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Being reasonable

"... blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20.29

First of all, apologies for the absence of yesterday's blog. It was there but for some reason did not appear. That sounds like a philosophical conundrum! Maybe not a bad place to start today... Is seeing believing or can we perceive something without actually grasping it?

On the reason - revelation spectrum, we must be at the reason-able end because what we are talking about is the facility to get our minds around something we cannot see. (By contract revelation often involves seeing something we struggle to get our minds around!)

Believers are often sceptical about reason, as if it is the enemy of faith. Jesus' admonishment to "Doubting Thomas" is cited as an example because the incident is usually presented negatively: that Thomas was wrong to refuse to take on trust his fellow disciples' claim that Jesus was alive again. Yet Jesus might simply have been stating that, in the future, that is how it would have to be: the truth of Jesus' resurrection being communicated from one generation to the next. In this scenario (the one we inhabit) being able to believe on the testimony of witnesses, unlocks the privileges of saving faith - blessing indeed to those who possess it.

So where does that leave us in regard to reason? Those who are suspicious of its merit tend to be wary on the grounds that sinful humans are bound to reason wrongly and therefore we must trust wholly in the providence of God and eschew all attempts to understand that trust. But did God really intend such a mechanistic attitude to life? The implication of such an approach is that everything is fixed: the ultimate expression of double predestination. So where does prayer or wisdom fit in to such a deterministic universe?

Since the late 17th century, philosophers and theologians have wrestled with reason. John Locke saw the exercise of reason as the proper use of the gifts God has given to the creatures he made in his own image - even in our fallen state. David Hume alerted us to the limits of reason: how can we be sure about the quality and validity of our conclusions? His insight forced those who came after him to explore the application of reason as an exercise in relativity: reason as defined (and refined?) by reason. John Baillie helped us out of the logjam by adding "intuition" into the mix: we know the truth when we see it.

So we are arrive at an appreciation of reason as the God-given faculty to apply our limited capacities of thought in order to grasp those essential realities that we recognise instinctively to be true - in order to live faithfully. Or something like that!



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