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Christian Reason


In an age in which “reason” is regularly contrasted with “religion” in our infotainment-driven media, it has been encouraging to find a couple of articles in the last week or so that firmly put reason with religious faith, not against it.

My friend, Rev. Ron Hay (we trained together for the priesthood), has been in the news for his book, Finding the Forgotten God. The book, as is clear in the article, does not fall for the easy, popular prejudice that the only reasonable response to reality is atheism.

Then there came another article, this time on priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church in contemporary New Zealand. One of the people that this piece follows is MP Simon O’Connor. He tested his vocation to the priesthood, but was not ordained. The article goes on to explain that

for O’Connor, the most useful lessons from his nine years as a seminarian were academic in nature. “This is what I’ve taken from seminary life into Parliament: the philosophical rigour, the importance of reason, logic and consistent thinking. One of the reasons I’m in politics and Parliament is to try and bring rational, consistent, rigorous thought to political debate.”

Anglicanism (and others) classically has a three-legged stool: Scripture, Tradition, Reason. Some want to effectively reduce this to a one-legged stool (sola scriptura). They may nod to “reason”, but for them reason is reduced to reflecting logically on Scripture.

I hold to the position that God reveals through Reason. Sure, Reason is attached to Scripture and Tradition (having a leg separated from the stool helps neither that leg to function on its own, nor the stool to function as a stool). And most of us are way past the “modern” position that Reason, in and of itself, is sufficient for human flourishing.

Reason is founded on an (unprovable-by-reason-alone) act of faith that Reality is reasonable. And I, for one, hold that Reality is reasonable because I believe in God as the ground of Reality.

What do you think?

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5 thoughts on “Christian Reason”

  1. Yep, a good summary. God never asks you to give up reason. My atheist friends get hung up on faith but I don’t see the faith as blind like they think it is. I think the stumbling block today is subjective morality – people need to justify their behaving badly and God doesn’t allow that.

    1. Thanks, Susan. Two points: (1) can you clarify, please, what you mean by “experience” in such a way that it is not already inherent within Scripture, Tradition, and Reason? (2) The seat, in fact, does not become more stable – you might argue to include “experience”, but the whole point of a three-legged stool is that it is stable whatever the ground, and whatever differences in leg-length. Neither of those is true, obviously, for four-legged stools. Blessings.

      1. Being the product of a United Methodist seminary at Southern Methodist University in Dallas TX, I too was schooled in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of scripture, tradition, reason and experience.

        For Wesley, experience was that one felt in their own life the blessings or promises made in Christianity, found in scripture.

        A practical application of the concept is the testimony of GLBT folk who are told by some that we can’t even possibly be Christian and yet we know for a fact the fulfillment of God’s promises in our very own lives.

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