Faith and Reason in Christian Perspective: The Curse of Autonomy

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In this article on the roles of faith and reason I want to turn to examine some biblical passages which, I think, really help us to understand why reason must be driven by faith. The first of these comes from the Garden of Eden.

Autonomy: our default position in the use of reason

Although we do not have a protracted narrative of all that went on between the serpent and Eve, we do have everything necessary for us to learn what God wants us to learn. The culmination of the devil’s temptation of the woman was in the words, “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5). Of course this was a lie. No one could know good and evil like God without being God. But the promise of “being like God” was what did it.

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Faith and Reason in Christian Perspective: A Case Study

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A Case Study: Harold Netland and the Demand for Neutrality

As we further consider whether reason should be categorized separately from faith as properly functioning independent of it, I cite the example of an article by Harold Netland entitled, “Apologetics, Worldviews, and the Problem of Neutral Criteria.”1 In Netland’s 1991 article we see an able but, I believe, misguided critique of presuppositionalist John M. Frame’s epistemology as set forth in his book The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. The overall burden of Netland’s complaint is clear, there must be some mutually shared neutral criteria that all people, whether Theist, Atheist, Hindu, Buddhist, Humanist, or whatever, can use to judge each other’s positions.2 It is the possibility of this neutral ground that Frame, in common with other biblical presuppositionalists (including the present writer) denies.

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Faith and Reason in Christian Perspective: Revelation and Reason

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Having brought into the discussion the necessity of divine revelation as the presupposition of faith, we are faced with the question of how reason relates to this revelation. My answer to this question will have to be provisional for now. I hope to post separately on this subject in the future.

If faith truly appropriates the truth about God then it is clear that it can have no proper function apart from divine revelation. As “faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1), it responds to matters above the reach of the inductive sciences (1 Cor. 2:10, etc). Hence, from a Christian point of view, it is essential for man to have proper faith if he is to know his creational environment fully.

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Faith and Reason in Christian Perspective: Definitions

It appears to me that one of the first things a faithful theologian needs to do is to straighten out the confusion brought about by the world’s separation of faith and reason. This relationship is so vital to a biblically fastened worldview that to neglect it will involve the believer in a host of conflicting beliefs and practices. For it is just here that the negligent Christian theologue will be attacked.1 To the average man in the street, “faith” is that “I really hope so” attitude that many people employ when their circumstances get tough. It is that blind trust that things will turn out all right in the end. Faith thus defined is the opposite of reason. “Reason” deals with the cold hard facts, so it goes, and is what we have to use in the “real world”—in business, in science, in education.

One Christian writer has put the matter in the form of a question: “Is it rational for us to believe in God? Is it rational for us to place our confidence in Him and his revelation to man? Can a person believe in God without performing a sacrifice of his intellect?”2

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