June 24, 2016

No Rational Grounds?

I recently read the assertion that “there are no rational grounds for admitting any religious truth . . ..”

No rational grounds for admitting any religious truth?

Please! In the story of the paralytic let down from the roof by his friends, Jesus said to the religious leaders in attendance: “‘Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Arise, take up your bed and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’—He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.’” (Mark 2:8-11). And when the man arose, took his bed, and went to his house—what more “rational grounds” for belief could these religious leaders have been given than by Jesus, who showed them that He could not only read their thoughts but exercise the raw power of God, too?

When Jesus raised Lazarus, or when He healed the boy blind from birth—talk about rational, logical grounds for faith. And with Christ’s own resurrection, after which, according to Paul, he “was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:6)—powerfully logical reasons for belief have been given for anyone not too metaphysically straight-laced to see it. Read the apologetics of William Lane Craig, Lee Strobel, or N.T. Wright for overwhelming logical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. Or, ironically enough, marvel at Gerd Ludemann and John Shelby Sprong’s ad hoc, bizarre and sorry efforts to deny the logical evidence for Christ’s resurrection.

No rational grounds for religious faith? Daniel 2 alone, with its accurate depiction, not only of ancient history but of modern Europe today, presents logical and rational reasons for faith so powerful that higher criticism’s unflagging attempts to neuter those reasons fail, and miserably so.

One morning, as I was devouring a thick, juicy and sweet mango, the preposterousness of current scientific dogma—that this mango arose through billions of years of random mutation and natural selection—stuck me with stark clarity. The taste, the smell, the texture, the nutrients, everything about it screamed with the logic of an algebra equation about the loving Creator who made it. Few things, if you really think about it, are more illogical and unreasonable than what science—backed up by reams of peer-reviewed papers—tells us about how life on earth was created.

Now, take this quote from the doyen of the idea that science, not faith, is reasonable. “Evolution,” wrote Richard Dawkins, “is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact. The evidence for evolution is at least as strong as the evidence for the Holocaust, even allowing for eye witnesses to the Holocaust. It is the plain truth that we are cousins of chimpanzees, somewhat more distant cousins of monkeys, more distant cousins still of aardvarks and manatees, yet more distant cousins of bananas and turnips . . . continue the list as long as desired.”

Meanwhile, in a TV interview, in the context of how the universe began, Richard Dawkins said the following: “Lawrence Krauss, my colleague, we did a film together called ‘The Unbelievers.’ And he has written a book called A Universe From Nothing. And he produces a physical theory, mathematically worked out, to show that you can get something from nothing. That nothing and nothing in some strange way cancels itself out to produce something. And quantum theory allows that to happen. Well, I’m humble enough to say I don’t understand it, and I am not arrogant enough to say that because I don’t understand it, it can’t be right.”

Richard Dawkins all but equates with Holocaust deniers those who don’t think humans are distant cousins of bananas and turnips, but sees no reason to deny the theory—“mathematically worked out,” mind you—that “nothing and nothing in some strange way cancels itself out to produce something,” i.e., the universe? And we are the ones called unreasonable?

You can’t make this stuff up!

Of course, one could argue that it’s rich for someone like me, who had a radical born-again experience — and who’s probably the only GC guy to have astral travelled — to talk about rationality and reason in faith. But that argument conflates two separate things: discovery and justification. How one comes to believe in something, to discover it, can be radically different from how that person, over time, justifies what he believes, regardless of how he or she first came to believe it.

Sure, Paul came to faith in Jesus en route to Damascus, hardly the most logical and rational of experiences, but little of his later justification for this belief rested on that experience alone (Galatians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 1:18-20;Acts 17:23-30). It doesn’t matter how someone comes to faith, whether spoon fed it since cradle roll or getting zapped on the road to Damascus; but once there, at faith, we have more than enough “rational grounds” to justify it, whatever inevitable questions remain.