Faith and/or Reason
Eric Metaxas, ed. (Dutton Adult: Oct 13, 2011), 382 pages.
Following the extraordinary success of the New York Times bestseller Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas's latest book offers inspirational and intellectually rigorous thought about the great questions surrounding us all today. The Greek philosopher Socrates famously said that "the unexamined life is not worth living." Taking this as a starting point, Eric Metaxas founded a speaking series that encouraged busy and successful professionals to attend forums and think actively about the bigger questions in life. Thus Socrates in the City: Conversations on "Life, God, and Other Small Topics" was born. This book is for the seeker in all of us, the collector of wisdom, and the person who asks "What if?" Within this collection of original essays that were first given to standing-room-only crowds in New York City are serious thinkers taking on Life, God, Evil, Redemption, and other small topics. Luminaries such as Dr. Francis Collins, Sir John Polkinghorne, Charles Colson, N.T. Wright, Os Guinness, Peter Kreeft, and Jean Bethke Elshatin have written about extraordinary topics vital to both secular and Christian thinking, such as "Making Sense Out of Suffering," "How Good Confronts Evil," and "Belief in God in an Age of Science." No question is too big — in fact, the bigger, the harder, the more complex, the better. These essays are both thought-provoking and entertaining, because nowhere is it written that finding answers to life's biggest questions shouldn't be exciting and even, perhaps, fun. ~ Book Description
David A. Horner (IVP Academic: Aug 5, 2011), 272 pages.
The university world can be a confusing place, filled with many competing worldviews and perspectives. Beliefs and values are challenged at every turn. But Christians need not slip into the morass of easy relativism. David Horner restores sanity to the collegiate experience with this guide to thinking and flourishing as a Christian. Carefully exploring how ideas work, he gives you essential tools for thinking contextually, thinking logically and thinking worldviewishly. Here Horner meets you where faith and reason intersect and explores how to handle doubts, with an eye toward not just thinking clearly but also living faithfully. This is the book every college freshman needs to read. Don't leave home without it. ~ Book Description
Mark A. Noll (Eerdmans: July 2011), 196 pages.
In The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (1994) Mark Noll offered a bleak, even scathing, assessment of the state of evangelical thinking and scholarship. Now, nearly twenty years later, in a sequel that is more hopeful than despairing — more attuned to possibilities than to problems — Noll updates his assessment and charts a positive way forward for evangelical scholarship. Noll shows how the orthodox Christology confessed in the classic Christian creeds provides an ideal vantage point for viewing the vast domains of human learning and can enhance intellectual engagement in a variety of specific disciplines. In a substantial postscript he candidly addresses the question: How fares the “evangelical mind” today? ~ Product Description
"Letter to Peter Carr", Jefferson's nephew (1787).
Shake off all fears and servile prejudices under which weak minds are severely crouched. Fix Reason firmly in her seat and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason rather than of blindfolded fear. You will naturally examine first, the religion of your own country. Read the Bible then as you would Livy or Tacitus. For example in the Book of Joshua we are told that the sun stood still for several hours. Were we to read that fact in Livy or Tacitus, we should class it with their showers of blood, speaking of statues, beasts, etc. But it is said that the writer of that book was inspired. Examine therefore, candidly, what evidence there is of his having been inspired. The pretension is entitled to your inquiry because millions believe it. On the other hand you are astronomer enough to know how contrary it is to the law of nature. ... Do not be frightened from this inquiry by any fear of its consequences. If it ends in a belief that there is no God, you will find incitements to virtue in the comfort and pleasantness you will feel in its exercise, and the love of others which it will procure for you. If you find reason to believe there is a God, a consciousness that you are acting under his eye, and that he approves you will be a vast additional incitement: if that Jesus was also a God, you will be comforted by a belief of his aid and love. Your own reason is the only oracle given you by heaven; and you are answerable, not for the rightness but for the uprightness of the decision.
Parochial Sermons, Vol. One (D. Appleton: 1843), pp. 332-3.
We are in a world of mystery, with one bright Light before us, sufficient for our proceeding forward through all difficulties. Take away this Light, and we are utterly wretched, — we know not where we are, how we are sustained, what will become of us, and all that is dear to us, what we are to believe, and why we are in being. But with it we have all, and abound. Not to mention the duty and wisdom of implicit faith in the love of Him who made and redeemed us, what is nobler, what is more elevating and transporting, than the generosity of heart which risks every thing on God's word, dares the powers of evil to their worst efforts, and repels the illusions of sense and the artifices of reason, by confidence in the truth of Him who has ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high. What infinite mercy it is in Him, that He allows sinners such as we are, the privilege of acting the part of heroes rather than of penitents! Who are we "that we should be able" and have opportunity "to offer so willingly after this sort?" — "Blessed," surely thrice blessed, "are they who have not seen and yet have believed!" We will not wish for sight; we will enjoy our privilege; we will triumph in the leave given us to go forward, "not knowing whither we go," knowing that "this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." It is enough that our Redeemer liveth; that He has been on earth and will come again. On Him we venture our all; we can bear thankfully to put ourselves into His hands, our interests present and eternal, and the interests of all we love. Christ has died, " yea, rather is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from His love? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us "
Alister McGrath (InterVarsity Press: September 2010), 210 pages.
Alister McGrath, one of the most prominent theologians and public intellectuals of our day, explains how Christian thinking can and must have a positive role in shaping, nourishing and safeguarding the Christian vision of reality. With this in our grasp, we have the capacity for robust intellectual and cultural engagement, confidently entering the public sphere of ideas where atheism, postmodernism and science come into play. This book explores how the great tradition of Christian theological reflection enriches faith. It deepens our appreciation of the gospel's ability to engage with the complexities of the natural world on the one hand and human experience on the other. (2011 Christianity Today Book Award winner.) ~ Product Description
John Milton, from the "Areopagitica", in The Best of the World's Classics (Funk and Wagnalls Co.: 1909), pp. 141-3.
I cast not praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity much rather; that which purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is contrary. That virtue therefore which is but a youngling in the contemplation of evil, and knows not the utmost that vice promises to her followers, and rejects it, is but a blank virtue, not a pure; her whiteness is but an excremental whiteness. Which was the reason why our sage and serious poet Spenser, whom I dare be known to think a better teacher than Scotus or Aquinas, describing true temperance under the person of Guion, brings him in with his palmer through the cave of Mammon, and the bower of earthly bliss, that he might see and know, and yet abstain. Since therefore the knowledge and survey of vice is in this world so necessary to the constituting of human virtue, and the scanning of error to the confirmation of truth, how can we more safely, and with less danger, scout into the regions of sin and falsity than by reading all manner of tractates and hearing all manner of reason? And this is the benefit which may be had of books promiscuously read.
"Evidence of a Morally Perfect God" in God is Good, God is Great, William Lane Craig and Chad Meister, eds. (IVP Books: 2009), pp. 49-50.
Many sane, educated and generally trustworthy people claim not only that God exists but also that they have genuine knowledge, including justified true belief, that God exists. Because claims are typically cheap and easy, however, the claim to know that God exists will prompt the following response, usually sooner rather than later: How do they know? ¶ This common four-word question, although irksome at times, is perfectly intelligible and even valuable, as far as it goes. It seeks an explanation of how the belief that God exists exceeds mere belief, or opinion, and achieves the status of genuine knowledge. In particular, this question typically seeks an explanation of how, if at all, the belief that God exists is grounded, justified, reasonable, or evidence-based regarding affirmations of truth. ¶ A plausible goal behind our four-word question is, at least for many inquirers, to acquire truth in a manner that includes an adequate indication of true belief. These truth-seeking inquirers aim not only to avoid false belief and lucky guesswork, but also to minimize the risk of error in their beliefs (at least in a way befitting to the acquisition of truth). We should aim for the same, as people who seek truth but who are faced sometimes with facts and other realities at odds with our opinions. In seeking truth about God's existence, in particular, we thus should seek truth based on evidence for God's reality. Such evidence, if available, would indicate that it is true that God exists, or (in other words) that God is real rather than fictional.
The Literal Meaning of Genesis 1.19.39, trans. John Hammond Taylor, Ancient Christian Writers: The Works of the Fathers in Translation, ed. Johannes Quasten et al., vols. 41-42 (Newman Press: 1982), 41:42-43.
Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds as certain from reason and experience. Now it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn.
The True Intellectual System of the Universe, Vol II (Gould & Newman, 1838), pp. 554-7.
Christ came not into the world to fill our heads with mere speculations, to kindle a fire of wrangling and contentious dispute amongst us, and to warm our spirits against one another with nothing but angry and peevish debates; whilst in the mean time our hearts remain all ice within towards God, and have not the least spark of true heavenly fire to melt and thaw them. Christ came not to possess our brains only with some cold opinions, that send down nothing but a freezing and benumbing influence upon our hearts. Christ was vitae magister, not scholae: and he is the best Christian, whose heart beats with the purest pulse towards heaven; not he, whose head spinneth out the finest cobwebs. ¶ He that endeavors really to mortify his lusts, and to comply with that truth in his life, which his conscience is convinced of, is nearer a Christian, though he never heard of Christ, than he, that believes all the vulgar articles of the Christian faith, and plainly denieth Christ in his life.
The True Intellectual System of the Universe (Gould & Newman, 1838), pp. 550-1.
Ink and paper can never make us Christians, can never beget a new nature, a living principle in us; can never form Christ, or any true notions of spiritual things, in our hearts. The gospel, that new law, which Christ delivered to the world, it is not merely a dead letter without us, but a quickening spirit within us. Cold theorems and maxims, dry and jejune disputes, lean syllogistical reasonings, could never yet of themselves beget the least glimpse of true heavenly light, the least sap of saving knowledge in any heart. All this is but the groping of the poor dark spirit of man after truth, to find it out with his own endeavors, and feel it with his own cold and benumbed hands. Words and syllables, which are but dead things, cannot possibly convey the living notions of heavenly truths to us. The secret mysteries of a divine life, of a new nature, of Christ formed in our hearts, they cannot be written or spoken, language and expressions cannot reach them; neither can they be ever truly understood, except the soul itself be kindled from within, and awakened into the life of them. A painter that would draw a rose, though he may flourish some likeness of it in figure and colour, yet he can never paint the scent and fragrancy; or if he would draw a flame, he cannot put a constant heat into his colours; he cannot make his pencil drop a sound, as the echo in the epigram mocks at him. All the skill of cunning artisans and mechanicks cannot put a principle of life into a statue of their own making. Neither are we able to enclose in words and letters the life, soul, and essence of any spiritual truths, and, as it were, to incorporate it in them.
Alexander Leitch, "Summary of the Argument" in Ethics of Theism (Harvard: 1868), pp. 15-46.
It has been said by a great mind, that confusion is worse than error.1 Erroneous statements and opinions, in their naked deformity, are generally too hideous to win the regard and confidence of men even in their present depraved condition; while the manifestation of what is true, in its simple grandeur and pure light, is often too bright and fair to be agreeable to the eye and the heart of man. The great work which a lover of truth finds to do, is to separate the conglomerate mass of knowledge, or what men call knowledge, into its two component parts, the true and the false. What is false owes all its plausibility and power to its being associated and mingled with what is true. What is true, is rendered dim and uncertain and weak by being blended and confounded with the erroneous. The human mind is like a thrashing-floor. The honest inquirer will be constantly using the fan, to separate the chaff from the wheat.
Miracles: A Preliminary Study (MacMillan: 1978), pp. 19, 22-3.
Once, then, our thoughts were not rational. That is, all our thoughts once were, as many of our thoughts still are, merely subjective events, not apprehensions of objective truth. Those which had a cause external to ourselves at all were (like our pains) responses to stimuli. Now natural selection could operate only by eliminating responses that were biologically hurtful and multiplying those which tended to survival. But it is not conceivable that any improvement of responses could ever turn them into acts of insight, or even remotely tend to do so. The relation between response and stimulus is utterly different from that between knowledge and the truth known. Our physical vision is a far more useful response to light than that of the cruder organisms which have only a photo-sensitive spot. But neither this improvement nor any possible improvements we can suppose could bring it an inch nearer to being a knowledge of light. It is admittedly something without which we could not have had that knowledge. But the knowledge is achieved by experiments and inferences from them, not by refinement of the response. It is not men with specially good eyes who know about light, but men who have studied the relevant sciences. In the same way our psychological responses to our environment — our curiosities, aversions, delights, expectations — could be indefinitely improved (from the biological point of view) without becoming anything more than responses. Such perfection of the non-rational responses, far from amounting to their conversion into valid inferences, might be conceived as a different method of achieving survival — an alternative to reason. A conditioning which secured that we never felt delight except in the useful nor aversion save from the dangerous, and that the degrees of both were exquisitely proportional to the degree of real utility or danger in the object, might serve us as well as reason or in some circumstances better.
David M. Holley (Wiley-Blackwell: Jan 19, 2010), 256 pages.
Philosophers typically assume that the appropriate way to reflect on God’s existence is to consider whether God is needed as a hypothesis to explain generally accepted facts. In contrast, David Holley proposes that the question of belief should be raised within the practical context of deciding on a life-orienting story, a narrative that enables us to interpret the significance of our experiences and functions as a guide to how to live. Using insights from sociology and cognitive psychology to illuminate the nature of religious beliefs, Holley shows how removing religious questions from their larger practical context distorts our thinking about them. Meaning and Mystery makes abundant use of illustrative material, including examples drawn from television shows such as Joan of Arcadia, from films such as Stranger Than Fiction, as well as from literature such as Les Misérables, Life of Pi, Flatland, and Leo Tolstoy’s A Confession. Challenging the way philosophy has traditionally approached the question of God's existence, this book will be of interest to anyone who wants to think seriously about belief in God. ~ Product Description
Christianity and Liberalism (Wm. B. Eerdmans: 1923), pp. 141-3.
Faith is being exalted so high today that men are being satisfied with any kind of faith, just so it is faith. It makes no difference what is believed, we are told, just so the blessed attitude of faith is there. The unidiomatic faith, it is said, is better than the dogmatic, because it is purer faith — faith less weakened by the alloy of knowledge. ¶ Now it is perfectly clear that such employment of faith merely as a beneficent state of the soul is bringing some results. Faith in the most absurd things sometimes produces the most beneficent and far-reaching results. But the disturbing thing is that all faith has an object. The scientific observer may not think that it is the object that does the work; from his vantage point he may see clearly that it is really the faith, considered simply as a psychological phenomenon, that is the important thing, and that any other object would have answered as well. But the one who does the believing is always convinced just exactly that it is not the faith, but the object of the faith, which is helping him. The moment he becomes convinced that it is merely the faith that is helping him, the faith disappears; for faith always involves a conviction of the objective truth or trustworthiness of the object. If the object is not really trustworthy then the faith is a false faith.
"The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind Sixteen Years Later" at Parchment and Pen (January 5, 2010).
What are “people crying out for”? I don’t think it is too difficult to answer. Lewis Sperry Chafer, founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, used to end each class with this admonition: “Men, give them something to believe.” That is what people are crying out for: Something to believe. Truth. Not only this, but an understanding of the truth that they have ownership in. It is a stimulation of their minds, so that their hearts can be satisfied. It is teaching. Real teaching. Biblical teaching. Theologically and historically sound teaching. Teaching that relieves the scandal of their own minds which, in most cases I am afraid to say, have never really had a chance to believe. Like really believe. Not simply because of emotional persuasion. Not simply because they have a deep down feeling. Not because their parents or pastor believe this or that. But because they have seen for themselves, and now they know.
Os Guinness on Bad Faith said...
Time for Truth: Living Free in a World of Lies, Hype & Spin (Baker Books: 2002), pp. 76-7.
Without truth we cannot answer the fundamental objection that faith in God is simply a form of "bad faith" or "poor faith." The wilder accusation of "bad faith" ... is one of the deepest and most damaging charges against these faiths in the last two centuries. Jews and Christians believe, critics say, not because of good reasons but because they are afraid not to believe. Without faith, they would be naked to the alternatives, such as the terror of meaninglessness or the nameless dread of unspecified guilt. Faith is therefore a handy shield to ward off the fear, a comforting tune to whistle in the darkness; it is, however, fundamentally untrue, irrational, and illegitimate — and therefore "inauthentic" and "bad faith."
"The WSJ on the Emerging Evangelical Intellect" at MereOrthodoxy.com (Dec 18, 2009).
Fitzgerald’s framing of the developments obscures the fact that a generation of evangelical Christians paved the way for younger evangelicals like us to value the life of the mind. Noll’s book was published in 1994, well after the renaissance in philosophy was underway (which was based on the work of Alvin Plantinga and others). While this renaissance has yet to be replicated in every discipline, as someone close to the world of evangelical higher education, it is clear to me that we younger evangelicals are the heirs, and not the founders, of a renewed tradition of evangelical intellectualism.
"An Ideal of Service to Our Fellow Man" in This I Believe (1950).
The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious — the knowledge of the existence of something unfathomable to us, the manifestation of the most profound reason coupled with the most brilliant beauty. I cannot imagine a god who rewards and punishes the objects of his creation, or who has a will of the kind we experience in ourselves. I am satisfied with the mystery of life's eternity and with the awareness of — and glimpse into — the marvelous construction of the existing world together with the steadfast determination to comprehend a portion, be it ever so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature. This is the basis of cosmic religiosity, and it appears to me that the most important function of art and science is to awaken this feeling among the receptive and keep it alive.
David Fergusson (Oxford University Press: November 2009), 176 pages.
Heralded as the exponents of a "new atheism," critics of religion are highly visible in today's media, and include the household names of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris. David Fergusson explains their work in its historical perspective, drawing comparisons with earlier forms of atheism. Responding to the critics through conversations on the credibility of religious belief, Darwinism, morality, fundamentalism, and our approach to reading sacred texts, he establishes a compelling case for the practical and theoretical validity of faith in the contemporary world. An invitation to engage in a rich dialogue, Faith and Its Critics supports an informed and constructive exchange of ideas rather than a contest between two sides of the debate. Fergusson encourages faith communities to undertake patient engagement with their critics, to acknowledge the place for change and development in their self-understanding whilst resisting the reductive explanations of the new atheism. ~ Product Description