Here begins a new series by RJS, one of the most faithful participants of this blog, on Tim Keller’s new book.
Timothy Keller, founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan recently came out with a new book The Reason for God.This book was written to provide “an intelligent platform on which true believers can stand their ground when bombarded by the backlash to religion created by the Age of Skepticism.” (front flap) Over the next few weeks we will look at the arguments for and against Christian faith presented in this book. Before digging into the book itself however, it is useful to consider the relationship between faith and reason and the response of individuals to the real or perceived conflict.
The clash between faith and reason of course, is not a new discovery ??? it has plagued western civilization for the last several centuries. In our Colleges and Universities today many undergraduate students find their faith tested, often severely. Within the graduate and postdoctoral ranks in secular academia strain and tension is almost unavoidable ??? in all areas of scholarship and study. Ben Meyer reflects in the introduction to Ch. 5 of The Aims of Jesusthat in the course of debates on faith and history (and we could broaden this to faith and intellectual pursuits in general) we see or have seen four responses to the conflict (I expand somewhat):
(1) Faith requires the renunciation of intelligence. Any elaboration here would detract from my principle point ??? so I will forbear.
(2) Intellectual integrity requires the renunciation of faith. This is a growing view in our world today. Secular humanism and atheism may not be in ascendancy (Alister McGrath, NT Wright, Tim Keller, and Brian McLaren all make this point in various ways) ??? but the view has become the de facto operating principle for many; the point of departure. More importantly, the accepted alternatives to atheism or materialism do not usually include orthodox Christian faith.
(3) By the skin of one???s teeth one can hold to both faith and integrity. But within this position there is a constant tension. We bracket off the questions and continue to function ??? barely. Many stories ??? both of those who “lost faith” and those who “retained faith” include this approach in the mix.
(4) Intellectual integrity demands faith. A modernistic “evidence that demands a verdict” approach. (Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, Hugh Ross, …)
I would add a fifth response to this taxonomy:
(5) Intellectual integrity is fully compatible with faith but requires honest interaction. There is no proof – some ambiguity remains. Of course honest grappling with all the questions and issues is somewhat unnerving to many. It seems inevitable that some views will be refined or even abandoned in the process and this prospect causes concern. Perhaps it is not true that everything is clear cut. Nonetheless there is a way forward. Exploring the issues does not lead inevitably to deism or liberalism or apostasy.
Faith is a relationship. Grappling with issues of faith is best done in relationship within community. We aren’t made to be loners ??? from God or even before God. But it sometimes seems that the hardest single thing to do within the community of conservative evangelicalism is to find one’s way from a skin of the teeth faith into a robust and reasoned faith.
A bit of an autobiographical note to start: In my adult journey I (RJS) have moved from 2 to 3, with a long holding pattern in 3, and now on to 5. Neither 1 nor 4 were ever viable options for me. But… the journey is not always easy. Of course this is not the only possible path. I know some who are comfortable in 4, and too many who have found 2 the only plausible option. Some remain in 3 or a variant of 3. I also know some who take a variant of 1 (although they wouldn’t put it quite this way) because it is easiest to “just believe”.
So a couple of questions ??? and let’s start a conversation…
What is your story ??? where would you place yourself within this taxonomy?
And… how can we make room in our community, within our local churches, for people to mature into robust Christian faith? Is there a place for honest interaction with all of the issues?