Is Christianity rational?

Over at Pyro, Dan Phillips weighs in with a provocative post about the rationality of Christianity. He distinguishes between rationalism and rationality, a helpful distinctive, for his case that, “If it isn’t rational, it isn’t Christianity.”

I deeply appreciate Pyro’s web ministry and apologetics, its attempt to reconnect intellect with faith and challenge us all to be biblically-grounded in our thinking. The one thing that I might add to his post is a simple caveat: If it is rational, it may not be Christianity. You see, we live in a world where spiritual powers and principalities govern world systems. Political, social, and cultural structures are inhabited and infested not only by folks like you and me – you know, the kind that tend to screw up everything we touch – but also by demonic beings who seek to twist, pervert, and destroy all that God intends for creation and people.

There are many rational things that are simply not Christian. What I mean is that if it makes sense, it doesn’t always mean that it’s of God. Rather, sometimes our common sense is the enemy of our faith walk. It didn’t make much sense for Abraham to lift the knife over Isaac, but he did- in faith.

Book02Paul asked for prayer so “that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.” (Ephesians 6.19) Elsewhere, in Colossians 1.27, the mystery is described as “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” I’m not disputing Dan’s post, but I siimply prefer not to have a God that I can completely explain. I’m the creature, after all. Does God make sense? Yes. But there are still things about God that I will never know.

That’s all I’m saying.

BTW, Pyro has got to have the most cohesive and seamless graphic mix that I’ve seen on a blog. If you’ve never stopped by, you ought to do so just for the eye candy.

On this day...

5 comments

  1. Mark W. says:
    Dan Phillips provocative? Sad to say, the only thing he provokes in me lately is frustration and pity. He?s a skilled writer, I?ll admit; it?s just too bad that he?s usually either too abrasive or just plain wrong.

    In this case he is both.

    As someone who has had a close friendship with a Mormon and is knowledgeable of the spiritual differences, I think Phillips begins his post with a cheap shot. Why the derogatory remarks?just for effect? The subject isn?t necessarily about LDS theology. If he?s going to use his experience as example, he should at least explain things fairly.

    More importantly, Phillips, himself, is mistaken in his working definition of ?rational? vs. ?rationalism.? He writes: ?The latter is a philosophy, a worldview that asserts that man can know truth by the use of his unaided reason. The former merely means that something is in accord with reason?? Unfortunately, this definition of ?rational? begs the question?okay, then what does it mean to be ?in accord with reason?? To this, he asserts that, ?it doesn’t violate fundamental canons of thinking such as the law of non-contradiction.? He is completely confused here. First of all, his use of ?canons of thinking? implies that rationality is man-made (like postmodernists would have us believe); however, the law of non-contradction is NOT man-made, it is an observed, universal fact. 2+2=4 no matter whether man exists or not. These are matters of ?logic? and are grounded in the very nature of God.

    All of this misunderstanding evaporates Phillips argument. He wants to conclude that Christianity is irrational because it often defies ?common sense.? The sleight of hand is that he has just (mis)defined rationality as being the same as ?common sense,? which it certainly is not! Common sense is often illogical upon closer inspection. Our ability to understand logic is a God given human trait.

    Apart from the trickery and ill-logic of Phillip?s argument, I am also regularly turned off by the pompous, self-righteous commentary the ?pyromaniacs? consistently perpetrate against anyone who doesn?t agree with them in the comments area of their blog. Anyone who is ignorant enough to want to ?show off? a poorly constructed opinion is not necessarily that interesting to me. I have more coherent things to read.

    (btw?Please, don?t take me wrong, Jeff: this isn?t drected at you at all ? I know that you link these guys on your blog ? but I do want others to have a ?heads up? concerning something that could easily persuade readers into believing things that aren?t necessarily so)

  2. Mark W. says:
    Jeff,

    Actually, Phillips DOES argue that Christianity is rational…but not before defining rationality as being a man-made “canon of thinking” and mistaking THAT definition for “logic.” I guess you’re free to choose your favorite contradiction…either way, the conclusion (as he argues it) doesn’t obtain “rationally.”

    If it takes an irrational argument to prove the rationality of Christianity, isn’t that self-defeating?

    BTW – Here’s an example of Phillips verbally sparring with someone who questions his theology:

    “Are you a modalist, Raja, or a tritheist? In either case, you are not a Christian. Or do you believe that God is one in one way, and three in the same way? Then what you believe is absurd, and should be rejected. Or are you saying that God is one in one way, and three in another? In that case, I guess you just like to see your name on lots and lots of comment boxes. Which is it?

  3. Jeff says:
    Mark,
    Great comments here.

    I don’t know that Pyro was trying to prove Christianity irrational? Perhaps I need to go back and read it.

    One of the reasons I link to Pyro is because they always make me think about my own positions. Some days, I find myself just shaking my head. Other days, I find myself nodding. Other days, nodding off. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Any site that makes you think deeply about your own faith, worldview, etc. is a site worth visiting occasionally.

    Phillips himself wrote a post about GBA (guilt by association) because one of the blogs he links to is regularly incendiary, and at times, I think, even hatefully spiteful. While not totally distancing himself from that site, he does suggest that from his perspective, he’d rather be a firecracker than a dud.

    To his defense, no one can really control how folks respond to commenters in the comments. (Does that make sense?) He may elicit more than his fair share of “pompous, self-righteous” commentary and even generate some of his own (who doesn’t?), but I would agree with you that the overall tone of Pyro is not for the “tinder”-minded.

  4. Jeff says:
    Markus… wow. I’m certainly not going to defend that comment there. Pretty blunt and harsh.

    Scripture tells us that we should always be ready to give an answer to those that ask about the hope that we have but to do so with gentleness and respect. Not only is that an imperative from the Bible, but it is rational. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I do know that on many BIG blogs – Pyro is one of them – that you occasionally have to deal with “blog stalkers.” These are the folks that are aggressive, hateful, and vindictive in their comments – continuously so.

    I’d like to give Pyro the benefit of the doubt and suggest that sometimes we would do well do step away from our comment boxes and get some perspective as to the tone and power of our responses. However, if this response is more typical, then I would say that Pyro needs an extinguisher.

  5. jill says:
    i briefly scanned their blog and couldn’t find what you two are talking about. But from reading yours re: rationality being Christianity – i’m curious about the population of people they are saying Christianity SHOULD be rational to? Since I don’t know much about their blog, this may not apply, but in turn, i have to ask, what about Scripture speaking about the Cross is foolishness to those who don’t know Him? Doesn’t sound as if Christianity would be rational to the world at all

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