Faith and Reason – Friends or Enemies?

If you profess to have a Christian faith in our current Australian Western culture of 2023 it is easy to feel that you have somehow given up on your ability to reason.  In our culture, reason, as indicated by our internet adviser Wikipedia is: ‘the capacity of applying logic consciously by drawing conclusions from new or existing information, with the aim of seeking the truth.’

There is often an assumption that to hold onto a Christian faith, you must be denying at least to some extent, the ability to reason. The assumption goes something like this: ‘If you were brave enough to face truth and reality you would have to conclude that holding a Christian faith is in essence unreasonable. Any reasoning person would admit that faith is the crutch for those who cannot think clearly about facts, science and life in general.  If you, Christian, could only think reasonably, you would draw the conclusion that there is no God and your faith is at best a comforting fairy tale.’  As Karl Marx said similarly, ‘religion is the opiate of the masses’.

But there is an underlying assumption about our cultural idea of Reason’s ability alone to discover the truth. The assumption is, “I believe that the power of reason has the ability to reveal the truth.” If this is an accurate statement about our current secular cultural mindset in regard to reason, then what does this say about those who have full confidence in reason alone? This assumed and often unconscious mindset becomes a sort of ‘Reason alone’ system of belief, which becomes a type of faith in itself. It is a faith, a belief system, predicated by the idea that by human reason alone, we can draw an accurate conclusion about truth. This type of faith starts and ends with the ability of human beings to define truth. As one dictionary definition describes a general view of faith, “complete trust and confidence in someone or something”.

People then who claim to live by reason, as opposed to faith, nonetheless find themselves also ‘living by faith’. Faith, is placed squarely on themselves and their own ability to draw truthful conclusions logically and consciously.

 The difference between the Christian and the secular person is that Christians admit they live via their faith, which is reasonable, while the secular person claims to live only by reason, which is in fact the faith they live by but don’t admit.

The apostle Paul said he was ‘not ashamed of the gospel’ (Rom.1:16). This was said in the context of a culture like ours, that prided itself on philosophical wisdom and intellectual ability to plumb the depths of life’s deepest mysteries.  A Christian need not feel intellectually ashamed or culturally second best for holding on to and professing faith in Christ.

It is quite reasonable to conclude that any person, consciously applying logic to the information he has received concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ, could choose to place his trust and confidence in Him.

It is perfectly reasonable to conclude that Jesus Christ, as revealed in the Scriptures and by the activity of God’s Holy Spirit personally leading and interacting with us, is God’s way for us to understand the deepest reality of life, meaning and purpose.

 It is perfectly reasonable to believe and live by faith in Jesus Christ.  That is part of the reason why in John’s gospel, we are introduced to Jesus as the Logos. He is, ‘The Reason’. In Jesus Christ faith and reason meet in perfect unity.

It is perfectly reasonable to conclude there can be no possibility of any sharper mind, no greater intellect, no more profound reason, apart from that which can be be found in the one true, living, eternal, Almighty God.

– Ian Headley