what they believe and why they believe it.”[2] Christians should strive to be intellectual people, firmly founding their beliefs in reason rather than blind religious convictions.

The Need for an Intellectual Approach

An anti-intellectual approach has led to an overwhelming cultural belief in the existence of blind faith. Dating back to the colonial era, the minister was the intellectual and spiritual authority in the community.[3] The Great Awakening preaching of ministers such as George Whitefield and Jonathon Edwards undermined the significance of reason in the life of the believer by emphasizing personal conversion rather than a costly, calculated decision. The emphasis on personal conversion has led to a misunderstanding of reason and faith. Ultimately, reason is the foundation of faith. A Christian should possess the ability to articulate their reasons for their faith. Christians should strive to train their minds and emphasize the intellectual aspects of their faith, in order to ensure that they may have confidence in their beliefs. There is no biblical evidence to support the idea of a blind faith.

The Relationship of Reason and Faith

Blind faith entails one having confidence or a belief in something that they have no reason to believe is true. The idea of blind faith is not biblically sound. For instance, one may argue that Abraham’s sacrifice in Genesis 22:1-19 demonstrates blind faith. Abraham made a reasonable decision to sacrifice Isaac. Hebrews 11:18-19 says, “ even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”[4]  Abraham made a rational choice to proceed with the sacrifice of Isaac. As Proverbs 14:15 says, “A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thoughts to his steps.”

faith 2Christians truly know the object of their faith, and therefore make reasonable decisions.  When one makes a decision, they participate in a subconscious cost-benefit analysis, and determine which action will be most beneficial. These reasons are the object of one’s faith. Abraham made a rational choice. Abraham believed that Yahweh is the only God. Abraham determined God to be trustworthy and decided to commence with the sacrifice.[5]  Blind faith means that the individual does not possess and object to base their faith on. Abraham, Peter, and other biblical figures that appeared to be acting on blind faith actually had rational reasons for their actions. Modern Christians want to have a full understanding of the entire picture of God’s work in their situation or in their life. This is not a solid expectation to place on God. Instead, Christians must rely on their testimony, the testimony of others, and Scripture as the basis of their faith in God. Devotion to studying the Bible and the intellectual aspects of Christianity will result in a faith that is firmly rooted in reason.

Reason plays an important role in the life of the believer. 1 Peter 3:15 states that Christians should be ready to make a defense to everyone who asks for an account of the hope that they have. Peter is encouraging Christians to have a reasonable explanation for the faith that they possess. Christians ought to formulate scriptural arguments and share their testimonies in order to defend their beliefs. In doing so, they will reveal the object of their faith. Faith is the confidence in a decision that one has made. The rational scriptural arguments highlight God as the object of a Christian’s faith. That faith allows Christians to believe that God will remain faithful and trustworthy, even though they are not privy to the entire purpose of God’s plans.

Conclusion

Ultimately, Christians should strive to be intellectual people, firmly founding their beliefs in reason rather than blind religious convictions. The lack of Christian devotion to the intellectual study of the Bible has led many to believe in the idea that blind faith exists. However, blind faith is not a biblical concept. Every person bases his or her decisions on reason. The reasons that someone uses to make a decision determine the object of said person’s trust. Therefore, within the life of a believer, faith is built on reason.

Sources

[1]Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, ed. Gerhard Ludwig Müller and Albrecht Schönherr (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996-2014), 77.

[2]James Porter Moreland, Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. (Escondido, Calif.: Hovel Audio, 2005), 14.

[3]Ibid., 16.

[4]The NIV translation is used for all bible citations, unless otherwise noted. Author’s emphasis added.

[5]Dickinson, Travis. “Should We Be Reasonable About Our Faith?”  1-4. Accessed September 16, 2015. https://blackboard.swbts.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-1105426-dt-content-rid2537800_1/courses/15_FA_PHILO4373I/15_FA_PHILO4373I_ImportedContent_20150825111406/14_SU_PHILO4373I_ImportedContent_20140429092240/1%20Should%20we%20be%20reasonabl.

 

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