Faith seeks understanding

This weekend, Jon Stewart is holding “a rally to restore sanity” on the mall, two months after Glenn Beck’s religion-infused … Continued

This weekend, Jon Stewart is holding “a rally to restore sanity” on the mall, two months after Glenn Beck’s religion-infused “Restoring Honor” rally. Beck said he was called by God to hold the rally. Now atheist groups are planning to use Stewart’s event to promote “reason.”  Are “reason” and “sanity” the opposite of religious belief? Is taking religion out of the political debate the answer for restoring reason? Or do we need more faith?

Some atheists and agnostics are coming to Washington and urging America to be more reasonable. I wouldn’t want to discourage anyone from commending reason to our government leaders, but we are unlucky in our messengers.

For these “new” atheists to preach sweet reason is like listening to Elmer Gantry teach chastity: the idea is sound, the delivery is inspiring, but the messenger undercuts the message. The problem isn’t that he thinks he is right, but his unjustified certainty in his conclusions combined with his hypocritical behavior.

One blessing of the Internet is the ability to read the message boards of some of these self-appointed evangelists of reason. There we find the same insider jargon, hatred, tribalism, irrationality, and in-fighting that mars every human endeavor. There is precious little intellectual charity even with each other. The only thing on which they agree is their hatred of Christianity and surety that they are reason’s remnant: logic’s chosen people.

The problem is not atheism, but delusions of grandeur. Reasonable people don’t think they are the only reasonable people.

Why?

Reason, like a hammer, can be used to build a great many philosophical structures. A man does the best he can with reason and then he sees how it works out. If it seems to work, he can advocate for others to try what he has found, reasonably, but he is always open to being wrong.

Part of the fun of being reasonable is wondering about being wrong!

Of course, the tools of reason can be misused by the ideologue: the man who knows things about which the rest of us wonder. The ideologue always see his opponents as knaves, ill-informed, or crazy . . . or all three. Such a person is so certain of his beliefs that he can never credit his opponents with a good argument.

Not everybody who says in his heart “there is no God” is a fool, but everybody who says in his heart “we have a corner on reason” is a fool: including Christians. All God’s children should be reasonable, including His children who deny they are His children.

Reason is the best process people have found to reach the truth and it has many prospective tools to give it data. These tools might include: personal experience, logic, math, the scientific methods, divine revelation, and skepticism.

The goal is to get enough data to form a best idea, a working hypothesis, about reality. This hypothesis becomes the receptacle for our hopes and in Christian language is called faith. Faith comes at the end of a reasonable search for the truth, but it does not end the search. It is a provisional understanding of our experiences and data.

Faith goes on seeking further understanding.

We want to know, because we are driven by love of the truth.

Christians have had an experience of a Being so intensely good, true, and beautiful that it drives us to know Him. We know we may be fooled and that our experience may be false, but still we must know. Love demands it!

Such faith is open to revision, clarification, and even refutation. In a sense, faith for the Christian is what the hypothesis is to the scientist. Christian doctrines are to the Christian what the laws of the cosmos are to the scientist.

We can proclaim our ideas, even boldly. The problem with the atheists coming to Washington isn’t that they argue for their ideas or think they are right, but their constant and cussed refusal to listen or learn from anyone else.

As a Christian, I think you should be a Christian too. Christianity explains why things are as they are and what can be done about it.  Christianity has been the basis for the development of much that is good in Western civilization.

Most of all it brings me to Jesus and there is nothing more good, true, or beautiful in all my experience than seeing Jesus.

Unless I am wrong.

Love of truth always demands I wonder and wondering leads me to friends who disagree with me. Some have taught me things so profound and precious that my debt to them is incalculable. They have given me great gifts of teaching, knowledge, and virtue. These gifts proves bold advocacy provokes dialog. Dialog enriches our lives if we will admit that part of faith is room for wonder.

Because of our numbers, Christians have the greatest responsibility to live up to our teachings. If Christians pursue a faith seeking understanding, Americans would not have more religion in politics, but we would have more reason in our religious politicians.

John Mark Reynolds
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  • MaryC4

    “Reason is the best process people have found to reach the truth and it has many prospective tools to give it data. These tools might include: personal experience, logic, math, the scientific methods, divine revelation, and skepticism.”Sorry. Divine revelation is a subset of personal experience, not a separate source of data. We must use reason to determine what reported personal experiences might be divine revelations. For example, did Oral Roberts really receive a message from a 900-foot tall Jesus who exhorted him to raise money? Did Joseph Smith really receive the Book of Mormon on plates of gold from an angel named Moroni? Did statues of Ganesh drink milk from spoons on September 21, 1995? Did a risen Jesus meet with his followers for more than month after his death and burial, while remaining completely hidden from those who were not his followers, such as Roman soldiers and Pharisees? Did a person named Moses perform miracles that persuaded Egypt’s Pharoah to release thousands of Hebrew slaves, while contemporary historians and artists of Egypt ignored the episode entirely? I know what conclusions my reasoning powers have reached on those personal experiences.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    I don’t think the rallies in Washington this Saturday are advertised as atheistic rallies, and I don’t think that people will be attending them for atheistic purposes.An atheist is someone who does not believe in God, not someone who does not believe in Glen Beck or John Mark Reynolds.

  • david6

    But, according to the Scripture, a fool is someone who says there is no god. blockquote>

  • joe_allen_doty

    But, according to the Scripture, a fool is someone who says there is no god.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    mono1There is no such thing as JuChristianity.Take your gross and stupid Jew-hatred somewhere else.You are not welcome here.

  • beyondbelief007

    Yes, “the fool says there is no God.” And the ass keeps repeating 2000 year old aphorisms as if they are unequivocal truth and an unquestionable, divinely authored source of morality. It’s a BOOK. Many books are dated and even wrong. Is it “reason” that makes you so certain Jesus is good? and… if you’re seeing him, where’s the evidence beyond your hearsay?BTW, who wrote the intro paragraph, entangling atheism with John Stewart’s rally? Other than the fact that the Washington Coalition of Reason is running some bus shelter ads this weekend, there is no connection between Stewart wanting reason to prevail in our politics, and atheism. But wait! What if there was a connection? So what! Stop demonizing non-believers with pejorative, bigoted casuistry designed to marginalize a minority. Pitiful.

  • ender3

    As usual, JMR paints others with a brush that only reflects his own methods and actions. Its what he does so “they” must be doing it. While this hypocrit may have learned critical thinking and logic from atheist thinkers, he certainly does not make use of either of those in his public discource. He certainly is not above using lies in his babbalings. He knows that by definition, faith, is belief in the unknowable and unprovable otherwise it would be direct knowlege base on hard, repeatable evidence. But as a propagandist for the dying RCC, his job is to make the “faithful” ignore calls for reason and sanity that put humanity above Constantine’s Little Joke and Recipe for Political Power, the new testament.

  • Secular

    We can proclaim our ideas, even boldly. The problem with the atheists coming to Washington isn’t that they argue for their ideas or think they are right, but their constant and cussed refusal to listen or learn from anyone else.Yes Mr. Reynolds, do you and your ilk listen to the Hindu scripture, or the scripture of the Osiris, or Zeus and all the other religions that preceded Christianity. How about the rival christian theologies? Shame on you, stop masquerading your bigotry as some kind of tolerance and lecturing us about tolerance. Atheists new or old are the most tolerant. What the so called new of us are doing is not that we are less tolerant but are mustering enough gumption to challenge you theistic bigots of your ilk to put up or shut up. That is what is galling you.