Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Reasonable Faith

Doug, at Metacatholic writes on a reasonable faith. I largely agree with his fourfold statement - read and ponder. I do not dare summarize such a carefully worded paragraph.

His thoughts resonate with my thinking over the turnings of my life these past 60+ years. Let me assure anyone who reads that I too do not wish to abandon the field of reason. In the NT reason is logos (1 Peter 3:15) and reasonable, logikos (Romans 12:1) so it would seem folly indeed to abandon the field of reason.

Paul has the most comprehensive argument in Romans: 55 questions in 10 sections. One might imagine for a moment that this is Paul responding to Peter's request for the reason for the hope that is in him. Paul's struggle is not a cool argumentation through which he proves his 'position' as if it would have been reasonable to know this proof without the assumed relationship to his Judaism and the risen Christ.

Paul does not prove that God is and that God is good. He argues reasonably and with anguish that God is good because of his relationship already established as a Jew and subsequently further understood through the risen Christ. No human reasoning operates without pre-suppositions. Paul's 'axioms' are stated in his opening, and only then does his personal response begin. Even when he describes his response for those who hold the truth in unrighteousness - he places them under wrath because God has already shown them the truth. In both cases, the confrontation is first, reasoning second.

Doug writes: we can affirm, in God, that the universe is indeed a rational one, and that an attitude of trust in that God is an act of reasonable faith. [my italics]

I agree. We see the reason after the apprehension of grace. So if someone says to me: I don't believe your God, or in God, I have no need for God, or I left the Church since there was no reason to stay, then there is no reason by which I can prove to that person that God is true. In fact, I expect I am sometimes a stumbing block to others - and it informs my perpetual prayer much as enemies inform the Psalmists' prayers.

I don't write, in fact, for the unbeliever. I write for the believer who in words appears to cut me off from the living God - to put me with their favorite sons of Korah and have the earth swallow me up. I write to undermine uncritiqued assumptions and too quickly formed conclusions. For God is good - much better than reasoned by many. And much better than supposed by some of the reasons put forward for correcting my 'beliefs' by those who are for example against the teaching of women, or historical-critical study, or love between persons who are oriented differently.

The problem with reason is that we can use it to shore up our positions and by doing so, dismiss the humanity and salvation of others.

But I, like Paul, have a serious problem. I believe in the efficacy of the death of Christ for all flesh, and that creates a barrier or potential barrier between me and others if only because of historical contingency and the errors of Christendom. Also like Paul, I believe in the first covenant and the efficacy of its primal word1. If my Lord is servant to the circumcision (Romans 15:8) - what must be my reasonable response?

There was a time, to return to Peter (and Hosea), when I knew the out side of mercy. I know the difference between knowing mercy and not. I know that to be matured in this secure position is not without rebuke. I note that one word for reason in TNK appears to be translated mostly as rebuke! Lord do not rebuke me in your wrath. ... Come, let us reason together ... (Psalm 6, Isaiah 1.) Such a rebuke is love. (Skip Eccl 7:25) Perhaps later I will know enough Hebrew to read a word study on 'reason' in TNK. Perhaps someone can point me to one.

So my thesis is that reason is a response to God. We are found here living, and we find that God also has allowed himself to be found. Responding is what relationship is about - and it is very good. (I suppose anything else is not reasonable.)

(1) See for example Hebrews 2:1-3 and the eccentric juxtaposition of word and salvation. It is in an image here. I also did a structural diagram of Romans - long jpg. Not in Greek.

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