Epistemology, Part Four:
In the last post in this series, I gave three basic propositions.
1) God is always perfectly rational.
2) In God’s image, humans are also rational.
3) Human rationality is limited both inherently and by the effects of the curse.
If these propositions are accepted as true, some basic conclusions will follow.
It is dangerous to abandon human rationality at any level.
It is ironic that “blind faith” expressions of fundamentalism actually parallel post-modern forms of Christianity such as the Emergent Church and the less conservative forms of broader evangelicalism. Both abandon human rationality in order to reach their desired end. Any church or movement that degrades human rationality or caricatures it as opposing faith can also expect a post-modern outcome.
I think part of the reason we as Fundamentalists are prone to a “leap of faith” mentality is that often we’re still fighting Modernism in a post-modern world. While Modernism and Rationalism erred by setting up man’s rational conclusions as the ultimate authority, we must not err by abandoning rationality altogether. As Francis Schaeffer says in his book The God Who Is There, “Much can be added to the rational, but if we give up the rational everything is lost.” Once we surrender rationality, we have no absolute basis even for faith.
It is dangerous to operate as if God was irrational.
It’s one thing to have presuppositions. It’s another thing to have presuppositions that directly contradict known evidence. I’ve heard people say “If God were to say Jonah swallowed a whale, I’d believe it.” The issue is not whether we should believe God no matter what. The issue is how such a statement presents God. Since God’s perfection extends to His rationality as well as His other attributes, we need to be careful that we do not represent Him as irrational at any level. God’s rationality transcends human rationality, but is not terminated by it. Believers are responsible to offer valid and verifiable evidence for their conclusions. Disdain for rational systems of thought is unjustifiable and dangerous.
It is dangerous to accept human rationales over Scriptural assertions.
Though some posit that Scripture is our sole authority for all matters of faith and practice, I believe it is more accurate to say that Scripture is our final authority for all matters of faith and practice. When I step outside and see rain coming down and conclude that it is raining, I am believing something based on the authority of my senses. This is a perfectly appropriate response for a rational being. The rub comes when Scriptural assertions and sensual perceptions seem to contradict each other. There is never an actual contradiction between accurate data and Scripture, but as noted earlier, human rationality is extremely limited; therefore, when an apparent contradiction occurs, as believers, we must choose to believe God over our own perceptions. If we do not, we assert our own rationale against God’s which is the ultimate expression of rebellion and the definition of sin.
It is dangerous to create a dichotomy between God’s truth and man’s truth.
All truth is God’s truth. Whether it is the doctrine of justification as understood through special revelation or the law of gravity as understood through general revelation, all truth is God’s truth.
Well, I think this is a rational place to conclude this journey. I’ve learned a lot and hopefully some of what I’ve said will help others to see the importance of wrestling with some of these same matters. I’m so glad that my responsibility is a reasonable faith in an infinite God.