Do Faith & Reason Mix?

You just saw me use Lego Indiana Jones to begin a discussion about faith and reason. Here’s what came next. See how I help students discover that Christians don’t need to check their brains at the door in order to have faith. I take 5 minutes to teach a simple concept: biblical faith requires reason. But that’s not all. Biblical faith requires that we live like our beliefs are actually true. Take a look (video clip): 

:: Regeneration Youth Conference at Biola University ::

[Transcript] Before we jump into our first set of questions, I want us to take a look at the definition of a key term. The question is, “Do I have to ditch my reason in order to have faith?” Or “Do I have to do the opposite of that?” “Do I have to let go of faith—Just chuck the faith so I can be reasonable, so I can keep my intellect, my better-judgement?”

What’s the definition of reason? Well, if you have any iPhone or something, you can type in dictionary.com or I’ll just read it to you:

1. The mental powers concerned with forming conclusions, judgements or inferences

2. Sound judgement or good sense

3. Normal or sound powers of mind or sanity

If I asked you to “believe”, and I commanded you to believe right now, could you do it? Is it the same as if I asked you to build a house or paint a fence? No, because you would ask me, “What are you talking about?”

[Student] What.

[Mikel] Believe in what, right? Here’s my point. You can’t just “believe.” We don’t just believe; We believe in something, right? And so, in order to believe, you have to understand—at least on some level—the thing that you’re believing in. So reason needs to be there. Because you have use your mind. You have to think to even grasp what that thing is. So in that sense, reason is prior to faith. You can’t even have faith—you can’t even believe anything until you use your mind, your intellect, what God has given us. So it turns out that faith itself requires reason.

But you’ve got to have more than that. You’ve got to have more than just your reasoning intact in order to have faith. Because faith—biblical faith—means living like what you believe is actually true. Do our choices always follow from our beliefs?

How many of you believe that if you stopped drinking soda today, and you never drank soda again, that you’d be more healthy? How many of you actually want to be more healthy? Yeah? Assuming you want to be more healthy, assuming you really believe cutting out soda will make you healthier, how many of you are really gonna never touch a soda again? Probably not, right? So what’s the missing piece? Where’s the disconnect?

[Student] Following it? Dedication?

[Mikel] Yes. We have to act on it. We have to act like what we believe is actually true, right? It’s not just intellectual assent. This requires an act of the will. You have to decide to and then you have to do it.

It’s just like dating somebody. You love this person. You want to commit to them. You say you want to get married. But until you say “I do” and seal the deal, you haven’t done it yet. You can believe, “Here’s ten good reasons why this person’s gonna be a great spouse for me.” But until you act on it, do you really believe it that much, that you really want to get married to this person? Faith means living like your belief is actually true.

If you really believe it, you will act like it. On your handout, there’s a picture of a guy who’s a tightrope walker. He’s a French guy. His name is Charles Blondin. In the 1800s, he was the famous French acrobat who crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope—first guy to ever do that. And he kept adding all these different props to his entertainment program. He’d do it blindfolded. He’d do it with a wheelbarrow. He’d do it with his manager, Harry, on his back. The story goes that he asked, “How many people believe that I can do the wheelbarrow thing again, but with a person inside?” And the crowd went crazy. They’re just like “Yeah! You’re awesome! You’re the best acrobat in the whole world! You can do this!” He’s like, “Alright. OK, who wants to get in?” So he asked for a volunteer and the story goes that nobody ever did.

That’s an awesome illustration about what faith really is. It’s not just belief. It’s not just intellectual assent. “You really think I can do it? Come on in. Let’s go.” Right? So that’s biblical faith. It’s not just belief. It’s not just intellectual assent. It’s acting like your belief is actually true.

Read Good Ideas from Questionable Christians and Outright Pagans by Steve Wilkens.

Tags:

2 Responses to “Do Faith & Reason Mix?”

  1. Louis July 21, 2010 8:07 PM
    #

    Mike,

    Let’s have a dialogue. I would really like to get your input on my post:

    http://enchantednaturalist.com/2010/07/19/the-probability-or-improbability-of-christianity/

  2. Mikel July 25, 2010 9:38 PM
    #

    Hey, Louis. Interesting article. Not sure Loftus’ list accurately represents central Christian beliefs. To me, it seems less likely that time, space, and all matter just popped into existience, uncaused, out of nothing. Of course, I believe an agent caused the universe. But people have got to study the evidence and make that call for themselves. Beyond Intelligent Design theory, have you looked into near-death experiences which contain objective, verifiable claims? Here’s the kind of thing I’m talking about: Near-Death Experiences and the Afterlife (Gary Habermas).