Reason vs. Revelation

28 September 2008

Perhaps you can help me. I was discussing the nature of Christian belief – specifically knowledge – the other day with a good friend, and I felt like I hit a wall. This wall is certainly not one that is unique to my friend, but is common to most everyone. The wall is that of human reason and intellect.

It was my friend’s opinion that while they could clearly observe that Christianity is mostly internally coherent, there is still a large gap of belief and understanding preventing full acceptance. And my friend is not able to cross this gap for intellectual reasons. I know that given the truth of Christianity, there should be no true intellectual gap; and indeed, I have been able to defend Christianity on the occasional issue. But I also believe there is more to this gap than mere reason.

I suppose you could see the void in a number of ways. In one sense I suppose it’s about Christianity being externally coherent: i.e. matching up to our sense of reality. But I do not believe this is possible without revelation from God. This is true for two reasons: first, God’s plan for salvation appears to be foolish when judged by human reason alone (1 Corinthians 1:18-28); second, mankind actively suppresses the truth of God’s existence (Romans 1:18-23). So it takes a divine intervention for people’s eyes to be opened.

So think of it this way: proper intellectual acceptance of God is not purely intellectual, it has a moral dimension. It is this moral dimension that is affected supremely by our inherent sin; and thus our intellectual capabilities are suppressed.

I know that for most Christians, the above is quite obvious and well-understood (assuming I got it right). However, I struggle with the implications of this with regard to human reason. It is clear that human reason is subordinate to God’s truth; and that human reason, in its purest form, is a gift of God. But what about when reason doesn’t appear to lead to God? Of course, from the Christian’s point of view this is a result of incomplete reasoning. But I can’t always argue around that.

Sometimes I just have to say that I don’t know: or rely on the foolishness of man and the wisdom of God. But I must say I don’t like it very much! So, what do you think? Do you think I have fundamentally misunderstood something; or do you have any advice?