Is Christian faith illogical?

(Ashish Money) #1

Hi friends,
I was listening to a sermon today and I heard the preacher saying that that, “faith and logic cant go hand in hand.” So, I started to wonder, will the Christian faith be appealing to people if we make it sound illogical. And is it right to say that faith is illogical?

(Jimmy Sellers) #2

I think this is a great question and I am sure you will get many good answers here. I will give you my thoughts.
If your pastor meant that logic alone was/is sufficient for saving faith then I agree with him but if he meant one could not use reason as a means to confirm God’s dealing with a person’s heart I would disagree.
As to the logic of faith it depends on a person’s worldview. If one believes in works as a world view then grace is illogical. Grace can ,in opinion, only be understood in the the light of God’s direct
revaltion in the life of a person. Hope this helps.

(Ashish Money) #3

Thank you Jimmy, I feel the same that ours is a reasonable and logical faith, but I sometimes think that I am not in a capacity to present some narratives in the Bible in a logical way.

(SeanO) #4

@Ashishraj That is a great question and I am thankful to say the answer is no, Christian faith is not illogical. However, it is important to understand that to truly believe the Christian faith requires an encounter with the living God and to understand that every person has a worldview. Worldviews are like wearing a tinted pair of glasses - they change the way that everything around us looks. To truly understand Christianity and understand that it is rational, we must be looking at the world through the lens of the Christians worldview glasses. And to believe it, we must have experienced the risen Christ.

Below is an article from Cru about a very rational young man who found Jesus on his search for love and then realized that reason alone is not enough to bring others to Christ. He realized both that Christianity is logical and that believing it requires more than logic. I’ve also provided some resources from here on Connect on worldviews.

Hope those are helpful. The Lord bless you as you grow in grace and knowledge of Him!

“How could he know if Christianity was logical unless he defined terms as did the Christians?”

“I used to think that if I just had logic, I could convert the world,” says Juho. “Now I see I can’t. My mistake was to put Christ aside and just use philosophy. I’m learning to listen first, love them and share Christ. Not to push my need for reason on them.”

Christianity as a Worldview

Here are two posts on RZIM discussing how we can know Christianity is true as a worldview - as a system for looking at life. I hope these are helpful in pondering the idea of a worldview further.

Resources for Understanding Faith & Reason
(Niumaia M. T. Karavaki) #5

Hi Ashiraj,
Firstly, great question. Secondly, I just thought of adding to this conversation that there are features in Christianity that might resemble a lack of logic to outsiders but only makes sense in Christianity. Let me name a few.
1. The Trinity. I mean, who can adequately explain that?
2. The incarnation, resurrection of Jesus and atonement. These are complicated enough to fully understand, let alone explain to others.
There are others, but, you will notice in all of them that there is a sense of mystery there. Add to that the hiddenness and subtlety of God, and you understand that one has to believe first before grasping their logic. St. Anselm said the following, "faith precedes all reflection and all discussion concerning religious things. The unbelievers, strive to understand because they do not believe; we, on the contrary, strive to understand because we believe. They and we have the same object in view; but inasmuch as they do not believe, they cannot arrive at their goal, which is to understand the dogma. The unbeliever will never understand."

I agree, that the clearest thing anywhere, to anyone is the grandeur of God and the love of Jesus. We should be able to show and tell of that without understanding all. We have not become Christians because we solved the mystery, but rather we felt the love of God, witnessed His saving grace and it is the mystery that continues to woo us inward. That is part of the reason why every day with Him is sweeter than the day before - because there is an ever-giving, deeper mystery and ongoing revelation there.

I am not sure what exactly the preacher meant there in his sermon, but I think, that logic is the reason we can identify the love of God. We use logic to know in part. The mysteries of God though pulls us in to explore our relationship with Him over time. Paul said it well in I Corinthians 13:12 “… Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

(Joshua Spare) #6

Thanks for asking such a poignant question, Ashish! To answer the first part of your question:

No, I don’t believe it will be appealing if we make it sound illogical; however, two major caveats here. First, if in our very best efforts to describe the great majesty of God and the mystery that is the Gospel, it comes across as illogical, I think that is a natural consequence that the Bible points to: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14) Moreover, though we may try to point to the appeal of the Christian faith, the actual appeal, as Sean pointed out, is meeting the person who is Christ. I say that, not to try to remove or detract from any effort that we make to explain our faith in the most reasonable manner possible, but to remove the weight of necessitating being the final authority of rationality in growing the Kingdom.

Turning to the second part of your question:

Once again, I believe the answer here is no. There is an excerpt in one of Aquinas’ writings wherein he describes faith as essentially the extension of belief, along the trajectory of our logic and reason, but beyond the point that our reason is able to take us.

Now, sensible things cannot lead the human intellect to the point of seeing in them the nature of the divine substance; for sensible things are effects that fall short of the power of their cause. Yet, beginning with sensible things, our intellect is led to the point of knowing about God that He exists, and other such characteristics that must be attributed to the First Principle. There are, consequently, some intelligible truths about God that are open to the human reason; but there are others that absolutely surpass its power.

I have to say that I think I depart substantially from Aquinas on the power of natural reason, our reasoning apart from Revelation and Scripture; however, I think he provides a very helpful mental model of faith. If you can think of several points of belief along the same trajectory that lead you to the point of belief of something that seems beyond reason, i.e. the Trinity, that is wherein I think faith becomes active. At that point, it becomes an act of the will, a volitional event, to say - my reason has led me to this point, but I can reason no further, yet it would seem as though that belief lies in line with these beliefs, and therefore, I make the decision to believe as such.

I think that Dallas Willard, in Knowing Christ Today, has a few great case studies of this model in play with the faith of several Old Testament figures:

When, for example, Abraham left his homeland and went out “not knowing” where he was going, he did so because of his knowledge of God and of God’s constant care in his life. He did not do it wondering whether God existed or was with him…The same is true of Moses when he went in faith to deliver the Israelites from slavery, and of David when he went into battle against Goliath. Moses, according to the texts, is given conclusive evidence that God is with him–evidence he can also present to others (Exod. 3–4). David actually cites, to those who doubted his ability, the experiences and the knowledge that enabled him to believe he could conquer the giant (1 Sam. 17:34-37).

In each of these examples, the act of faith described by the Bible is preceded by obvious points of knowledge all along the same trajectory, and the act of faith is simply the natural extension of those beliefs.

Does that model help at all with seeing the coincidence of faith and reason? If not, please feel free to disregard it!