Theology Corner

Addressing commonly asked questions about Christianity from the perspective of a non-theologian

Theology Corner

WHAT IS THE PROPER CHRISTIAN PATH TO ENLIGHTENMENT?

Many Christians have followed each of these paths.

 

FIDEISM

Fideism is the belief that religious truth must be based solely on faith.  Religious truth must not, even remotely, be a consequence of reason based on evidence.  Fideism rejects all forms of Christian Apologetics and represents, therefore, an antipode for this website.  The 18th to 20th centuries are replete with European Theologians, like Barth, Kierkegaard, Schleiermacher and others who spouted the haughty fideism that reason is unnecessary and inappropriate for the exercise and justification of religious belief.  

Fideism can be viewed as a type of Hegelian synthesis by which your religious beliefs are based on feelings, intuition and emotions.  Consider, for example, the thesis (The Bible is the inspired, infallible and inerrant word of God) and its antithesis (The Bible is not the inspired, infallible and inerrant word of God).  By classical logic, one is true and the other is false.  But those who embrace fideism can synthesize a third option such as (I don’t believe the Bible is the word of God but every time I read the Bible, God miraculously speaks truth to my heart).  In the words of Richard Rothe: “Theological speculation is, in essence, nothing more than the attempt to express, in conceptual form, the immediate and certain content of the devout consciousness, the content of the feeling of the divine.”

However, a very basic Christian belief is that the human heart is too deceitful to be trusted (Gen 6:5; Ps 14:1; Prov 12:15, 14:12, 20:9; Isa 32:6; Jer 17:9; Mat 15:19; Mark 7:21; John 5:42; Acts 28:27). The Bible never encourages us to trust the human heart.  Any plan to base enlightenment on feelings, intuition and emotion will lead to construction of a great edifice resting on a weak foundation.

 

BLIND FAITH IN AN AUTHORITY FIGURE

Your authority figure will not be standing next to you and intervening on your behalf when you stand for judgement. 

 

LOGIC/REASON/EVIDENCE

For each issue of belief, the Bible teaches us to reach conclusions by reasoning using a sequence of logical steps; each step should be based on the evidence of Scripture, personal experience and history including the great traditions of the church.  The Bible encourages us, from cover to cover, to analyze the evidence using classical logic!  The following examples illustrate this point:

 

Deuteronomy 18:21-22

We are encouraged to use classical logic to distinguish between a false prophet and a prophet of God.  “If a prophet makes one mistake then the prophet is not getting his or her information from God" or, what is the same thing, “If a prophet is of God then the prophet always speaks the truth."

 

Isaiah 1:18

We are told God wants to reason with us.

 

Hosea 4:6

We are informed that we can be destroyed by lack of knowledge.

 

Luke 7:19-23

John the Baptist sends two of his followers to Jesus with the following question, “Are you the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?"  Instead of saying, “Yes, I am the one whom you have awaited," Jesus performs miracles in full view of John's followers.  After a while, Jesus sends the followers back to John with information obtained by first hand observation.  Jesus says for them to tell John what they've seen so he can deduce the answer based on the evidence of first-hand observation.

 

Romans 1:20

We are invited to look carefully at each of the things around us - an incredible level of information stored in the most primitive DNA, a universe expanding at nearly the critical rate to avoid re-collapse, abstract thought along with love in the mind of man - and try to explain these things without invoking the existence of God.

 

1 Corinthians 14:20

Christians are advised to think like adults.

 

1 Thessalonians 5:21

Christians are advised to carefully examine everything.

 

1 Peter 3:15

Christians are advised to always be ready to defend their beliefs by providing a sound basis.

 

1 John 4:1-4

Christians are advised to test every prophet to determine if he or she speaks for God.

 

Jude 3

Christians are encouraged to contend earnestly for the faith.

 

 

But Christian enlightenment does not end with logic, reason and evidence; there is more.  In the words of Oswald Chambers:

 

“The golden rule for understanding spiritually is not intellect, but obedience.  If a man wants scientific knowledge, intellectual curiosity is his guide; but if he wants insight into what Jesus Christ teaches, he can only get it by obedience.  If things are dark to me, then I may be sure there is something I will not do.  Intellectual darkness comes through ignorance: spiritual darkness comes because of something I do not intend to obey.”