Reason And Faith
by Van Fisher

One line of attack by skeptics and scoffers concerning attempts to show the compatibility of the Bible, truth and science, is to assert that belief is incompatible with reason. Since we must accept the Bible not based solely on our own personal experience, but also by trusting in the fundamental truths of the Bible, the attack hits close to home. The attack usually includes quotes indicating that our "science" is "ends driven," meaning that if the result fits with our biblical view of things, then we accept it as truth, and if it does not, we call it bogus or soft-science. This line of attack has merit because it is partially true. However, it falls apart, or more accurately, the falsity surrounding the core of truth melts away, when put under the bright light of reason.

Starting with some stubborn facts, let's reason together. Man has a brain capable of reason, or what we call reason. We can consider things, current, past or future, and make judgments concerning them, funny, sad, true, bad, important or irrelevant. We can work things out, study them, test them and arrange them in a way that makes sense to us - logically, if you will. An atheist will use reason because it is in his self-interest. So will a theist. So there does not appear to be any inherent problem with reason and belief.

When we make our judgments, accepting or rejecting things based on our sense, we label them. One thing is true, another is false. One thing is good; another is very bad. Something makes sense; another is bogus. We have a memory, so as we gain experience, we fit things together. One thing is true because another is true; another cannot be true, because it conflicts with what I know to be true. And on and on.

The Bible tells us about things outside our experience. Nobody, born in our lifetime, walks on water or rises from the grave on the third day. So in order to accept the Bible, we must bridge the gap between what we know or believe, and what we trust. And that bridge is not reason; it is faith. But the Bible also does not ask us to build the bridge without a foundation, which is knowledge. Therefore, I believe that reason is not the enemy of trust; it is an essential part of the foundation. It follows, of course, that the foundation should be solid, not made of falsehoods or clever stories that melt away. It must include the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. Our foundation of knowledge also includes what we believe to be true from science and from the Word of God. Sometimes, what science in its day thought was true turned out to be bogus. Sometimes what believers in their day thought was biblical truth, has turned out to be bogus.

An additional problem arises here. Since trust in the Bible must be based on imperfect understanding, why not say, "If my beliefs were good enough to gain salvation, they are good enough for all those who come after me." The answer of course has to do with the bridge of faith. For example, I accepted Jesus Christ based on my understanding of the King James Version of the Bible. I had studied it, memorized verses in it, had underlined whole passages and put notes in the margin. Even though I did not understand some of its vocabulary or figures of speech, I did not see a need to change to the New American Standard Bible or New International Version. But when my local church recognized the need for a Bible that the people of our day could understand, we changed, and our impact for Christ increased. One way to look at the premise that we should not put God to the test is to say we should not ask people of our day to use more glue (faith) than necessary given their education and knowledge. So building a foundation of a slightly different shape, using reason and a different knowledge base is consistent with our biblical mandate to be all things to all people so some can be saved.1

Once we accept the Bible, and file it under truth in our minds, we initially reject things that conflict with what we believe is biblical truth. We accept the premise that the Bible as originally written was completely true; but we also accept the premise that our understanding of the Bible is imperfect. So our difficulty is in separating and discarding our imperfect understanding of either science or the Bible when confronted with a paradox, two things that seem to conflict yet both seem to be true.

For example, the book of James seemed to conflict with Paul's writings. Paul said salvation is through faith, works has nothing to do with it, and James said faith without works is dead. However, using reason the apparent conflict can be resolved, without abandoning, or undermining the truth of both divinely inspired writings, because a reasonable interpretation shows that there is no conflict in the texts, but only in our understanding. Works does not provide salvation; it proves salvation. Barking will not make you a dog, but a dog barks.

So the trick, it appears, is to see if we can fit scientific truth and biblical truth together, by perhaps improving our understanding and without creating additional unresolved conflicts. The task is impossible without a whole lot of Bible study. But the Bible tells believers to study the Bible and study it well.2

Razón y Fe

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  1. And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law, though not being myself under the Law, that I might win those who are under the Law to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, that I may by all means save some. And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. (1 Corinthians 9:20-24)
  2. But Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God. (Matthew 22:29)
    "Have you not even read this Scripture: 'THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone; (Mark 12:10)
    And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He [Jesus] explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. (Luke 24:27)
    And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, (Acts 17:2)
    Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so. (Acts 17:11)
    All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; (2 Timothy 3:16)
Last updated January 16, 2006


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