Are Faith and Reason Opposites?
Recently I have been re-reading The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel. This book along with others in a similar series were a large part of where my passion for apologetics began. Lee was an investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune. His mindset is like that of a bulldog. He is tenacious to find answers hidden in the details of investigation. He cracked open criminal cases that others had made hasty assumptions and came up with wrong conclusions. His mind is like a steel trap.
His journey to faith by looking at the evidence presented with an open mind, paved the way for many others to follow to come to faith in Jesus. Lee’s style of investigation is to interview the top experts in the field of where his doubts or questions reside. He takes his investigative skills as a reporter, and uses that skillset for kingdom extending business.
One of the early questions in his search for truth was about faith and reason. Are they opposites? Does a person need to sacrifice one in order to believe the other? Is it possible to be a thinker and a Bible-believing Christian at the same time?
Lee knew that there are some people who do not think this is possible. He quotes atheist George H. Smith, “reason and faith are opposites, two mutually exclusive terms: there is no reconciliation or common ground. Faith is belief without, or in spite of reason.” These are pretty big truth claims to make. Does the evidence support such a viewpoint?
Lee also quotes Christian educator W. Bingham Hunter who takes the opposite view, “faith is a rational response to the evidence of God’s self-revelation in nature, human history, the scriptures and his resurrected son.” So here, we see a dramatic contrast. One person claims that faith and reason are not compatible, another claims the opposite, how can a person sort this out?
If we look at the propositions put forward, it is clear to see that the atheist’s claims have gone too far. Hunter’s Christian testimony is in fact evidence that the “truth claim” Smith has made is refutable. Even if Smith does not believe the same way as Hunter, it is still at least possible for someone to combine faith and reason together. (Not only Hunter, but millions of people who believe both serve as further evidence.)
This combination of faith and reason actually creates a beautiful explanation for many of the big questions that face humanity. I believe that faith and reason are not in opposition to one another. Rather, they complement each other in a very dynamic way. If a person will look at the evidence for Christianity to be true with an open mind, the reasonable explanation will be a position of both faith and reason to be compatible with one another.
This conclusion was what fueled Lee Strobel to belief. He says, “The last thing I want is a naïve faith built on a paper-thin foundation of wishful thinking or make believe. I need a faith that’s consistent with reason, not contradictory to it; I want beliefs that are grounded in reality, not detached from it.”
So the next time you hear someone make the claim that faith and reason are totally incompatible with each other, you can be prepared to lovingly challenge the truth claim that has gone too far.