The planets ‘faith’ and ‘reason’

I haven’t heard a cheep further from the sceptical American professor mentioned in the last two blogs. I suspect he is disgusted with my respect for and analysis of intuition and I further suspect that we are on two separate planets – the planet of naturalistic assumptions and the planet of faith. However, it’s not going to stop me answering either him or the putative ‘skeptic’ although I know full well that reason alone will never lead to faith. The planets are far apart and there is no spaceship ‘reason’ to take us to the planet ‘faith.’ Strangely – but perhaps not so strangely though when we consider the Fall (see below) – naturalistic reasoning can definitely keep people from having true faith in the Christ. We saw this in previous blogs with the hugely deleterious effect modern philosophies have had on Christianity in the ‘educated’ West.

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Temporal reality

I promised to tell the professor why I believe there’s a God, an afterlife and so on under three headings. I’ve already dealt with the first one, personal experiences. The second was God’s revelation of himself in history. Perhaps I should have said ‘God’s revelation of himself in time’, because history and time aren’t the same thing at all, especially in Dooyeweerd’s scheme of things. Although I’ll be giving my personal opinion on ‘God’s revelation’, I’m relying heavily on Dooyeweerd’s interpretation, especially when it comes to ‘time.’ Time for him is cosmological time and he talks about ‘temporal reality.’ In other words, by using ‘temporal reality’, reality and time are seen to be almost interchangeable. Everything we can think about is time-bound.

The simplicity of faith

Faith, I believe, is both simple and profound. To say with your whole heart ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, that he was crucified for the sins of mankind, and that he now lives and has forgiven my sins’ and to follow this through in practice is true faith. It is as simple as that. I hope that is the faith I have. Millions have experienced that simple faith and no-one can deny them it. One doesn’t have to be learned to have faith: indeed, learning is often an obstacle. As the Master said: ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and have revealed them to little children.’ (Matt.11:25 NIV)

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The profundity of faith

Yet there is profundity to faith as well, which takes in the whole depth and breadth of reality, and we aren’t asked to avoid that. After all, Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles was a leading Jewish intellectual and he was prepared to speak to anyone who listened. Because he believed so thoroughly that Christ was from God, he was prepared to be a fool for Christ, who was ‘a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.’ Paul believed that all reality was in and through Christ. Again and again he uses the phrase ‘in Christ’ not Christ in him. For example, Ephesians 1:4, ‘For he chose us in him before the creation of the world …’

Am I a ‘fool? I hope so

So I believe because I see God revealing himself through Christ in the Bible. My ambition for any remaining time I have left is to be a fool for Christ. Not that I’m comparing myself to Paul as ‘fool’; that would be really foolish! But it does say: ‘For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.’ (1 Cor. 1:25) So if what I say sounds foolish to the ‘religious’ I hope they’re not to those who are in Christ. The Bible, and reality itself, has to be seen whole. In the last few hundred years, it has been heaped with contumely by the learned, and yet it has survived and continues to survive. There are different kinds writing in the Bible, e.g. history, poetry, law, letters and they are true in their own way but the main truth is faith truth which is spiritually perceived. Those who don’t see the whole take a verse or verses out of context and think they are being clever, not realizing their own foolishness. But a different kind of ‘fool’, not a ‘fool’ in Christ, but a fool in opposition to him, who is the wholeness of time.

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The Fall

One can’t comprehend this foolishness unless one understands the Fall. This is where I find Dooyeweerd’s ideas useful. The whole idea of Creation-Fall-Redemption is foolishness for many people today, as it was in Paul’s time. Oh, you don’t believe in the Fall! Have you read The Sun lately? I wouldn’t blame you if you hadn’t, but any newspaper or history book will do. But one doesn’t even need a newspaper. I look in my heart and I see it. ‘The heart’s aye the part aye that makes us right or wrang’ as our national poet put it. Briefly, God created ‘temporal reality’ and Adam, the first man, in primordial time, that is, before time, as we know, it began. Man rebelled against God and from then on all his faculties, including his reason and will, were tainted so that he was in a state of apostasy, i.e. a turning away from God. Adam was the initial root of humanity.

The redemption

God had to do something and he entered our temporal reality himself in the form of his Son – ‘Who has seen me has seen the Father.’ So Christ is the new root of humanity and those who have faith in him will be ‘in Christ’, i.e. in the ‘supra-temporal’ or in ‘the fullness of time’ as Dooyweerd expresses it. Theoretical thought can’t prove the Creative event or the Fall or the final destination but all things point to them. These things are perceived through the eye of faith in the heart of love when there is a turning to God. They can’t be proved by reason. The proof of faith is much more real because it takes in the whole of reality, not just absolutizing selected aspects.

The Sabbath of the heart

The poet Sorley MacLean talks of the ‘Sabbath of the dead’ in his renowned poem ‘Hallaig.’ Despite being a great poem which pulls at the heartstrings at many levels, it is not a Christian poem. It speaks more of a metamorphosis of the human again into the realm of nature, e.g. ‘the girls a wood of birches’, not a Christian but a pagan idea. The alternative Christian ideal would be a ‘Sabbath of the heart’ where the heart is in Christ not just on Sundays but on all days, the heart which points to the ‘fullness of time’ i.e. the supra-temporal.

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