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Squaring the circle

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1.1

Unquestioning faith can lead one up some blind alleys. For example, consider the notion that God is perfect. That implies that he cannot improve in any way and therefore he cannot change: "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever." (Hebrews 13.8) But that would imply God is impervious to all imperatives that would alter or affect him including our prayers. That cannot be correct!

What about another assertion, that God is all powerful. The contradictory nature of this doctrine is immediately apparent: an all powerful God lacks the power (ability) to be anything less. He cannot share or delegate his power because then he would cease to be all powerful. That would imply that he is responsible for everything that happens in the universe: life, death, climate change, murder... This too is absurd.

The role of reason is not to deny cherished beliefs about God but to reconcile them with one another so that they cease to be contradictory. It is his very capacity to respond to the cries of the needy that contributes to God's perfection. It is in the gracious exercising of his absolute authority (power) that God grants freewill to the creatures made in his image.

The most useful definition I have come across, of the contribution of reason to faith, is that it offers the most convincing account (story) through which we can make sense of reality. So John begins his Gospel in the best tradition of classical story-telling: "Once upon a time/ In the beginning/ Here's a story to believe in..."



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