Come Let Us Reason: Learning to Love the Lord with All Our Minds
To tell the truth, I can’t remember much about Pastor Wells’ sermons. But I do remember, with ever-increasing appreciation, how he liked to introduce them. “Take a minute,” he would say, “and think with me about this.” And so we did.
The pastor was in good company. Had not God, in ancient times, pleaded with the Israelites, “Come now, let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:8)? Had not Christ commanded His followers to love God with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength? And was it not Paul’s greatest joy to reason with the Jews in their synagogues, and with the Greeks in their marketplaces and outdoor schools?
God, it would appear, is quite pleased when men take time to reason with Him and about Him. Pastor Wells understood: Thinking about God’s truth is an act of worship.
But much to our loss, reason, in the modern world, has fallen on hard times. No doubt this is traceable to many sources, but surely the most significant is the rejection of the biblical worldview, first seen in Europe, and now in America. When the philosophers of the Enlightenment sought to cast off the Scriptures as their authoritative guide to truth, they thought they were emancipating reason to achieve true progress. However, history has belied their optimism. Indeed, the horrors of the French Revolution, Communism, and National Socialism abundantly demonstrate that they had only emancipated themselves from civilization, and progressed backwards into barbarism. The tree of Rationalism is well known by its fruit.
Yet America now heads down the same road. The Christian consensus that once bound us together has all but unraveled. A cold, rationalist impulse dominates the study of the “sciences,” even as mystical religions, philosophies, and psychologies compete to fill the void in the modern soul. Multitudes, like Pilate of old, cynically ask, “What is truth?”
This situation affects Christians, too.
On the one hand, the atmosphere of relativism and pluralism tends to undermine our confidence in reason. Some among us have even concluded that the Scriptures actually belittle or condemn reason (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:20-21), and that we should emphasize spiritual experience and emotion over mere “dogmas.”
On the other hand, we are often bewitched and intimidated by the confident rationalism of “scientists” and “experts”. This leads many among us to conclude that the Scriptures narrowly address the “spiritual” concerns of men and women, but that in all other realms of human inquiry–science, psychology, ethics, economics, politics, art, etc.–we should follow the lead of the world.
All of this raises a most important question: What–in such a time as ours–is the role of reason in the Christian life?
Please take a minute and think with me about three important truths.
First, God has given all of us–kids included–a heart full of questions. Some of the most interesting and urgent are: What is the ultimate reality? Where did the universe, life, and man come from? Why are we here? Why is there so much evil and suffering in the world? What–if anything–can be done about them? Where are we going: What happens when we die, and where is history heading? By what principles can we live an orderly and productive life? And how can we know–with certainty–the answers to these ultimate questions?
It was G.K. Chesterton who said that our mind is like our teeth: It was meant to bite down on something hard. These hard questions, I believe, are just what God had in view. Or, to change the metaphor, these questions are like holes in a heart-shaped wooden puzzle, begging to be filled with solid answers. They are the God-given framework for the one true worldview that we all need and ought to seek.
Secondly, God has graciously given us a book full of revelations. All who know it well understand that the Bible does indeed supply us with answers to all of the great questions of life: reasonable answers, hopeful answers, satisfying answers, answers that perfectly fit the worldivew framework that God has created in our heart. Next to His only Son, it is His greatest gift to man.
And finally, God has given us reason–along with her handmaidens: imagination and curiosity. Why? So that in the exercise of these faculties, trained on the revelations of Scripture, and in full submission to the Holy Spirit, we might “. . . search out all things, yes, even the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10). In short, God gives us reason so that we might behold, with ever-increasing depth and clarity, the one true worldview, and therein worship Him through the love of the truth.
Does reason have a place in the Christian life? I would reply, “Does a Christian even have a life if he has no place for reason?” The rational pursuit of a biblical worldview–and it’s proclamation–is our life, or rather an indispensable doorway into it.
I am aware of the problems. Reason is indeed both fallen and fallible. Therefore we must operate cautiously and humbly within the confines of the Scripture, testing and discerning all things. We must listen to the Holy Spirit, and also to trustworthy teachers, past and present, who are Christ’s gift to his people and to the world.
But for all our fallibility, we simply cannot give up on reason, or on doctrine, or on the quest for the one true worldview, or on the great spiritual and intellectual contest with competing worldviews: the religious, philosophical, and scientific ideologies of our own day and age.
The Church, says the apostle, is “the pillar and the support of the truth” in the world. Brothers and sisters, do we understand what that means? It means that in an hour when our nation is deeply wounded and staggering towards destruction, there is, humanly speaking, no hope but the people of God. We, and we alone, hold within our bosom the life-giving truths that can renew not just men and women, but families, businesses, courts, legislatures, universities, media, the arts . . . yes, nations themselves.
In the face of so great a calling, what a tragedy it would be if Christ’s Church turned her back on the world and if she retreated from the public realm into the private; from the objective into the subjective; from the theological into the psychological. The bloody battlefield of the world is where our Lord lived and died. If we call ourselves his followers, we will follow him into it.
So come, let us reason together: with God, with His Word, with each other, and with the world.
For then, like our Lord, we too shall rise victorious once again.