Sunday, November 21, 2010

Question everything, but don't use skepticism as an excuse for denying the answers when you find them (or they find you)

One of the great intellectual crimes of the last one and one-half centuries has been the brainwashing of the West into making a false dichotomy between Faith and Reason. At least with regard to Christianity, it is not true that the two are mutually-exclusive; that one is based on Fact and the other emotion; that one is a matter of the heart and the other a matter of the mind; that one is objectively true and the other merely personal whim.

In fact, the Apostle Paul makes this point powerfully in declaring the obvious: If Christ has not risen from the dead, then our faith is futile and we Christians are to be pitied more than all men:
if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ . . . if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins . . . If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15).
Some reflections the nature and proper use of Reason, especially with regard to Faith, in response to a friend:
Official Roman Catholic teaching is that when the Pope defines a matter of faith or morals, he is infallible. (This does not mean that he doesn't sin or err in other matters, such as discipline or personal opinion).
I reject that doctrine, since it conflicts with the teachings of Christ: He tells the truth; it is up to us to recognize and admit that.  No office makes a man infallible in any matter; it is only to the degree that the Pope -- or any man -- speaks accurately the words of Christ that he speaks Truth.
As for Luther, he was a miserable sinner, just like every pope, you, and me. His value was that at a time when the western church taught officially that Christians could literally pay (cash) to remove sins, when the Church of Rome preached that God was a terrible, malevolent judge waiting to torment us in hell forever unless we could in some way satisfy His justice on our own merit (an impossible task), when those entrusted with the responsibility to preach faithfully His Gospel instead preached doctrines of hell, Luther rediscovered the clear teachings of Scripture.
He found that God's justice was not in treating us as our sins deserve, but in declaring all of us just (justified, innocent, righteous) in Christ, through faith in Him.
Though all of us sin daily and much and deserve God's wrath, God has had mercy on all of us by sending His Son to become flesh, die for our sins, and rise from the dead. In Christ, God reconciled the whole world -- all of us -- to Himself. He forgives our sins, rescues us from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all people, as the words and promises of God declare.
Luther was completely fallible (just like us); his great contributions were restoring to preeminence in the Church the true Gospel and reviving the teaching that unless something can be shown to be true from Scripture, it has no place as doctrine in the Church.
As for Mr. Jefferson, he was partly correct: We should question everything, but we should not use our skepticism as an excuse for denying the answers when we find them.  Or when they find us.
It appears from the quotation provided that Mr. Jefferson misunderstood the nature and purpose of Reason, since by definition, reason is a tool each man possesses to determine objective truth; an "Oracle given by heaven" comes from heaven and not from the mind of a man.  (If Man could discover from within all that God intended to communicate to us, then why would He send his Son?)
Some misunderstand Luther's comments on Reason being "the devil's whore;" he did not mean that we should reject the use of reason or the objective truth we determine with it and live in ignorance and superstition, but that we should put Reason in its proper place, which is as a tool that we use to determine fact, especially with regard to understanding the Scriptures as God intended.
Many Christians err in subjugating Scripture to their contra- or extra-Biblical, man-made "traditions" (as in Roman Catholicism and American Evangelicalism) or to their own Reason (as in American Evangelicalism as derived from Calvin; you may recall what Jefferson said regarding Calvin's god).  All of us sin, all of us err, and all of us have a responsibility to speak faithfully what God has revealed.  So we are responsible not only for the uprightness of our decisions but also the rightness of our declarations.
As for the First Amendment?  It opens the door to, invites in to supper, and then locks the door behind to shield from the wolves the skeptic, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian, animist, pagan, agnostic, atheist, and truly peaceful Muslim.

So, what specific objections are in the way, my friend?