This weekend a gathering of very reasonable people, led by the most reasonable Dr. Richard Dawkins, will assemble in Washington to extol the virtues of reason and their own reasonable use of it.
That seems reasonable, no?
Except for one thing: No religious folks are allowed. Well, none, at least, who don’t subscribe the materialist and relativist agenda of the pragmatic and utilitarian rationalists who will be gathering to celebrate the superiority of reason on the Mall in the nation’s capital this weekend.
That doesn’t seem reasonable to me. The operating assumption, of course, is that nothing seriously religious that conflicts with the secular agenda – read: which takes spiritual realities seriously and questions the legitimacy of science as the final bar of all knowing – can possibly be reasonable. That’s the legacy of Diderot, D’Alembert, and rest of the Enlightment philosophes who resolved to rewrite all knowledge without reference to God or faith – and who have achieved some notable success.
But that view would be difficult to defend in a conversation with the likes of Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Kepler, Bach, Rembrandt, Newton, Edwards, Newman, the Founding Fathers, Wilberforce, Kuyper, Eliot, King, and thousands more, whose very reasonable approach to their faith laid the foundations and advanced the wellbeing of Western society and science.
It is not reasonable to dismiss Christianity as unreasonable. True, certain Christians don’t seem very reasonable much of the time. They are ill-prepared for serious conversations about matters of truth or the pressing social, moral, and cultural issues of the day. Other Christians appear unreasonable because their tactic in responding to Christianity’s detractors is to dismiss them out of hand with an epithet or a sneer. And still other Christians seem completely beyond the reach of reason because they prefer a simple, self-centered piety to real engagement with the world and life – a Christian worldview.
Trying to live Christianity like that, however, is to be as unreasonable as those who denounce the faith as beyond the pale of rationality.
To both of which groups, therefore, we plead, “C’mon: Be reasonable!”
Christianity – true Christianity, as Schaeffer would say, or mere Christianity a la Lewis – can stand up to the scrutiny of reason. Neither secular rationalism nor the near Christianity of unthinking Christians can discredit or resist the believer armed with the truth and able to discuss it patiently, persistently, positively – and reasonably.
So the more we strive to be such Christians, the more we’ll see the power of reason, not to debunk or disgrace the faith, but to confirm and advance it.
Resources for this topic
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J. Budziszewski, “A Skeptical View of Christianity”
Chuck Edwards, “Is Faith Blind? The Role of Reason in Believing in God”
T. M. Moore, “Near Christianity”
T. M. Moore, “The Reasonableness of Reason”
Benjamin Wilker, “If I Only Had a Brain”
Nicholas Wolterstorff, “Faith & Reason”
- Talk with some of your Christian friends about the role of reason in religion. Do they seem reasonable to you? Are they living mere Christianity, with its powerful use of reason, or near Christianity, with its merely pietistic and personalized approach to faith? How can you encourage them to a greater reliance on reason in their own walk with the Lord?
- How do your pastor and church leaders work to equip the members of your church to use reason in their walk with the Lord? Why not ask them? Share some of the resources from this Talking Points column with your church leaders. Make copies of an article or two and pass them around. Be sure to follow-up with some of the folks, in order to get their reaction and to be available to help them equip your church for more consistent and powerful use of reason in the life of faith.
- Email today’s Talking Points column to several Christian friends. Challenge them to read some of the resources, watch the "Two-Minute Warning," and take on one of the activities.
A conversation starter
Here’s a conversation starter you can try out with some friends: “Do you realize how much your life matters to God? And how much you have to offer for the progress of His Kingdom?” Be prepared to help them see why you believe this. Share some of the resources above, or encourage them to watch this week’s "Two-minute Warning."