“If I became a Christian, I feel like I’d have to give up my mind.” That’s how one friend put it as he explained to me his struggle to become a follower of Jesus. For him Christianity appeared to be a religion built on faith, where people were expected to just believe certain things without knowing why.
If you’ve walked with Jesus in a healthy church community for any length of time, you likely know that there is more to following Jesus than mere belief. But maybe you’ve struggled to know what is the place of logic and reason in the Christian faith? Or maybe you’ve never even thought about the place of reason, because for you , it is has been easy to just believe what you believe. But is that it o.k?
What does the Bible say about the role reason should play in the Christian life?
We Are Invited To Reason
Isaiah 1:18 states, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…”. The Israelites were encouraged by God to use their reason. In the context, God wanted them to use their reason to see their need for repentance. God was calling them to think about their sin, and then to think about what would be the consequences of their sin. The expectation was, that when the Israelites reasoned about such things, they would repent, and turn to God–the one offering to save them.
In the New Testament God also put a great value on reason. In Romans 1:18-20, we see that the ungodly are without excuse, because “for what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” God’s point is, since he has given people the intellectual faculties to perceive his existence from the created order, they ought to know that he not only exists, but that he should be worshiped. The Bible is clear, God-given reason is a means by which we can come to believe in God and see our need for God.
We Are Called To Use Reason When Asked About Our Faith
1 Peter 3:15 states, “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” The Bible calls believers to give reasons for their hope (that is their hope in Christ). In other words when we as Christian are asked questions like, “why do you believe Jesus is alive, ruling, and worth following?” We should be able to say something more than, “I just believe”. Instead we should be able to give logical reasons for our beliefs. And we should be able to provide those reasons with gentleness and respect. As J.P. Moreland writes, “If we are going to be wise, spiritual people prepared to meet the crises of our age, we must be a studying, learning community that values the life of the mind.” Having good reasons keeps us from having to be defensive or offended when people question our beliefs. When we have well thought out reasons, we can see every question as an opportunity to help others understand why we believe what we believe.
We Grow In Our Faith Through Reason
2 Peter 1:5 “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge…” Growing in our faith involves more than just growing as moral people. The Bible calls us to add to our faith, virtue and knowledge. This echos Jesus’ s words to “love God… with all your mind.” (Mark 12:30) God has given us minds, so that we can worship him with our minds. Therefore a maturing Christian is one who grows in his or her ability to reason and understand the things of God. John Piper explains it this way, “God is not honored by groundless love. In fact, there is no such thing. If we do not know anything about God, there is nothing in our mind to awaken love. If love does not come from knowing God, there is no point in calling it love for God.” Growing in our knowledge of God will help us grow in our love of God.
It is a real tragedy that some people still see Christianity as a religion that d0esn’t value the mind. The life of the mind and the exercise of reason is a vital part of the Christian life, and the Bible celebrates that. To be a Christian is to pursue reason, to use reason, and grow in our ability to reason. We do this all as an act of worship to the God who created and reflects reason, and who will, one day, completely restore all reason.
May we be a people who celebrate reason, and lead others to do the same!
What are you favorite ways to love God with your mind?
JP Moreland’s Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul
John Piper’s Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God