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Is the Christian faith rational?

Rational thinking is in contrast to supernatural revelation and relies on a “natural light” with reason. To have a rational understanding of something means that knowledge must be clear, and seeks to give to thinking the certainty and demonstrative character of mathematics. Is the Christian faith a blind faith without any rational reason?

Faith and rationality

Christians will tell others that there are reasons to believe in the Christian faith. Believing has both a “head” and a “heart” aspect. The “head” aspect is connected with rational thinking, while the “heart” aspect has a relation with faith. Christian faith has a special relationship to areas of the reality we experience. It cannot be denied that many people accept faith as the hidden practice of rational behavior. However, rational understanding is possible. This paves the way to believe that this is the truth of God [1].

Truth

The word “truth” characterizes a way of living and modes of existences. According to the Islamic scholar Ibn Sina (Avicenna), truth is "What corresponds in the mind to what is outside it" [2]. Further studies have shown that the truth we experience in our rational thinking is based on the truth in things [3]. The real things are part of the actions of the Creator of the universe with mankind [4].

Goodness

To exist is a good in itself. However not everything that exists has the same goodness [5]. One of the greatest rational thinkers of mankind said: “in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen...to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right” [6]. Perfect goodness is only in God. The Law of God is the law everybody knows, because it is in our consciousness and it is part of the human mind [7]. God’s good creation has been disturbed by the imperfect actions of human beings.

Beauty

Beauty is experienced as harmonious and stimulating, as something that kindles enthusiasm and gives delight thus leading to a heightened attention and attraction of something. Beauty is connected to what is proper, useful and functional [8] From beautiful bodies, a man adores the beauty of science and the loveliness of wisdom. Then he may turn towards the wide ocean of beauty until he reaches the eternal beauty [9]. Therefore a beautiful work or and a beautiful work is a sign of special blessing of the eternal God. To appreciate the beauty of God’s creation is to appreciate the greater beauty of God [10]. Unless something has grace and elegance, it is not attractive [11]. Therefore people are attracted to the beautiful ideas of the Gospel of Jesus Christ [12]. Beauty in Christian faith is important for the Kingdom of God and Paradise: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:3-4)

Logos

Beauty is linked to truth and goodness. Truth, goodness and beauty are the ultimate desires of mankind. The three terms ‘beauty’ (καλόν), ‘goodness’ (ἀγαθόν) and ‘truth’ (ἀληθές) are the properties of being. Everyone who wants to be perfect must be in line with truth, beauty and goodness. The Logos is a Greek philosophical term about “the father of all things” [13]., including truth, beauty and goodness [14]. The Greek term λόγος (Logos) is the universal, eternal, fundamental ordering principle of the universe and also the final source of human rational thinking according to the ancient Greek philosophers. The Logos is the fundamental principle our world. With the Logos, bridges between the rational mind and Christian faith are possible, because Logos is mentioned in the Gospel. The Greek word Logos is in English “the Word”.

Jesus Christ

We have seen that rational understanding of truth, goodness and beauty can be complied into Logos. Now, it is possible to understand the importance of Jesus Christ. Therefore the Logos (Word) came into our world: “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life” (1 John 1:1-2). A Christian believer has made the decision that Jesus Christ is the truth (John 14:6), beauty (Romans 10:15) and goodness (Acts 10:38.). Therefore Jesus Christ is called the Logos (“the Word”) (John 1:1,14). Muslim scholar Ibn Arabi (1165–1240 AD) studied Greek philosophy and he also called the Logos not only “the Word” (Kalimah), but also Eternal Wisdom and Reality of Reality (Haqiqatu’l Haqa’iq) [15]. According to the Qur’an, Jesus Christ is also the Word of God (Qur’an 3:45 and 4:171). This paves the way to a Christian understanding for a Muslim of Jesus Christ as the Word of God. In John 1, the Logos (the Word) became flesh in Jesus Christ (John 1:14,17-18). All that is true, beautiful and good finds its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ as the Logos is the Origin through whom all things were made (John 1:3).

Faith and salvation

All decisions of a human being are the result of faith in something. Faith is unlike thinking part of what we do with our heart. A person without faith is someone who is not sure to make a trip, because he is not sure that the destination of the trip will exist. Such a man will never make a trip, because he will not have any motivation to travel. Everything depends upon faith. The person who doesn’t have faith is like someone who has to cross the sea, but is so frightened that he doesn’t trust the ship. And so he stays where he is, and is never saved, because he will not get on board and cross over [16]. Man is not perfect. Our consciousness convinces us that we have already an idea about sin. When the Gospel asks to repent, we have already and idea about sin and repentance. Revelation brings a fuller understanding what sin means, but it build upon an existing human awareness of sin. Revelation is directed towards the goal of establishing a personal relationship between the God who reveals, and human beings who receive this revelation [17]. The truth of Christian faith about the forgiveness of sin by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is denied (Galatians 2:4, 14) and falsified (2 Corinthians 4:2) by many people. Christian faith is still rational, because there are many testimonies of Christians that salvation is only possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:20, 4:4-7, 5:7).

Further study

Further study and research will show that there is valid reason to believe that Christian faith is true. The destiny of a human being is not complete natural. There is an empty place in anyone’s soul that only can be filled by Jesus Christ, the Logos outside of us. Everyone has wishes about moral virtues, to have perfect knowledge and understanding of the physical reality, the admiration of beauty, the peace with yourself and all other people. In the Christian faith all this kind of wishes are accessible: “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). It is possible to come to rationally believe in Jesus Christ, when we investigate Christian faith. In Christian faith the truth can be revealed by God and God can make God known to us.

Notes

  1. Hendrikus Berkhof, Sierd Woudstra, Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Study of the Faith, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2002, 23.
  2. Osman Amin, Influence of Muslim Philosophy on the West, in: Monthly Renaissance 17 (11), 2007.
  3. Thomas Aquinas, "Veritas supra ens fundatur" (Truth is founded on being). Disputed Questions on Truth, 10, 2, reply to Obj. 3.
  4. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I, Question 16, Article 5.
  5. Goodness of God, in: Hans Dieter Betz et al (ed), Religion Past & Present, Encyclopedia of Theology and Religion, Volume V, F-Haz, Brill, Leiden 2009, 521.
  6. Benjamin Jowett (Translator), The Essential Plato, 1999, 269.
  7. Alister E. McGrath, A New Vison for Natural Theology, Blackwell, Malden, 2008, 295.
  8. Beauty, in: Hans Dieter Betz et al (ed), Religion Past & Present, Encyclopedia of Theology and Religion, Volume I, A-Bhu, Brill, Leiden 2008, 658.
  9. Frederick Copleston, A History of Philosophy, Volume I: Greece and Rome, Doubleday, New York, 1985, 172-173.
  10. Alister E. McGrath, A New Vison for Natural Theology, Blackwell, Malden, 2008, 263.
  11. Augustine, Confessiones, Chapter IV, xiii, 20.
  12. Alister E. McGrath, A New Vison for Natural Theology, Blackwell, Malden, 2008, 283.
  13. Günter Figal, Logos, in: Hans Dieter Betz et al (ed), Religion Past and Present, Encyclopedia of Religion, Brill, Leiden, 201, 591.
  14. Roger E. Olson, Roger E. Clson, The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform, IVP Academic, 1999, 61.

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