Coming from a background in philosophy, it would be an understatement to say that I think critical thought and reason play a very important part in our faith. Epistemology, or what we may know and how we come to that knowledge is very important to me. I believe it is no small coincidence that the evangelist of John begins his account with “In the beginning was the Logos.” The book of Romans declares that the Lord can be known through observation of the world. It is also no coincidence that our primary means of understanding the Lord comes through orderly written accounts full of form, structure, and reason. The Lord is a God of reason and order. Thus, it is logical that we come to an understanding of God through orderly and rational means.
Be that as it may, void of God's presence, pure reason fails. There is a lifetime of knowledge at our disposal, and insufficient time to comprehend it. Rational people are confronted with numerous reasonably held, yet incompatible truth claims. Simply put, hyper rationalism, or modernism driven to its natural conclusion, is overwhelming. This leads well meaning, rational people to choose one truth claim among many reasonable options, in essence resulting in postmodernism.
Postmodern thought is an ever increasing reality in our society, even amongst the conservatively rational western church. Theists and non theists both have reasonable arguments for their position.* A rational follower of Christ may make a reasonable, well defended claim for either a secure or an ‘abiding’ salvation. Likewise for free will, predestination, or various combinations of the two. There are numerous truth claims that may be reasonably held, even though our belief system holds that there is one truth.
Overwhelmed by the cacophony of truth claims, the average person of faith puts their trust in one claim that seems reasonable, and timidly holds it. We have the faculties to understand God to an extent, but regardless of what we may know, ‘His ways are above our ways.’ Put another way, the absolute truth we believe in is beyond us. We must accept that, fundamentally, the Lord is as much a mystery as He is comprehensible. Fueled by postmodernism, this has generated a movement within faith I call neo-mysticism. Where reason fails, mystery abounds.
The result, for the Church, is a body that rests increasingly on feeling and preference over reason. The church is at least partially responsible for this shift. Well meaning theologians, in fear of relativistic theology, proclaim their viewpoints more vociferously, drastically narrowing their definition of orthodox doctrine. The body of Christ is left confused and alienated by the resulting battles. It is not that the body of Christ lacks an evangelical mind. Rather, the body has been driven by fear to avoid using it. Instead, blind faith is put in the Holy Spirit for guidance. I say blind, not as an insult, but rather as a course navigated by spiritual compass, but no map.
We need a more balanced approach. What God has revealed of Himself has been overwhelmingly logical. Still, we must leave room for the mysterious workings of the Spirit. We must accept postmodernism, in a sense. Science and reason can only go so far in understanding God. By definition, God is beyond any quantifiable measure or logical principle. Any right belief in the Lord of heaven must account for that.
They that worship shall do so ‘in Spirit and truth.’ Any personal revelation provided by the Spirit must be interpreted in light of truth, of what may be rationally known. These truths should include the precedence of tradition as a guide marker, without elevating tradition to equality with truth. Tradition is the map to our spiritual compass. While our spiritual parents may have wandered off course at times, their journey informs ours.
'What we see is a dim image in a mirror.' We should accept that our spiritual vision is clouded by the very nature of our humanity. As such, we should be humble in any claims of absolute truth. Rather, we should understand that there are tiers of belief. First tier beliefs like the deity of Christ and His atoning sacrifice are non negotiable. Baptism by immersion or sprinkling is.
We must recognize that we have been given the Logos so that we may know of the Lord, and His goodness. We must always approach that Logos with the humility of His inherent wonder and mystery. We must recognize that the course we navigate was plotted and followed by millennia of sojourners before us.
* I am an ardent apologist. I hold that the rational, reasonable belief is that the God of the Bible is the absolute truth. I am not a relativist in an absolute sense. I speak of reasonable arguments for competing doctrines and non theistic paradigms to develop the point that the byproduct of hyper rationalism is nonsensical, and thereby absurd. Please do not misconstrue my statements to mean that I am not a defender of absolute truth.