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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Isn't Divine Predestination and Election just Fatalism? | Main | More On The Gospel of Judas »

    Faith Not Without Reason

    Why should anyone believe in the Resurrection of Jesus? It seems a popular question to ask around Easter. The disciple, Thomas, said in John 20:25, "Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe" (ESV). He emphatically states that he will NEVER believe, unless he sees (and touches) proof.

    We all want empirical evidence—we're taught to look for it in school using the scientific method (observe & describe phenomena; formulate hypothesis to explain; predict; experiment & refine hypothesis). We sympathize with Thomas, wanting not to find blame with him, but to exonerate him by saying, "it's natural to doubt." And it is natural to doubt, as every human is a natural-born doubter of God's truth. That doesn't mean doubting is innocent—when we doubt God's Word, it's sin.

    Our problem goes beyond not getting the evidence we demand. Jesus condemned the demand for evidence of his Messiahship when he said, "Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe" (Jn. 4:48). The problem is that even if we do get empirical proof, we still won't believe. Remember the religious leaders who had gotten Jesus killed? When they found out that he had risen from the dead, instead of believing in him as their Messiah, they sought to cover up the truth of the resurrection. The greatest miracle ever didn't convince them that they should submit to Jesus as Lord—they were predisposed to disbelieve.

    Thomas' predisposition toward unbelief is evident in his emphatic statement that he will NEVER believe unless he's given proof of the resurrection, even though he had the repeated testimony of his friends (the other disciples), and of Jesus himself before the crucifixion. His empiricism (wanting physical evidence or proof) was a smokescreen for his unbelieving presuppositions, his hardness of heart, his desire not to submit to the truth of God revealed.

    WE ARE ALL LIKE THIS. Epistemologically speaking, we all seek to justify our knowledge or beliefs. Naturally, as a depraved race, we all seek to do this apart from God's authority. Rationalists seek to reason autonomously from God, Evidentialists demand physical proof, and Subjectivists set themselves up as their ultimate authority for truth. When we set up high empirical standards, like Thomas, we're really just being skeptics, starting from a place of doubting God's Word.

    This all stems from a desire to suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18), of which we are all guilty. We want to shuck (throw off) the authority of God, and give it no claim over us. We want to submit God's Word to the judgment of human reason, so that we won't be judged by it. Allow me to point out that this is BAD. God is rightfully angry with people who attempt to reason autonomously.

    So on what foundation can we build a solid faith? Must we cast off reason in order to believe? Never! Rather, we must submit our reason to the authority of God's Word, and build upon the presupposition that God is the Lord of reason and truth. It may seem silly to some to make a circular statement like, "I believe the resurrection is true because it's in God's Word, and God's Word is true because it's God's Word." But it is no sillier than the other options—everyone makes circular appeal to authority for their epistemology.

    The Rationalist says, "Human reason is my ultimate authority, because it is only rational." The Empiricist says, "Evidence is my ultimate authority, because only the evidence shows what is true." The Subjectivist says, "I am my ultimate authority, because that makes sense to me." Each of these claim an ultimate authority, and they PRESUPPOSE the authority as they make the argument. Christians are different in that, while we still presuppose our ultimate authority, we appeal to God rather than human devices as our foundation for believing what we do. If we professed God as our ultimate authority for what we believe, then sought to prove his authority by appealing to something outside of him (reason, evidence, etc.), then REALLY we're saying that this other thing has more authority than God, that he should be judged by it.

    When someone says, "It doesn't make sense to start from a belief in God, since that's what you're trying to prove," they're actually starting from unbelief, which is what really doesn't make sense. It doesn't make sense because they don't actually live according to their unbelief. Their skepticism has a logical conclusion: nihilism (the belief in nothing, that nothing has significance, and that we can't really know anything otherwise). But hardly anyone lives like a nihilist—they betray the innate beliefs that EVERYONE has—that there is a God, that he has set the world up the way it is (morally, etc.), and that he has a claim to rule over them. It makes perfect sense to start from a belief in God—it doesn't make any sense to start from doubt, and then live contrarily to your professed presupposition.

    The good news is that Jesus doesn't leave us in our unbelief. He enters in through locked doors and replaces our presuppositions, like he did with Thomas. He won Thomas' faith, and as D. A. Carson says, "The most unyielding skeptic has bequeathed to us the most profound confession," as he proclaimed, "My Lord and my God!"

    The Word of God is written to evoke faith in Jesus as the Son of God, the risen Christ (Jn. 20:30-31). The authoritative testimony of God is that Jesus died for the sins of his people, rose from the dead on the third day, and ascended into heaven where he is seated at God's right hand, ruling with all authority in heaven and earth. So suppress this truth no more by disbelieving, but believe in the resurrected Lord on the authority of the Word of God, the Lord of reason and truth.

    Posted by Eric Costa on April 17, 2006 05:51 PM

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    » Faith Not Without Reason from Metal Dad - a hardcore follower of Jesus Christ
    Every now and then I catch something that just cuts right through all the blather about "meta-narratives" and "God's story" and a fashionable antipathy to epistemic certainty. Some folks may wish to believe that it is impossible to know anything [Read More]

    Comments

    Excellent post!

    I too often fall into the trap of thinking that unbelievers are justified in their demanding evidence for our beliefs. I think this is the result of an arminian viewpoint (which I have tried to shed, but still have remnants, evidently).

    Once we get past this trap, it becomes much easier to share our faith, because we don't have to prove it.

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