Several years ago, a mainline American denomination put out a series of publicity posters that I liked very much. One said, “Just because you’ve been baptized doesn’t mean you’ve been brainwashed.” Another went, “The only problem with groups that have all the answers, is that they don’t allow any questions.”
My favorite was “Jesus came to take away your sins. Not your mind.”
Many Christians have seemed confused over the years as to the proper relationship between reason and faith. Are we supposed to check our brains at the door and “just believe”? Is science automatically and irreversibly opposed to faith? Can a thinking person hold on to his or her intellectual integrity AND be a person of faith at the same time?
This was always a topic of special, personal importance to me. Expressing emotion was difficult for me growing up, but logic – ah, now you’re speaking my language. As a fan of the original “Star Trek” (insert eye roll here), my favorite character was, of course, Mr. Spock, who was totally cool, totally in control, totally logical.
The problem came when I tried to reconcile my fascination with logic, with what I was learning at church. I had questions, but learned pretty quick that there are some questions you’re not supposed to ask. Logically, I should be able to ask a simple question, but it’s not as simple as that. So you learn to keep your questions to yourself.
(Typical exchange – Me: “How do we know we can trust the Bible? Is it reliable?” Answer: “Yes, because the Bible says so.” Not exactly helpful.)
Perhaps without meaning to, pastors have often made the situation worse. We have our own questions and doubts, which we keep buried deep in our hearts, and whenever we hear or read some skeptic raise the same questions we have, we become even more defensive, and think the answer is to “just believe” more. As if we could just put enough coats of paint on a broken fence to cover up the break.
We watch some “expert” on the Discovery Channel or History Channel make unproven, unchallenged claims about the Bible, or the life of Jesus, or some other matter of faith, and because we haven’t heard the preacher talk about it, we think there is no answer, that the skeptics have “beaten” faith, or that Christianity must somehow go begging in the marketplace of ideas.
But our God is not the Author of confusion. He is the Giver of Truth. ALL truth. There are answers to these questions, even the tough ones. (By the way – “Where did Cain get his wife?” is NOT one of the tough questions. Trust me.) God is bigger than our questions. And there is not one question you can come up with that will stump Him.
Rather than commanding us to reject reason, over and over the scripture makes it clear that God has established order and logical thinking, and that these bear witness to Him. The fact is, Jesus INVITES us to love God with our MINDS – look at Matthew 22:37. After the resurrection, He appeared to His followers and gave them “many convincing proofs” that He was alive – Acts 1:3. Peter instructs believers to “always be prepared to give the reason for the hope” that we have – 1 Peter 3:15.
As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10:5, our purpose is to “demolish arguments” and to “take captive every thought” in order to bring it in submission to Christ. That DOESN’T mean faith is opposed to logic or reason. It means that our logic and reason have to be “transformed by the renewing of our MINDS” (Romans 12:2), and in this way, we worship God with our intellect, as surely as we worship Him with our emotion and passion.
Beginning this Sunday, our Investigators class at Beltway will tackle some of these questions. We’re calling the class, “Spiritual Mythbusters,” after the popular TV show. You know, on that show, the hosts will state a belief, run experiments, interview experts, gather data, and then pronounce the statement either, “Confirmed,” “Plausible,” or “Busted.” We hope to follow a similar methodology to examine questions about the existence of God, searching for the authentic Jesus, creation vs. evolution, the historical nature of the resurrection, and more.
I think it’s going to be a fun class, and a useful one, and I hope you can join us. We are meeting at 9:45 AM in Room A-109.
So until then, my logical friends, Live Long and Prosper.