December 15, 2004

Faith and Reason 2: Tertullian

What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? What have heretics to do with Christians?

This is the attitude of a LOT of modern people. What has reason (Athens, the ancient seat of reason and philosophy) to do with faith (Jerusalem, the center of Christian belief)? Most would agree with Tertullian -- nothing at all.

Tertullian had a good reason to give up on a 'reasonable' approach to Christianity. The Greek and Roman philosophers were pagans, after all. The Roman emperor was the one putting Christians to death. He wanted to move Christianity as far as possible from their influence. He was really one of the first to proclaim sola Scriptura -- Scripture alone, without the philosophy and logic. He went so far as to say that because the crucifixion and resurrection were absurd -- the idea that God would come to earth, die, and then rise from the dead is so illogical -- that it must be believed. Tertullian rejected the notion that faith must be understood -- he felt that if it was understood, it was not real faith.

Tertullian was inconsistent, though. He used Greek ideas of philosophy and logic in his arguments and disputations. In his Apology, he expects the Roman authorities to treat Christians the same way that they treat other "criminals" (since that is what Christians were considered at the time). He portrays the Roman condemnation of Christians as unreasonable because it is based in ignorance (Book I of Ad Nationes.)

It seems that we have misunderstood Tertullian's reluctance to mix faith and reason. He should not be considered anti-intellectual -- rather, he is trying to keep overtly pagan influences out of the Church. His major opponent was the heretic Marcion, whose theology was heavily influenced by Greek dualistic ideas.

Unfortunately, there are many who have decided that 'pagan influences' have infiltrated higher education today. This hasn't been helped by the influence of liberal theology in seminary education -- many young men have entered seminaries full of a desire to preach and teach the Gospel of Christ, only to have their faith shattered by professors who don't really believe what they are being paid to teach. In many cases, we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater -- to get away from bad schools and bad theology, we have abandoned the scholarly realm. Mark Noll has a LOT to say about this in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (a review of which will shortly be up here). As we continue with this series, we will see that faith and reason are not incompatible at all, and that in many cases, Athens and Jerusalem have a lot in common.


The next installment of this series will concern Augustine, and his idea of faith seeking understanding.
__________
Trackback to this post and express your support for MY bid to be King of the Blogs!!

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 04:34 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
Post contains 491 words, total size 3 kb.

December 10, 2004

Faith and Reason, part 1: An Overview

{This is part one of a multi-part series about Faith and Reason, and the various ways that Christians have tried to reconcile the two.}

There seems to be an attitude among many people today that Christianity -- especially modern Christianity -- is anti-Enlightenment, and anti-intellectual in general. In a recent article , the Asheville Citizen-Times talks about the evangelical Christian goal of repealing the Enlightenment.

Many of us remember the Age of Enlightenment for opening the way to science and technology. It did so by separating the realms of faith and reason and giving preference to reason where conflicts arose between the two.

I'm not sure that the Enlightenment did that, exactly. I think the Enlightenment started the trend toward replacing faith in God with faith in human reason. It was about finding something different to place faith in, rather than separating faith from reason. In fact, the Enlightenment often tried to bring reason INTO matters of faith -- especially when it came to Biblical interpretation methods. The Enlightenment gave rise to the "historical-critical" model of study, which led to the rise of religious liberalism throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

This isn't the place to critique historical-critical hermeneutics, or religious modernism (I'll do that later, though). The point is that the Enlightenment and religious faith were far more intertwined than most people want to admit.

Christians have historically believed that faith and reason went hand in hand. As far back as Tertullian, we've been trying to figure out exactly how they fit together, and we've wavered between saying that they didn't at all (Tertullian) to saying that they were essential to each other (Augustine). And we are still debating this among ourselves, so how can we even begin to think about explaining to others what we think about the subject?

The definition given above sounds a lot like what Francis Schaeffer talks about -- the idea that faith and reason are separate, and cannot tell us anything about each other. Science can tell us all baout how things work, and why things work the way they do, and how to make things work better, but it cannot tell us about God. Faith can tell us all about God, and the supernatural, but it can't tell us anything about the material world -- including how it came to be. I'd agree with Schaeffer that this idea is NOT a working worldview, for a LOT of reasons, which I will address later on in another section.

What I want to do in this series is look at the various ways we've tried to reconcile the two seemingly opposing forces -- faith and reason. In the end, I'll talk about why it's important, and how Christianity can be looked at as a rational worldview. In the next part, I'll take a look at the early Church, and how Tertullian tried to reconcile faith and reason -- and why so many Christians today would agree with him today.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 04:10 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
Post contains 509 words, total size 3 kb.

December 01, 2004

Free Will, part 2

I've talked about the various types of free will before. In this post, I'm going to discuss the different perspectives on how free will and divine sovereignty coincide.

Some people think they don't. If we have free will, then God really cannot know what the future holds, whether ten years from now, or ten minutes. God rolls the dice and takes a chance. He's got a better chance at being right than we do, but He still only has a chance. He could be wrong, he could be surprised. He is often disappointed. But He's still God.

That, in a nutshell, is open theism. God makes mistakes, and learns from us. We control our destiny, and God is just along for the ride. I'm working on a post where I look at the various Scripture passages that open theises typically use to support their view, and I'll post that later on. For right now, I'll say that I really don't think that this is the omnipotent, omniscient God that the Bible shows us.

If we hold to libertarian free will, though, open theism is not that big of a stretch, philosophically. We can always do things differently, so our actions influence God's knowledge and planning. Some people have adopted a different view, which is called Molinism.

Molinism essentially teaches that God has 'middle knowledge' -- that He knows things based on His creative action (free knoweldge), based on 'the way things have to be' (natural knowledge, things that are necessarilly true and not dependant on anything), and based on His absolute knowledge of all possible actions that His created beings can take (middle knowledge). This is a very complex system (I just finished writing a 15 page paper on it for philosophy, which I will post somewhere later on) -- suffice it to say that it involves God knowing absolutely everything that we could possibly do, not just what we actually do. His knowledge of the future is tied to this middle knowledge.

I am a compatibilist: I think that our freedom is based in God's will and our character/personality. We are therefore free, but not absolutely free. In His sovereignty, God knows what choices we will make -- based on either the situation we are in, or His understanding of how we will react to a situation, or simply because He knows how He will act in the situation and thus knows its outcome. This is similar to middle knowledge, but is based ultimately in God's creative act -- either in His creation of us and our personalities, His shaping of the situation around us, or His special act in creation. (This ended up being the thesis of the paper I just mentioned -- that the idea of middle knoweldge is correct, but it is not separate from God's free knowledge -- what He knows because of His actions. Here is an article by someone who agrees with me. There is an excellent one in the recent Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society that says essentially the same thing).

Sovereignty and free will is not an issue for compatibilists. Our free will is always exercised under the supervision of God, and He works through our actions. Because His will is always accomplished, He is in control of the circumstances, even though we are exercising our freedom. Libertarian free will implies a God who is always having to guess to stay one step ahead of HIs creation, or at the very least a God who really doesn't know everything.

Posted by: Warren Kelly at 04:20 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
Post contains 597 words, total size 4 kb.

<< Page 1 of 1 >>
23kb generated in CPU 0.0114, elapsed 0.1474 seconds.
57 queries taking 0.1405 seconds, 133 records returned.
Powered by Minx 1.1.6c-pink.