“There are two ways of looking at the world: through faith and superstition or through the rigors of logic, observation, and evidence—in other words through reason.” – Richard Dawkins.[i]
An apparent battle between faith and reason is prominent in our culture, but this dichotomy is foreign to Scripture and historical Christianity. Compare Dawkins with this thought from Edward Feser, “Faith is not emotional; it is rather an act of the will. And again, not because faith contradicts reason, for it doesn’t. Rather, faith in God…is nothing less than the will to follow reason’s lead when emotion might incline us to doubt.”[ii] Biblical faith is better understood as an active trust in the authority of what God has said.
This reasoning is not unlike when visiting a doctor; taking medical advice from a random person on the street is intuitively foolish. Instead, we seek out trained and credentialed professionals who have demonstrated their medical expertise. They have access to information about our health that we do not. When they provide a diagnosis, we choose whether or not to trust and do what they say. The fact that they have been trained by competent schools, been properly credentialed, and might even be highly recommended by others, gives us reason to place our trust in them confidently.
Just as we evaluate the reasons for whether or not to trust a medical expert and their advice on our health, many have scrutinized the tenants of Christianity before trusting in them. What reasons persuade someone to trust in the God of the Bible actively? While a big question with many and varying answers, three reasons have persuaded me to reasonably put my active trust in the God of the Bible.
1. The correspondence of Truth and Reality within the Christian framework.
Can I know anything for sure?
Many today fail to see the importance of grounding their reasoning process in reality. Whatever is not based on reality is, in fact, unreal. Based on Romans 1:19-20, we have the ability to understand the world around us, as well as God’s invisible attributes. Despite the claims of subjectivism (the doctrine that knowledge is merely subjective and that there is no external or objective truth) and “blind” faith, one of the most fundamental observations anyone can make of physical reality is that it changes, and yet something about it remains the same.
The things perceived in physical reality are the same as what comes to exist in the human mind; what something is is determined by reality and not by the knower. This observation is the first step in giving positive arguments for Christianity and must be the basis for the thought process and defense of the believer’s faith. It is the same observation that I have made and persuaded me to actively trust in Christianity because of the explanations it gives about truth and reality’s correspondence.
We understand our world through our five senses; sight, touch, smell, hearing, and taste. These senses help us perceive the real world. This perception helps us know a thing’s form (essence) and its matter (potential to change). The form of something is related as to how it exists in the real world, and matter is what builds that form in the real world. What helped me understand these concepts was thinking of my shadow (as essence or form) versus my body (as matter). My body is what is perceived in time and space, while a shadow of my body (a form) is perceived in the mind of someone who looks at me.
Anything in reality has the potential to change through its matter being changed; we call that individual potentiality. We can observe anything in reality and see that it changes over time because that thing has individual potentiality. Trees grow larger and develop branches with colorful leaves. But it remains the same tree and is distinguishable from all the other trees. Change could be substantial; I could destroy the tree, and it could no longer exist. Or it could be accidental, such as cutting off a limb.
The change could be internal, such as it’s growing a new limb, or the change could be external if I cut the tree down. Matter is what separates an essence to be this tree or that tree. While the form of a substance is immaterial, the matter of a substance is what individuates the essence to be a particular thing that gives it extension in space while limiting it to its form.
We can say a dog is not a cat because of its different form or essence. We can say this cat is not that cat because of their different matter or individuation of matter. Stick with me here; it will come together shortly. However, keep the concept of the difference between a thing’s form and matter in the back of your mind as we move forward.
The process of knowing.
The way in which we know something is by its form, which is united to matter, interpreted by our five senses. We are able to capture the form of a substance (like a cat) in reality and immaterially know the substance in our mind. The form is immaterial, and we store these forms immaterially in our minds. The same form that is united with matter (cat and catness) unites within the mind of the knower. In one respect, the knower and the thing known become one.
I know that a particular globe on my desk is a globe on my desk because I see it.
I know that the specific globe on my desk is a globe because I know what a globe is.
I know what a globe is because I understand what the concept or form of a globe is.
In the illustration, I have a form of a globe in my mind, and because I live and exist in the known world, I am able, with my internal senses, to combine all the available external sense data. I can extract the universal “globeness” from the particular globe that is on my desk. From this, I can form mental images of particulars by using my internal senses combined with my intellectual faculties, remembrance and the abstracted universal. With my senses and cognitive abilities, I can make judgments (whether this particular globe is useful or not) and form concepts and ideas about the known thing (in this case, the globe). This is only a fraction of what happens within each of us effortlessly and without our awareness.
Why is this important?
Let’s tie all of these concepts together. All humans have the same nature/essence; consequently, all human intellects have the same basic capacities. Since the forms in reality are the same as what comes to exist in the human mind, what something is is determined by reality and not by the knower. This is what we mean by truth. Truth is that which corresponds to reality. Knowledge, meaning, and the intended purpose of all things are grounded in reality and are objectively verifiable. This explanation supports all human endeavors in the sciences and humanities. Particularly, it makes Christian apologetics, theology, and ethics worthy endeavors.
The more that I study the Scriptures, and the more that I understand the worldview that Christianity supports and promulgates, I am convinced that the Christian worldview best represents that correlation of existence with intellect and reality. Truth and reality, and truth of reality meet within the Christian worldview. This unity of existence between intellect and reality is the basis for the two extremely important great apologetic goals: to demonstrate the existence of God and to demonstrate the historical truth that God raised Jesus of Nazareth from the dead; my second and third reasons why I place my active trust in God as revealed in Scripture. I will attempt to flesh those concepts out in part two of this small series.
[i] Richard Dawkins, Enemies of Reason: Episode 1 (0:53), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyQ57X3YhH4&list=P- L64A19417DAFD7BDA&index=1
[ii] Edward Feser, The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press, 2010), 3092-3094, Kindle.