While I was writing earlier today, I got a comment on the post I made yesterday on the Flood of Noah. The comment was from a man who evidently believes that the Flood of Noah was a global catastrophe and, presumably, that the earth is only thousands of years old. Honestly, it is difficult for me to have any sympathy with such a view.
When I came to Christ, you understand, I was an atheist getting my PhD in Chemical Engineering at UCLA. The old earth writings of Dr. Hugh Ross were an absolutely essential precursor to my conversion to Christianity. I remember thinking at the time, “I am certainly a sinner who needs a savior, but I am not going to believe in anything that doesn’t make any sense.” My determination was that I wasn’t going to allow my depressed and lonely state to cause me to join some sort of a cult. If what Dr. Ross had said had not made any sense to me, I would have rejected it regardless of my own personal need.
This attitude might seem to be a contradiction with what I have said in my “About” essay where I mention that after years as a Christian I made a choice to believe in Jesus Christ regardless of any contrary evidence. How can I simultaneously say that I am not going to believe in Jesus Christ unless Christianity makes sense but at the same time say that I am going to believe despite any contrary evidence? The truth is that these attitudes were not at all simultaneous, though I would defend them as logically consistent in the following way.
The central fact of my life is that I need a savior, that I need God. I need God to have life, I need God to have health, I need God to be the person that I want to be. When I first read the New Testament, I wanted to be like the man Jesus Christ and the beliefs presented in the New Testament made a great deal of sense to me. Of these basic facts I am absolutely certain. If lesser evidence indicates that there are difficulties with Christianity, then I choose to follow the facts of which I am most certain. I am a Christian not because I am ignoring contrary facts but because I am weighing the facts of which I am most certain more heavily.
This position would seem to be very similar to the position taken by my correspondent who is determined to believe in the Word of God despite any contrary evidence. From my perspective, however, these positions are very different. He seems to believe in Jesus Christ because he was brought up to believe in the Bible and because the Bible tells him that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I believe in the Bible because I examined the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and they made a great deal of sense to me. Had they not appealed to my reason, I would not now call myself a Christian.
As part of his post, this correspondent cited some Bible verses intended to demonstrate that human beings should not trust our reason. I found this tremendously amusing because an atheist correspondent recently argued that I should not trust my reason also. The Christian was arguing, “You cannot trust your reason, you must trust in the Word of God.” The atheist was arguing, “You cannot trust your reason, you can only trust in that which has been empirically verified.” These men are arguing the same thing with the only difference being that they differ in what is assumed to be trustworthy in place of reason. It seems to me that they are both rationalizing what they want to believe despite the fact they know that reason is not on their side.
The problem with disregarding our reason is, how do we know or understand anything without it? How do I live my life in accordance with the Bible if I cannot use my reason to tell me what the Bible means? How do you avoid false teachers if you cannot use your reason to test what they are saying? How can you know that anything is true if you cannot trust reason? So let us consider the verses that he quoted as indicating we are not to trust our reason:
There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. (Psalm 14:12)
Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe. (Proverbs 28:26)
LORD, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps. (Jeremiah 10:23)
When I read these verses, I think of the problem I had as a hardcore pornography addict when I first came to Christ. For the first few years of my Christian walk, I argued vehemently with God. “God I just don’t see why pornography is wrong! Sex is a beautiful thing and the images of two beautiful people having sex are amazingly attractive. What is wrong with that?” Despite the fact that I didn’t like the idea that God wanted me to give up pornography, I did my best to wrestle against this sin. After many years of this struggle, I finally came to agree that pornography and lust are degrading and this greatly aided my struggle against it.
The reason I think of my pornography addiction when I look at the above verses in the context of whether or not we can trust our reason is that my reason was not the issue. Though I argued with God against the idea that pornography was wrong, from my current perspective I can tell you that this was a heart problem and not a mind problem. I didn’t want to live the life of the celibate and this was the primary reason I resisted the idea that pornography was a sin. My resistance took the form of an “intellectual argument”, but the problem was not with my faculty of reason. In fact, it was the evidence of what pornography and lust did to my perception of women that finally made me realize that it was a sin. My reason was an ally in the fight against my sinful heart, not the enemy.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
The Bible encourages us to trust our reason as long as we take careful precautions against our deceitful hearts:
Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind. (Luke 10:27)
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (Acts 17:11)
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12)