Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Must Logic Be Opposed to Faith?

The common argument that Christians use to persuade others to accept Jesus and become Christians is that we are all sinners who are incapable of doing good and of being able to choose good. This argument uses Roman 3.9-18 to show how depraved humans are. We deserve to die as punishment for being so depraved. So God sent us his son Jesus to be a sacrifice to die in our place. All we have to do is have faith in Jesus and we will be saved from punishment.

Then the Christian argument (using John 6.44) goes on to say that no people come to faith in Jesus unless God draws them in Jesus’s direction. Furthermore, the argument uses Ephesians 2.8 to say that faith in Jesus is a gift that God gives to us—it is not something that we have in ourselves; we are incapable of producing that kind of faith in ourselves. But, because God loves us and wants to save us, he initiates our salvation by providing us with the faith that we need to be able to accept Jesus.

Two questions arise from this argument: First, if the gift of faith comes from God, then isn’t God being unfair to those who haven’t received the gift of faith? The Christian argument answers that question by saying that God offers the gift of faith to everyone—it is up to us to receive it. However, this brings us to the second question: If we are utterly depraved and incapable of doing good, then how are we able to choose the good gift that God offers? If we are completely unable to save ourselves, and if our minds are constantly bent toward evil, then it stands to reason that we are unable to choose to receive the gift of faith.

This Christian argument is flawed logically. Even if it is true that God offers the gift of faith to everyone, by the tenets of the argument, we don’t have the mental capacity to choose to receive that gift because of our depravity—we aren’t “spiritual” enough to see the goodness in the gift. If we are completely depraved, then when we do happen to choose to do something good, it is only because we think that doing so would somehow benefit ourselves. However, if humans are created in God’s image (Genesis 1.26-7), then it stands to reason that we do have some capacity to see the difference between good and evil, to choose good instead of evil. It could be argued that humans weren’t depraved until the time that Adam and Eve sinned. However, Adam and Eve felt shame and guilt after their sin. Complete depravity would seem to negate any sense of shame or guilt.

The common Christian argument for the reason to choose Jesus is a flawed argument. In order to accept this argument and feel good about it, we must abandon any logical reasoning. To reason through the argument would first bring us to the conclusion that some people receive the gift of faith that allows them to choose Jesus, and some people don’t. God apparently has some arbitrary method of choosing, and we aren’t privy to how he makes his selections. (Amazingly, some people actually believe this, and how they can love a God like that is beyond my comprehension.) If we don’t accept that argument, then we are left with an unsolvable dilemma concerning the nature of humans and the nature of God. If we are created in the image of God, and humans are completely depraved, then something is wrong with God as well.

Of course, nothing is wrong with God, but something is wrong with the way Christians present God to others. Certainly God, who created us with the capacity to think and to reason, doesn’t want us to stop using our brains. Faith, which the bible continually urges us to have, should not stand opposed to the logical reasoning capabilities that God gave us. Either something is missing in the logic, or something is missing in the common Christian presentation of God.


Michael Kear said...

"Something is missing in the common Christian presentation of God."

That's my take on it.

We have been so wrapped up in the doctrine of original sin that we can't see any other possibilities than the majority view. It is quite interesting to go back into Christian history and look at the alternate views to original sin. Even C. S. Lewis denied the traditional view.

If the traditional view of original sin is taken out of the way (and I'm not offering an alternative view at this point), then we would have a completely different approach to the Good News of salvation.

jettybetty said...

This is one of a few topics I've spent a long time on trying to figure out. The Bible actually seems to contradict itself--but I don't believe that is the case. It does make me accept it's possible to believe either way when you read your Bible (depending on what filter you come with). For me, I've decided that my salvation is totally a God thing. I don't know exactly how he chose me, but I believe he did. If he can save me he can save anyone. My purpose is just to let him use me--and trust he has a plan on how that all works. He is God and I don't understand all his ways.

Tony Arnold said...

I wonder if you are being too hard on some Christians for their doctrine not being perfect, not being able to have an answer for life, God, and Christ that explains everything perfectly.

But that is impossible to achieve because as limited humans who can only experience the right-now through biased filters, and who have a past record of time that also involves filters and bias, we can never fully explain something as broad and infinite as God, his purpose, life, etc. Our views are myopic.

We will never have a full understanding of life until it is revealed to us and therefore any attempt of explaining all of it will have flaws, be less than perfect, and will not satisfy ever view or experience. Something will always be missing.

I don't like that frustration either but I do accept it. Thus I try to be as forgiving to my fellow Christians, and to myself, as I am called to be to those that don't follow Christ.

We will not get life or doctrine perfect, but I firmly believe that if one's heart truly seeks Christ through their imperfect walk through life, all works out in the end. Just because no one really knows how it is going to work out, doesn't mean that it doesn't.

Further, just because we cannot fully understand or explain the nature or purpose of Christ, it does not lessen that nature or its purpose. It will still be achieved.

It is likely that when all is revealed in whatever manner, when Christ returns or God manifests himself to everyone in whatever method, we will all slap our foreheads saying, "so that was what it really was about!" Then we will look around and realize that although we misunderstood some things or were just completely wrong, we still got the gift. The true purpose was still acheived even though we didn't fully grasp it.

JMG said...

Mike, I think one thing I really dislike about the "majority view" is that in so many ways it does seem to defy logic, but that's always explained away by sayings such as "You just have to take it on faith" or "God's ways aren't our ways." And people who ask too many questions are deemed troublemakers or, even worse, heretics. (This sort of goes along with what I said over at your blog today.)

Tony, it's those Christians I have a problem with and the ones that I can be accused of being hard on. Not having all the answers doesn't bother me as long as they are willing to admit that they don't have all the answers (I sure don't) and who are willing to look for the answers. But those who won't even entertain non-majority views have shut themselves up to any growth that could occur in their Christian lives. I think that if you constantly challenge what you believe by looking into the possibility of the truth in the other ideas, then you either confirm the validity of your own beliefs or you reveal the faults of your beliefs. And too many Christians aren't willing to go there. We've bought into the idea that to test our beliefs is to waver in our faith.

JB, I completely agree that my salvation is totally a "God thing." Thank goodness, too, because if we had to rely on people we'd be in big trouble!

Tony Arnold said...

I agree dogmatism creates so many problems, but they are flawed humans too who have to find out things the hard way sometimes.

The one trait I notice from many very dogmatic Christians is that they think having a firm belief and being tolerant of other views are mutually exclusive. As if they are compromising their faith if they discuss differing views with someone. Christ was the most firm and convicted but was the most tolerant in reaching out to others.

You and I are a good example of the difference between dogma and being firm in a belief. There are points that we likely disagree on concerning our understanding of God and Christ, but we have open respectful diaglogue without compromising what our current understandings are. The great thing about that is I learn things and gain insight through the discussions.

But when I get frustrated with my fellow Christians for not being willing to interact in this manner, I must remember they are humans trying to figure it out too, and they have their own set of weaknessess. I have to ask myself, "are they any less deserving of my tolerance and foregiveness as any other human?"

JMG said...

My problem is that I get impatient with people who I think should "know better" than to be so closed minded to other views. You're obviously much more compassionate in that area than I am, Tony.

And I appreciate our dialogue as well.

Tony Arnold said...

You're obviously much more compassionate in that area than I am, Tony.

Don't assume I execute my thoughts so well. Connecting knowing and doing are one the biggest problems humans have and I am not immune. Patient is not a term those close to me use often.

I am very likely to be the one that says, "I love you brother (or sister) but you are stepping on the wrong end of my last nerve."

JMG said...