Science and Reason vs. Faith?
Unfortunately Faith and reason are now often viewed as total opposites. While this understanding has developed over time, and been popularized by many from Mark Twain to new atheists like Richard Dawkins it does not correctly represent the biblical view of what faith is, biblical faith is not a blind leap into the dark.
Scripturally one can see what faith means in many passages and verses. John ends the second to last chapter of his gospel, telling the reader(s) that it was written so they believe, or have an active trust in, Jesus. When John the Baptist faced doubts, Jesus pointed his disciples to fulfilled prophecy and miraculous evidence to give John some evidence when they returned to him. Miracles authenticated the message and gave evidence to all, but in Acts 17 and other places we see reasoning used. A philosophical argument can be a type of evidence. Considering the commandment for all Christians in 1 Peter 3:15 regarding being ready to provide an apologetic, a defense for what they believe, it’s clear that even if Christians have blindly leaped and landed into the Christian world view, they must not stay that way, and must understand why they believe what they do so they can defend it.
Belief too is an important and misunderstood word. It doesn’t mean a mere mental acknowledgment, but instead it refers to a place of trust on. I might believe planes exist, but an active trust in them, or a belief with active trust, would be necessary for me to fly in one. True biblical faith is not a blind trust, biblical believe is some acknowledgment, together these words speak to what we might call in modern terms, a continuing trust on God and the sacrifice of Jesus for the payment of our sins, and submitting to him as Lord. This isn’t a very remote concept for us to grasp, as paper money used to only represent gold in the bank, even know it is only representative and we believe that it has value, and we trust it’s use when paying for our groceries and goods. Ultimately to reject reason and evidence in faith, one has to fail to worship God with their mind as scripture commands, and many of the proof texts for this view, are taken out of context.
Even with scriptural reason to use evidence, the Church hasn’t always been keen on using outside sources, despite Romans 1 confirming a general revelation given to all. Individuals like Anslem and Abelard were able to push forward and include reasoning more and more within the Catholic Church. Their progress, and Anslem’s placing reason behind faith, opened up a door. First Anslem just sought additional support for the conclusion he already felt he had enough reason to believe, over time that work continued to grow and eventually develop a focus on general revelation called natural philosophy or natural law.
If we view divine revelation and general revelation (including science) as two books written by the same author, they two should not conflict. What if they appear to? In the end something must be wrong, but it doesn’t automatically mean it is the bible nor the evidence. Men can have fallible interpretations and it may by that science leads us to understand that “sun set” are merely perspective, and not a literal description of the sun moving around us. Science too could be lacking evidence or be a limited sample size. Science needs to be peer reviewed.
Given that general revelation is available to everyone it should come as no surprise that multiple groups have found some elements of truth. The bible isn’t necessary to understanding some aspects of the world God created, because people live in it! Regardless of what ones worldview is, they have to deal with the same reality, and try to best explain it. While one should be careful to draw spiritual truths from others, even those can sometimes be similar, such as remnants of original monotheism, believe in life after death, or common takes on the golden rule. One must never put the outside spiritual claims before the teaching of scripture, especially if the evidence supports the Christian world view as having the most explanatory power.
The real issue is not between reason or science and faith, but instead between materialism or naturalism and any worldview that goes beyond the material. Currently science is full of scientism and over emphasis on the empirical as well as a presupposition that there are no spiritual answers. This attitude merely eliminates a possible answer, it does not solve anything, and with the growing rebirth of Apologetics many Christians are learning about evidence that does support the material. It’s even pointed out often that when materialists attempt to use logic, they can’t help but use something that is immaterial, the laws of logic!
(originally written as a short essay for a class at Luther Rice)