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Faith or reason?

"Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves." John 14.11

When it comes to believing in God, should we apply faith or reason? In other words, is our belief motivated by intellect or experience. Many would say it ought to be both. So which comes first? Perhaps that is an individual matter, depending on whether your journey to belief in God has come through revelation (like Paul's experience on the Road to Damascus) or reflection (like the disciples who met the stranger on the Emmaus Road and only realised afterwards that it was Jesus).

Jesus' appeal to the disciples appears to prioritise faith through direct revelation (believe me when I say... ), with faith through reflection as a concession (or at least on the evidence...). Earlier in John's gospel (chapter 10, verse 38) Jesus is reported as having made a similar appeal to his fellow Jews in general, with dubious results (they tried to lay hold of him!). This would suggest that some people are never going to "get" it, while others may arrive one way or another.

John of Kronstadt was an Orthodox priest who, after a spell as Bishop of St Petersburg, devoted his life to spiritual direction. He suggested that reason can be a hindrance because it yokes our progress in faith to the dulness of our intellect, whereas faith enables us to soar directly into the embrace of God. This will make no sense to those who lack faith, which brings us back to the notion that belief in God is a gift. Even those who insist on proceeding at the pace of their reason will "get" this, for without that gift a person would surely consider reflecting on God to be a waste of time?

The trick is to believe in such a way as to allow our faith in God to flourish, while our reason develops our understanding of the experience and insights faith brings. This is not a matter of intellectual somersaults but a work of the Holy Spirit, which is why it begins with prayer...



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