Reason

Reason and intelligence are effective, God-given instruments that cannot be dismissed (1 Kings 4:29-34; 2 Chron 2:12), though their use must be tempered with humility (1 Cor 8:1, 2; James 3:13). Reflection of God’s omniscience—He knows everything—is imprinted within people having been made in God’s image (cf. Ps 94:10, 11). Logic, rhetoric, and wisdom are patterns of thought resident within God’s nature mirrored in human nature (1 Sam 2:3; Col 2:2, 3). Humans certainly do not know all things (Ecc 7:23-25; Jer 33:3) nor do we always use our knowledge with discernment, wisdom and virtue (2 Pet 1:5-9). We must be careful, then, of the pride of knowledge and the snobbery of anti-intellectualism.

Genesis three explains the ruination of the perfect environment described in Genesis one and two. According to innumerable Scriptural sources (Rom 1:18, 25, 28; 8:6, 7; Eph 4:17-19; 1 Tim 6:5; 2 Tim 3:8; Titus 1:15, 16) sin has adversely affected man’s intellectual capabilities. The corrective for man’s cerebral incapacitation is a renewal of the mind by the saving grace of Jesus (Rom 8:6, 7; 12:2; Eph 4:20-24; Col 1:21-23; 3:10; Heb 8:10; 10:16). While sin continues to distort truth, we must always be on the lookout for the kernel of verity, and allow the chaff of error to be blown away. In order to practice the oft-repeated phrase, “All truth is God’s truth,” we must reorder our thinking biblically.

How does this change in thinking occur? Both Ephesians 4:17-5:2 and Colossians 3:1-17 provide a pattern to follow. Depraved minds (Eph 4:17-19) are reformed by the grace of God at salvation (4:20-24; Col 3:9-10) and should be in a constant state of renewed thinking (Col 3:1, 2). Christians, more than anyone else, should be regularly, biblically exercising their mental faculties. Only in this way, can we lead lives that are semper reformata, reformans, reformanda—“always reformed, reforming, and to be reformed.”

Faith has a factual base. It is objective, reliable belief based on factual confirmation, certainty shown by incontrovertible data (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-3; John 20:8; Heb 11:1). Some mistakenly believe faith is a “blind leap” or a “well-I-can’t-prove-it-but-I-know-it’s-true” mentality. Paul maintained that God offered “proof to all men” by raising Jesus from the dead (Acts 17:31). Christians believe in someone who did something—a real person who came in real space and time, died a real, physical death, and literally, historically rose again from the grave—Jesus (1 Cor 15:1-4).

So “debated,” “argued,” “proved,” “disputed,” “explained,” persuaded,” and “confuted” are words of reason used to plead the Christian case (cf. Acts 9:22, 29; 17:2-4; 18:4, 19, 28; 19:8, 9; 24:25). While the Christian worldview is reasonable it is also something beyond reason. Clearly the work of The Holy Spirit is necessary to change individual’s thinking from a human-centered to a God-centered perspective (Rom 8:5-9; 1 Cor 2:10-16). The supernatural process of transformation is outside the scope of ordinary experience (Rom 11:33-36).

But pagan neighbors would see the difference in a nation given the supernatural revelation of God (Deut 4:5-8). Indeed, Yahweh expected his people would lead others to The Truth (Ex 19:5, 6). Solomon, who gained his knowledge from God honored His Maker by using his mind for the study of everything from botany to zoology (1 Kings 4:29-34). Unbelievers came from the great empires of the day to sit at Solomon’s feet and benefit from his wisdom (4:34; 10:24). As a result of his erudite witness some even came to faith commitment in Israel’s God (1 Kings 10:1-9).

Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon later in life, provides an examination and refutation of all worldviews apart from that of The Self-Revealing God. The apostles’ concern for Christian to know what and why they believe (1 Peter 3:15) is premised on the wisdom of Proverbs 22:17-21,

“Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your mind to my knowledge; for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, that they may be ready on your lips. So that your trust may be in the LORD, I have taught you today, even you. Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge, to make you know the certainty of the words of truth that you may correctly answer to him who sent you?” 

Reason, rightly controlled by Revelation, is a biblical perspective. Personal (i.e., the individual) and societal (i.e., the group) reason is normally the premise for western thinking. Oriental influence suggests that there is a revelation based upon human tradition most often referred to as a myth or story. Some, such as The Jesus Seminar, suggest that reason interprets revelation. In each of the three cases above human intellect in some way interprets thinking. Biblical thinking mandates that transcendent (i.e., outside) truth be the arbiter of all intellectual pursuits. Christians should be the first to encourage study and the last to be fearful of knowledge.

No better place can engender a Christian view of reason governed by Revelation than a biblical institution. Just as there is no bifurcation of secular—sacred so there is no dichotomy between the study of all things with The Source of everything. Scripture gives answer to the questions, “How does everything fit together?” and “How does life make sense?” There is an intersection and unification of heaven and earth, supernatural and natural. From the very first statement in Scripture, unity and wholeness were necessary—“the heavens and the earth” meant “everything from A to Z” in the Hebrew mindset (Gen 1:1; Josh 2:11; 2 Kings 19:15; 2 Chron 2:12). There is a unity of Truth. All “truth” is inclusive within His “Truth.” Since God alone made “the heavens and the earth” (Neh 9:6; Prov 30:4; Isa 44:24) and the whole of creation gives Him praise (Ps 69:34) Christian thinkers must answer the question “how do our studies give praise to God?”  [See also “Coherence” page.]

Following the interdisciplinary mindset of Moses, Solomon, Paul, and Schaeffer, Mark Eckel originally wrote this essay when he created the course “Faith and Learning” for Moody Bible Institute in 2004.

 

 

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