The end of reason?

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18 ESV)

And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2 ESV)

For the Christian, using our mind for the Lord and reasoning both in understanding and explaining our faith are important. The problem is that we live in a society, in the UK at least, that is averse to reason.

It's a media problem. How often have you watched a media report or read a newspaper article and thought: "that's not what he or she said?" The recent case with Melvin Tinker would seem to be a case in point. But we also see it in the way the media manipulate storylines and catchphrases to push an ideology without providing any reasonable foundation.

It's a social media problem. Sometimes it's almost comic. Someone pointed out a comment on the petition to have Tinker removed (there's all sorts of problems with that petition that indicate those involved don't know too much about the Church of England by the way). The comment from David Watson reads: "It's time for the church to stand AGAINST intolerance." Can he not see the problem there (interesting David Cameron seems to have the same issue)? But if you've ever tried to carry out a serious discussion on Facebook or in the comments of a blog or some such thing, you constantly face the same thing.

It's an education problem. I reach 40 this week, which makes you pause! One thing I realised is that my generation will be increasingly taking the lead in culture, politics, the church and so on. In this context it concerns me that I wasn't really taught to think, use logic, weigh arguments, understand statistics and probability etc. until near the end of my degree at a good university. I don't know how good I am at it, but I increasingly see the value of it. The reality is that many will never have been taught to reason and we don't live in a culture that encourages careful rigorous argument and reasoning.

I'm sure there are lots of other aspects to it as well and of course behind all this has been a progression in philosophy and worldview away from reason, as philosophy moved away from God (it is fundamentally a sin problem!). But a lack of reason is bad news for our society, because we will keep making unreasoned and unreasonable decisions and judgements.

The response of Christians is important I think. Perhaps we have tended to go with the culture in this too much. For example, when we face the ire of those around us for what we believe, instead of explaining our position clearly and with our reasons, we tend to think we need to avoid the issue, not speak about it in public, or at least work on better PR. In our churches our teaching and preaching is much less the "logic on fire" of someone like Lloyd-Jones than "story on fire" or "emotion on fire," (or perhaps not really on fire at all!) because that's what "speaks to people today." Now there's all sorts of discussion in that sort of comment, but I just want to draw attention to the fact that if we don't build the reasoning into our teaching and preaching, then we won't be able to explain the reasons for our hope, or reason from the Scriptures with people.

Christians believe in the rationality of the  world, created by a rational and ordering God. We believe our minds, though fallen, have that imprint of rationality and that careful use of our minds and our reasoning faculties is important. It is important as we engage with God and as we engage with the world. That means that we will reject and resist the cultural framework of unreason (as Francis Schaeffer would call it). We need the courage to expose the paucity of much that passes for opinion and comment today and we need the willingness to work harder to explain the why behind what we say and believe.

It's not that Christians should make reason primary - that is the liberal mistake and the trajectory of that decision is, ironically, the move away from reason as shown in the history of philosophy and I think increasingly in the history of the church. Reason must take it's proper place under God and his revelation and our reasoning abilities must be recognised as fallen and imperfect in that light. But this doesn't remove the need to love the Lord our God with all our mind, that by his grace can be renewed (Romans 12:2).

So I want to delight in the God who calls me to reason with him and who by the apostle Paul encourages me to reason with others. I want to try harder, by God's grace, to do that better.

Now there are almost certainly some problem with the reasoning in this blog, but I'm trying to get better;-)


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