Snippets of True Reason, part 3

Previous installments of the “Snippets” series covered four chapters each. This one covers the six chapters that make up the (sort of) middle of the True Reason book. Simply put, they “offer arguments for the rational strength of the Christian worldview.” See any familiar names among the authors?

Nine: “Reason in a Christian Context” (Peter Grice)

“The biblical pattern of coming to faith always begins with evidence. The first stage of evidence is the pervasive work of God discernible in creation (Rom. 1:20). Sometimes the evidence is the experience of personally encountering God. (To automatically dismiss this evidence as psychic malfunction is to beg the question.) Sometimes the evidence is in the fulfillment of prophecy or in a miracle one observes. Following these experiences of God and his work, the believer rightly and reasonably continues to trust in God’s existence and good plan through other, more ambiguous, circumstances. There is always a moral, rational step to be taken in responding to God by trusting him, but no absurd leap is ever implied.” (p.126)

Ten: “The Marriage of Faith and Reason” (David Marshall)

“[G]iven these pervasive patterns [in the Bible] of historical evidence, honest representation of difficult facts, and critical questioning, why did Jesus tell Doubting Thomas that those who have not seen, yet believe, are blessed?

First, notice that Jesus gave Thomas the evidence he asked for. Three senses (sight, sound, and touch) provided independent witness to an event that he naturally found hard to believe, but that would change his life…. Second, by not trusting his close friends, Thomas became less reasonable, not more so. He was retreating from the third level of faith (the testimony of others) to faith in only his senses and mind…. Third, John gave this and many other testimonies ‘that you may know.’ What else could he do? He didn’t have a video recorder to record the stone rolling away. He couldn’t carbon-14 test the shroud. Human testimony was the only way to establish the truth of historical claims…. Scientists incessantly appeal to human testimony: read Dawkins or Darwin and underline their citations of scientific work other people have done…. Fourth, miracles continued. Acts of the Apostles might well be called The Acts of God — including miracles Luke seems to have witnessed firsthand. Augustine recounts ongoing miracles in the late fourth century. One reason I am a Christian is that, serving as a missionary in Asia, I found good reason to believe God continues to support the spread of the gospel by giving people direct reasons to believe.” (pp.145-7)

Eleven: “Faith and Reason in Historical Perspective” (David Marshall and Timothy McGrew)

“Skeptics often claim that when push comes to shove, when crowded into a corner by the evidence, Christians whip out the ‘get out of jail free’ faith card. Of all the ninety-nine reasons she claims to be mad at religion, for instance (like the ninety-nine names of Allah), Greta Christina singles out this item as the poison pill that makes religion intolerable:

I get angry when believers glorify religious faith — i.e., believing in a supernatural world with no good evidence supporting that belief — as a positive virtue, a character trait that makes people good and noble….

To get the discussion started, we need to put a definition on the table; then we will argue that it has broad historical support. By faith, then, as a first approximation, we mean trusting, holding to, and acting on what one has good reason to believe is true, in the face of difficulties.” (p.149)

Twelve: “A Sun to See By — Christianity, Meaning, and Morality” (Samuel J. Youngs)

“Time and again in my experience both as a student and a teacher I’ve seen that thinking people eventually tire of abstractions. Big ideas, fundamental conceptual canopies, the sort of thing that Dawkins is getting at when he talks about the rock-bottom indifference of the universe, only hold our gaze for so long. Sooner or later, we rest our head on our hands or sigh heavily or lean across the table and ask, ‘What does all this mean for me? What do these big ideas have to do with my life?’…

An indifferent universe, an ‘accidental collocation of atoms,’ is by definition a world without any significance, a world where the ships of reasoning and consideration have no stars by which to plot their course; and where hearts moved by concern for their fellow man have no higher sun to warm their virtue.

As we’ve been asking, what do our conceptions of our universe mean for the lives we lead, for the people we love, for the questions we ask? The confession of the naturalist, when faced with honesty, is forthrightly barren in what it offers. It asks us to accept a universe with indifference at its heart, where no ultimate meaning can be ascribed to anything.” (pp.167,170)

Thirteen: “Are Science and Christianity at Odds?” (Sean McDowell)

“What can we conclude about the Galileo incident? The popular claim that the church persecuted Galileo for advancing science is a caricature. As Dinesh D’Souza points out in What’s So Great About Christianity?, the Galileo episode is a blip on the radar of an otherwise harmonious relationship between scientists and the church. ‘Indeed,’ says D’Souza, ‘there is no other example in history of the Catholic Church condemning a scientific theory.’ This myth persists because it’s consistently presented as fact in textbooks, history programs, and, most recently, in the writings of the New Atheists. It’s time to put it to rest.” (p.194)

Fourteen: “God and Science Do Mix” (Tom Gilson)

“Echoing Haldane, Krauss’s point in this piece is that Christianity is all about miracles and other such interfering-God nonsense. Science could never make sense under conditions like that.

Lawrence Krauss

He is right, of course, that science depends on nature generally behaving itself. But he is wrong to think the regular order and design of Creation is incompatible with Christianity. In fact, there are at least three major reasons why science fits squarely and comfortably within a Christian view of reality. These three reasons are related to God’s nature (what is ultimate), human nature (who we are), and the nature of the universe (what science studies)….

Significantly, the Judeo-Christian view of creation is unique among the world’s religions and philosophies…. Only in the first chapters of Genesis do we have an account of a creation that is fully ruled by its Creator’s mind, yet remains separate from it: rationally ordered, but not animized. It’s ironic, isn’t it, that this all-important basis on which science was planted comes from the same biblical passage that scientists today love so much to scorn?” (pp.201-202,204)

A lot of good stuff, there, as the contributors address various aspects of the faith/reason dialogue, clarifying the Christian position and hopefully putting to rest (as McDowell said) some misconceptions and misrepresentations. Any of you buy the book, yet?

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