Scott Aniol on Is Christian Faith Reasonable?

The eighteenth-century Enlightenment essentially created a worldview without God, elevating reason over faith, forcing Christians to wrestle through understanding the appropriate biblical relationship between the two.

The elevation of reason over faith in the eighteenth century took two general forms. First, pure naturalists relied upon reason as the ultimate authority by which all notions must be judged; in other words, naturalists will not consider rational any notion that allows for the supernatural or otherwise contradicts the foundational assumptions of naturalism. Similarly, empiricists insisted that a notion must have some sort of empirical evidence in order to be considered reasonable. In each of these cases, naturalists or empiricists defined reason on the basis of their foundational assumptions, which assumes reason as its own self-evident authority.

Previously, Christian theologians defined reason differently, not considering it to be the ultimate and independent authority. For Christians, God’s revelation is the supreme authority by which all notions must be judged. This does not mean Christians rejected reason prior to the Enlightenment; rather, Christians acknowledged reason as a God-given tool that allows people, by employing various laws of logic, to judge whether or not a notion corresponds to reality, that is, whether or not it is true.

The definition of faith also hinges upon whether one presupposes naturalist/empiricist principles or the truth and authority of God’s revelation. For example, naturalists might define faith as “believing in spite of evidence to the contrary.” Their definition of reason is constrained by their underlying assumption that immaterial reality is an impossibility. In contrast, faith defined biblically is confident belief in what is “not seen” (Heb 11:1), that is, belief in that for which there is no empirical proof. For example, Abraham believed and obeyed God even though “he did not know where he was going” (Heb 11:8). He believed without empirical proof, but it was perfectly reasonable for him to believe God if reason is defined as a faculty of human cognition that allows a person to judge whether something is true or dependable.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Scott Aniol