Reason in the Service of Faith (2)
“Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD…” Isaiah 1.18
In the beginning was the Word…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… John 1.1, 14
The reasonableness of God
The Scriptures charge us with the responsibility of giving a reason for the hope that is within us. The light of Christ radiating in and through us will take observable forms – peace, joy, encouragement, kindness, helpfulness, and hope. People will see such things, and some will want to know how we can be this way in a world rife with so much selfishness, uncertainty, and anxiousness. We need to be ready to explain, to give reasons for the hope that is within us, for as we do, Jesus Whom we set apart in our hearts will make Himself known to the people God sends us to day by day.
As we begin preparing to reason about our faith with the people to whom God sends us, we need to make sure we have confidence in the power of reason to open a way for the Gospel through the “closed ceiling” of a wrong-believing worldview. One reason we can be confident in the power of reason is that God Himself relies on reason. Indeed, He is a most reasonable Deity.
The reasonableness of God is evident in Scripture in three ways. First, He reveals Himself as a God who carefully considers and takes counsel with Himself with respect to His purposes (cf. Gen. 1.26; Ps. 33.11; Prov. 8.12-22). God makes and executes plans (Is. 55.8, 9; Jer. 29.11; Acts 2.23), and His plans all fit together, work together, and come together in redemptive ways, all the parts and developments in His plan falling neatly into place according to His eternally reasonable design.
God is not a capricious Deity. He does not act in ways that make it difficult to know Him or His will. His purposes are carefully considered and prudentially engaged, and in such a way that human beings can understand what He is about.
Second, God shows us that He Himself is reasonable in that He makes known Himself and His will in a wide range of rational ways – through types and symbols and teachings and verbal exchanges of many different sorts. Anyone who takes the time to read the Bible can understand it. Its stories are stories about people like us. The teachings of Scripture are not shrouded in arcane or mystical language. What God has done and what God requires can be clearly discerned by any reasonable person, because God reveals Himself and His will in terms amenable and accessible to reason.
God engages the minds of people in communicating His revelation and will (2 Pet.1.21), using their thoughts and words as vehicles for His own. Granted, we cannot fully understand the reasons, purposes, and thoughts of God (Is. 55.8, 9; Ps.139.17, 18; Eccl. 3.11); nevertheless, He makes Himself known in Scripture and throughout creation such that people can know Him and, as it were, think His thoughts after Him (Rom. 1.18-20). God makes Himself known, together with His purposes and will, by reasonable means in His Word.
Further, the Bible employs a wide range of literary genre, addresses a broad spectrum of subjects, and engages an array of writers from different places and times; yet it tells a single, coherent story in language even a child can understand. Its sentences are readily intelligible, and its meanings are clear.
While there is much that is spiritually profound in the Scriptures, requiring much earnest study and contemplation, the essential teachings of the Bible can be easily understood by even the humblest human mind. God reasons, and He uses reasonable means to make Himself known; and this should encourage us in our use of reason as well.
Finally, the reasonableness of God can be observed in the fact that, when He came among us in the form of a human being, He came as the Logos – the “reason” or “explanation” or “declaration” or “rationale” of God. He came in the form of a thinking, logical, teaching Person, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who was hailed by those who heard Him as a wise master Teacher. His teaching left people puzzling at times, but mainly because of the shock of what they understood Him to be saying. Those who admired Him marveled at His words, while those who hated Him despised them.
But they all understood His teachings and claims; and, indeed, it was precisely because Jesus was so clear in His preaching that He was ultimately put to death. His enemies and all the people were not unclear in their minds about what Jesus was teaching. They were simply opposed to it, and Him, as not in line with their own worldview and selfish ambitions.
Had Jesus come speaking irrational sentences or spinning mystifying yarns and declaring disconnected doctrines, the people of His day would have pitied Him as either a madman or a mystic. They would not have understood Him, and so they would have had no reason either to follow or persecute Him. They simply would have left Him alone.
But Jesus did not come this way. He spoke reasonably and clear, and He forced His opponents to face up to the unreasonableness of their wrong-believing views. It was because Jesus was so reasonable that multitudes of ordinary folk thronged to be near Him while the smug and threatened elites plotted His death.
God is a reasonable Being. His reason is always perfect, holy, just, and good. We should expect, therefore, that such a Being would invest us, His ambassadors, with a message that could be clearly understood by reasoning beings, when we freely and gladly share reasons for the hope that is within us.
1. Why is it important to understand that God makes use of reason in making Himself known?
2. Can you think of a way that Jesus appealed to the reason of the people who heard Him?
3. Jesus used questions to get people thinking – to engage their reason. What are some questions you might use to start a conversation with someone today?
Next steps – Preparation: Make sure you understand the Gospel. How would you explain the Gospel of the Kingdom to someone who asked you about it?
T. M. Moore
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