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The Church and the Life of the Mind: Reflections on the Nature & Rationality of Faith (Miniblog #166)

by Carson T. Clark on January 8, 2013


1.This is Part 4 of The Church and the Life of the Mind series. My reasoning here builds upon the previous entries. Here are links to those posts:
Why Am I So Protective About This Issue?
Reflections on a Faithful Discourse of Inquiry
Why I Value Doubting and Questioning
A classic axiom of the Church is that of faith seeking understanding. That immediately raises a number of questions about the nature of faith and its relationship to human cognition, though. I won’t pretend to have objective answers to those questions. Far be it for me to try representing Christians from various traditions and with a wide range of personality types, life experiences, and the like. What I can confidently speak to is my own experience. For me faith isn’t irrational. It’s neither contrary to truth as I understand it nor nonsensical.22.That is, faith isn’t stubbornly affirming the truth of a thing I know to be false nor something like asking if God can make a round square. Yet I also readily acknowledge that my faith isn’t totally rational, either. The plain reality is I most certainly wasn’t convinced into salvation by a sequence of factual propositional statements forming a cohesive and irrefutable argument.33.The Gospel isn’t a logical treatise nor is it premised upon the scientific method. For me faith is kind of this in-between, existential mortar that connects the bricks of truth as I know them. I don’t absolutely, unequivocally know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was resurrected from the dead, for example. If that was a prerequisite to faith I wouldn’t be a Christian. I didn’t personally witness it and can’t call up anyone who was there to substantiate the claim.44.They’ve all been dead for quite some time. Yet it seems to make the best sense of everything I know about the evidence. Thus, I believe it to be true. In that way I have faith that Christ was resurrected. I must be clear, however, that if somehow, someway a person did have verifiable proof that Jesus wasn’t resurrected, I would immediately cease to be a Christian precisely because my faith isn’t irrational.55.And it’s an opinion I don’t hold alone. Paul himself said that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile.” I don’t have faith because it gives me a sense of comfort, hope, meaning, peace, restoration, self-understanding, thankfulness… yada yada yada.66.Actually, if that were the case I would’ve stopped being a Christian a long time ago! There has also been love and joy and all the rest, but at the same time I can’t think of anything in my life that has caused more depression, heartache, pain, or turmoil. The life of faith for me has not been the “abundant life.” It has been consistently marked by this dynamic tension of love and anger, joy and sorrow, hope and resignation, peace and fear, etc. Don’t get me wrong. Those are wonderful side effects for which I’m immensely thankful. But ultimately the reason I have faith, the reason I’m a Christian, is because I believe the redemptive narrative recorded in Scripture and passed along by God’s covenant people is grounded in historical fact. Faith to me, then, is not only believing in the unseen but also the probable.

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