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Monday, 19 January 2015

Faith v. Reason: A False Dichotomy

A while ago I read an article on the 'Men Christian Women Shouldn't Marry'. Naturally the article didn't reach me as the intended audience but I was interested to see if I ticked the checklist of the 'good Christian man to marry'. Jokes aside, this week another friend pointed out a second list by the same blog author about the 'Women Christian Men Shouldn't Marry'. Reading through both articles each time I was struck by the fact that the articles relied upon specific interpretations of scripture. They also ignored things like the power of grace and the fact that we live by faith and not by sight. In other words it was a typical Christian article the way that people have come to stereotypically see us: people with faith but acting in legalistic manners.

For instance in that article the author points out 1 Corinthians 6:9 "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, not idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality." He claims that this verse says that anyone who commits such sins means they can't receive eternal life. That's a problem interpretation for me - because the scripture actually says not inherit eternal life but inherit 'the kingdom of God' and that to me is something even beyond eternity. That's a thing of power we can live in here and now. Not to mention that such an interpretation ignores the fact that Christ said even looking lustfully is equal to adultery - so therefore according to that interpretation very few people would ever make it into eternity...

The problem that I see, and it's a problem that all of us deal with from time to time, is the balancing of reason with faith. And that's because I think I see what I call a false dichotomy being created. In literature a dichotomy is a comparison of two differing or opposite forces or ideas. So for instance light versus darkness, hot versus cold, love versus fear etc. Yet does there have to be a dichotomy between faith versus reason? I don't believe so. Many skeptics would love you to believe that and many people build strawmen arguments built around emotionally convincing others that reason (or they might say logic or science) is entirely opposite to faith.

We as Christians often don't help out that cause because too often we just quote scriptures to support our points without reasoning out fully what those scriptures mean: why they mean what they mean and how they apply to life. If you bring up scriptures about what sin is pardonable or unpardonable maybe someone else can tear you to pieces by pointing out contradictions. Which is why I think it's important to reason out that there is a difference between eternity and the kingdom of God. In fact from what I see in the scripture it seems clear that Christ came to bring the kingdom of God to Earth when he came. But that's another topic.

While I am on the topic of contradictions, let me just point this verse out as an answer to the contradiction that might be seen in 1 Corinthians 6:9 (because the Bible actually doesn't contradict itself - but our understanding of it might prove contradictory).

Mark 3:22-30
22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables:“How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”
 Now, blasphemy means essentially to speak profanely about God and some people falsely (because of English translation) take this to mean that using God's name in vain is the unforgiveable sin. However this passage (and the corresponding one in Matthew 12:31-32) most who look into it agree that Jesus is talking about a true blasphemy: the blasphemy of not accepting Christ as Lord and saviour. The meaning of one scripture cannot contradict another scripture and understanding the scripture here in this sense makes true sense. The only unforgiveable sin is to not accept the forgiveness of the one who can pardon all sins.

My point, however, in talking about a false dichotomy between reason and faith is this: I believe faith stems from reason. I always make the point when asked to provide evidence for God's existence that I have the same evidence as everyone else, I observed the facts, I saw the observable phenomena/read about them, and then made a different conclusion. A conclusion that was a leap of faith, the same as the atheist who observes the facts and naturalistically claims the universe exists because it must.

One of the harshest comments underneath the article mentioned above was this 'when will Christians start thinking'. Of course it was a snide and shallow remark - a very obscure generalisation - because I know plenty of Christians who do indeed think. But it also got me thinking about why do these stereotypes of Christians as 'spiritual people' without reason or logic, come from.

Sure I'm not saying that we all need to have a billion science facts - because in the end it does come down to faith. I'm not saying we need to have the most logical rhetoric planned and ready for instant delivery: a quickfire 'selling' argument of our faith. What I am saying is we need to live reasoned faith based lives. True faith is not blind faith just as true love is not blind love. True faith is active - and comes from everything that we can see and feel (things we can reason out). I guess what I'm saying is that I get tired of those millions of Christians out there with good intentions (myself included at times) saying what 'should be' or 'what shouldn't be' and yet not living the faith based life that they should. That's why I say there is a false dichotomy between faith and reason - a false opposition - the two should work together.

I personally believe because all the evidence in my life, in the world around me, in ever law of physics, chemistry, biology points to a creator. Every work of art, every emotion, I cannot reason out how such things could have no intelligent cause. At the very least everything must have been created by some kind of super power. Because say all you want about chance and so forth - it still doesn't explain the origins of our universe or what kind of power it took to create everything. I have the same reasoned evidence as anyone can have access to: I just happen to take the opposite leap of faith to other people. The leap towards hope.

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. - C.S. Lewis"