Can Faith and Reason Coexist?

More on faith.  I was reflecting today more on the story of Jesus when a follower asked Him to increase his faith, and Jesus said “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain to move and it will move”.  I reflected that Jesus was teaching that whatever faith I have, it should be enough to be able to do great things.  I don’t have to try to have more faith in order to be able to do things, whatever faith I have should be sufficient.  Accepting my doubts is ok.  Accepting my limitation is fine.  This will allow me to let God do the rest through me.  One of my wonderful visitors confirmed this in her comment to my previous post.  Maybe I have been losing faith in my own effort, losing faith in my own strengths.  It is a matter of letting go, rest in Jesus (“come to me all of those who are tired, and I will make you rest”) and allow God to give me the will and the faith to continue serving in the Kingdom of Heaven.

I have also noticed other blogs where people are talking about the importance of faith.  Is it a coincidence or God trying to tell me something?  I have  encountered situations in my current life where my faith has been tested even further.  I have felt a few times to simply get on my knees (which I have not done in a while) and simply cry out to Jesus.  I have felt sometimes that maybe God is allowing me to go through difficult situations in my personal life, job, and external family  members’ lives to give me the opportunity to turn closer to Him. I have been asking for a more profound spiritual life.  Not a more religious life, but a more transcendent, genuine, and profound approach towards spiritual growth.  But, of course, I did not expect to go through difficult situations and worries as part of this growth.  But at the same time I ask myself, how else am I supposed to grow spiritually if it is not through tribulations?  I am reminded of Jesus’ words “In this world you will have tribulations” but he promised that He was going to send the Spirit.

But while I am reflecting on all of this, my rational side of the brain starts questioning again.  My reasoning starts turning its wheel which makes me think that I should not go back to the “superstitious beliefs” and “fantasy world” of waiting on an invisible God.  And this is what I have been living for the past year or so, a non-traditional spiritual lifestyle, but a different kind of spirituality. And it worked for a while, or so I thought.  I have learned to serve others as the way to live the Kingdom of Heaven, and I am starting to so this more at work.  And I sometimes question why did I ever follow a doctrine that kept me away from living the Kingdom of Heaven.  But my reasoning tries to dominate and tells me “Because you were blinded by wishful thinking”.  My faith and my reasoning are almost combating.  But then I question myself, should they be opposing each other at all?  Can’t faith and reason coexist?  I have a mind that questions and reflects.  Why should it be wrong to do this?  It is not the same as lusting, hating, or lying.  Questioning and doubting is simply my mind’s way of wanting to learn and to experiment.  Why should it be regarded as a sin?  But at the same time, why should believing in an invisible God be considered a fantasy or fairy tale?  Don’t we believe in the government, what the newspapers say, and other entities without evidence or proof?  I think there should be a time for faith, and a time for reasoning.  I am afraid of going back to useless religious doctrines.  But I am also afraid of slowly drifting away from God.  I simply want to find the Truth.  I recognize it is a journey, and it takes time.  I just hope I am in the right direction.

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About Noel

I am a person who has realized that the teachings of Jesus are centralized in the genuine care and service of others. I have evolved from fundamentalism to a moderate spiritual approach. I am a reflecting person who has grown to not fear doubt but to embrace it as a means to growth and increasing closeness to God. View all posts by Noel

24 responses to “Can Faith and Reason Coexist?

  • youthguyerik

    Noel, Interesting post. My first thought in reading your essay is James 1. It seems like James speaks to this issue well. thanks for sharing of yourself!

    • Noel

      YouthguyErik, Yes, James is one of my favorite books in the Bible, I can relate to “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” and verse 27. Thank you for the reminder.

  • facade321

    We’re taught to lean not unto our own understanding. God’s way’s are not our ways. Many times in the past, I could only ‘see’ why I was brought though something, long after the experience.
    I encourage you to pray for discernment. Sometimes, it’s a fine line between discernment and judging.
    If your heart’s desire is to serve Love/God, the gift of discernment will help you to ‘trust,’ which requires faith.
    In all cases, keep the ‘Big’ picture in mind. Our lives in the ‘flesh’ are as cloud’s in the sky. You might have helped a soul, and never realize it. God uses what we allow Him to use.
    Follow Love, and you won’t be disappointed in the end!
    God bless, friend!
    Bill

  • Cindy Holman

    You and I have similar questions – LOVE IT!! I’m not alone! I would love all my questions to have answers and not just take it on faith ALL THE TIME! I am inquisitive and LOVE to know the facts and the back story – unfortunately God didn’t think we needed to know – and He chooses not to tell us.

  • truelibertarian

    Faith and reason, by definition, cannot coexist. They can coexist in the same person, however. I highly respect people who acknowledge that belief in god is an emotional one rather than a rational one and that there is no ACTUAL proof, but they feel a certain presence. That’s a rational perspective, because it demonstrates understanding of an irrational position.

    • Noel

      Truelibertarian, I guess they can coexist in the same person, but just not simultaneously. My belief in God is not merely emotional, it’s also rational (what is the last number? an uncreated being/source must have initiated all created things). I don’t think neither reason nor faith should be rejected entirely, I think we need both. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

      • truelibertarian

        Actually, it’s a human subjectivist invention that our world MUST have been created, and many philosophers (from Kant to Russell). Because we see in our world that something happens and then another thing happens, we assume cause and effect. It’s a human fallibility, actually, it’s a living creature fallibility. There’s no reason to assume that the cosmos were created.

        And belief in a religion is also faith. Because there’s no evidence that a single religion is true over the others.

  • QuestionAll

    Great post Noel!

    Your struggle is common. Isn’t it interesting how religious teachings or the religious explanations for why bad things happen to believers just so happens coincide with a world that is Godless? In otherwords, nevermind that your prayers were not answered. Nevermind that you did everthing right. Just believe it is part of the plan. That is, disregard anything and everything that contradicts me – as long as you never stop believing all will be OK. Can this really be what God wants? That is would God require belief that is contrary to experience?

    Did you ever think that perhaps God doesn’t want you to be religious? That perhaps it is a great test to see if you can realize that the requirement for belief in him is a man-made and then, understanding this, he wants to see if you still can be altruistic. Perhaps it is not as easy as just believing. Afterall how can it be?

    Perhaps when we get to the “pearly gates” we will find that all agnostics and atheist are the only ones allowed through. 🙂

    Also, I think everything one believes is a result of reason. Reason is the only way a person comes to think or believe anything so keep on reasoning! That said, some reasons are better than others so need further work.

    -Kermit

    • Noel

      Kermit, yes, I have thought in the last few years that my reason to be here is not to follow a certain religious doctrine, but to simply serve others, which by itself is experiencing The True Life/God/Heaven, etc. LIfe is perhaps a test to see how much love we give, no matter if we are religious, atheist, agnostic, or whatever. Thanks for commenting.

  • sharinhislove

    Hi Noel,
    A great book that will help you is called TrueFaced, by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol, and John Lynch. Trust me on this one. Other than the Bible, this book has had the most life-changing influence on my life. Here is an excerpt to whet your appetite:

    God dreams that you would discover your destiny and walk into the reasons he placed you on this earth. God has a ticket of destiny with your name written on it–no matter how old, how broken, how tired, or how frightened you are. No matter how many times you may have failed, God dearly longs for the day when he gets to hand you that ticket, smile, and whisper into your ear, “You have no idea how long I’ve waited to hand this to you. Have a blast! I’ve already seen what you get get to do. It’s better than you could have dreamed. Now hurry up and get on that train. a whole lot of folk are waiting for you to walk into your destiny and into their lives.”

    Blessings,
    Sharon
    Know that you are helping me by your inspirational writing from your heart.

  • QuestionAll

    Another thought that crosses my mind is that life may not be about us at all. That is, we may have such a limited uderstanding about what life is that we totally are missing its purpose. Why must it have a purpose? Why must we play a role in that?

    I have found great joy in the thrill of not knowing. Like riding a roller-coaster not knowing what is ahead open to whatever turn it takes.

    Noel, you have reasoned that there is a God. It seems logical to you and that is why you believe is that correct?

    • Noel

      Actually, I don’t think life is about us, but about something greater than us. Yes, I believe God exists because it is logical, and also because I feel a need to have a relationship with whoever He is, by serving others. This is why faith and reason may coexist peacefully.

  • facade321

    Hi Noel,
    Here’s the best I can explain it. First, discernment is a gift, and not all receive it. If Christ’s word’s are written on your heart, and it’s your desire to please Him, His Spirit will be as a sounding board inside your soul. When someone speaks, the truth will resonate in you, and you’ll know that it’s the truth, even though you might not have the fact’s to make that determination yourself. If someone speaks falsely, it will NOT resonate in you, and will be as an offense, or ‘thud.’
    Christ, knew the thought’s and heart’s of men.
    The poster’s word’s above, do not resonate in me. I don’t know the person, but, he desires to steal what faith you have. I’m not judging him, but, the Spirit in me, does not agree, and is offended. I’ve not been injured, but the One in me has. Nothing goes without Christ’s knowledge.
    Our media devices to store information are less than primitive, compared to the One who is all knowing.
    When I read several of your post’s, the Spirit in me, resounded; “He is mine.”
    So that you will know the truth, I’ll pray that Love/Christ, pierces your heart. He’ll not speak to you in word’s, but in feeling.
    There’s many who will try and ‘trip you up.’ For those who place a stumbling stone before you, they’ll pay a dear price.
    Know this Noel, Christ can and does hear your heart. Without a spoken word, you can pray to him, in Spirit and truth!
    He Loves You, Noel! If I didn’t know this, I wouldn’t say it.
    God bless, friend!
    Bill / http://www.youtube.com/user/ginmillsinger

    • Noel

      Bill, your words are very encouraging! I long to know God more, but sometimes my fears and doubts do not allow it, but I have accepted them as ways to seek Him more, instead of being content with not knowing. God bless you!

  • SuziCate

    I have the same concerns. I’ve come to realize that questioning and doubting is only human, and I have faith that He will direct each of us where we need to be in this place and time. Yes, faith above all sustains me.

  • QuestionAll

    I have done similar to you Noel. That is, I have definitely opened my heart and mind to God. I remember feeling great at the time I did it; like a great weight was off my shoulders and there was a free feeling of letting go of concern and fear. But then there was nothing. Not sure what I was expecting but I thought the path I had chosen would make itself evident and reinforce my choice in it in some way. But it did not. And everytime I tried to reinforce it by reading the Bible or preaching to others I felt like I was manufacturing it. Like my knowledge of God was not actually a thing I was experiencing but rather something I was creating for myself. I did not like this.

    Then I began to learn about so many other things. Other religions, other ideas and it seemed to me the only things that ever gave me great knowledge were scientifically based. This included my study of the Bible because, what do you do in any Bible class? You study it and reason about what it says so as to come to a logical conclusion about what it means. You look at it with a critical, logical and scientific mind.

    But then this became directly at odds with parts of what the Bible that say you need to believe in God unconditionally. It felt as if I was being asked to be critical and interpret the Bible about so much of what it said but that I could not do this to ALL parts of the Bible. I could not question the truth of the Bible itself nor whether God exists. And I was not to even bring it up. I was to just accept. Just accept it…. Just accept it…. Just ACCEPT IT!!! And I was told only THEN would it make sense.

    WHAT?!?! How can I do that? That seemed like putting the cart before the horse! Of course it would make sense if I accepted because I already accepted it!!! What? I thought, how can I be critical and scientific and logical about 90% of the Bible but not 10%??? Then I heard of other religions that were doing the same things to it’s followers and, logically, I thought, well, had I been raised Hindu or Muslim that because of this “having to accept it” idea it would be random as to what I accepted.

    This, to me, rendered all religions equal and all I was left with was my own reason.

    Today I am happy and content in my decision to not accept ANYTHING as truth. I keep an open, scientific mind towards all ideas. And am absolutey convinced that God, if it exists, understands and perhaps applauds my decision.

    -Kermit

    • Noel

      Kermit, I don’t like the “just accept it” either, the same way I don’t like the “since evil exists, then God must not exist” that many non-believers state. The conversations people can have about whether or not God exist have no end. To me, it is truly fruitless. What became more important to me is simply living “on earth as it is in heaven”, “loving my neighbor as myself”, “forgiving 70×7”, and other things that resemble the Kingdom of Heaven. I like the way you think, though. Peace.

  • QuestionAll

    I hear ya Noel!

    I wouldn’t say that discusions of whether God exists are fruitless as much as just indeterminable. That is, they do give us the fruit of knowing that we cannot know for absolute certainty that God exists or does not. It is often mistakenly said that Atheists think they know for certain that God does not exist. Atheism is not the opposite of Theism in this respect because it is simply a non-belief in a God not a belief in no God. Many Theists say they know there is a God where as Atheists just say they DON’T know there is a God, which is vastly different than saying they know there is no God.

    Anyway, never mind all that, yes, you are on the right track I think. What everyone even the religious will tell you is that is far more important to live the golden rule and be forgiving, etc. You don’t have to be religious of any sort to understand the value in these things. In fact there are many teachings of the Bible the religious themselves reject. Makes you wonder then where they got this third party or objective morality. Or from what place do we go to Bible study and determine the meaning of verses? What is it that allows us to determine the Bible’s truth?

    I think it is our own reasoing. Our own objective scientifically derived sense of morality is where it comes from. We read the Bible and make a judgement based on nothing more than our own experiences. It does not and cannot come from the Bible or any faith.

    -Kermit…

  • QuestionAll

    So, back to your topic, you asked if faith and reason could coexist? And I say Yes, most definitely! As long as it is resonable faith.

    You really should use faith as little as possible.

    In order to do anything in this world you need faith. When you drive a car you have faith in others obbeying traffic laws. When you drink a glass of water you have faith that it has been treated properly. When you take a step you have faith that the laws of physics will hold you up. All these things take little faith because you have evidence that your faith in them is justified. Faith is used sparingly in the belief of these things. I would say this faith is reasonable. That you have good reason to have faith in them.

    Now there are other things that use faith more. Will it rain tomorrow? The weather woman may say yes. But from experience you now that she is not always right. So, it would require more faith to not check the weather in the morning before going out. It takes more faith that it will rain based on the weather woman’s report than it does that the laws of physics will allow you to walk tomorrow.

    Now, what if someone that was not a weather person told you it was going to rain tomorrow and said they did not do any research but said they knew it would rain? This would take A LOT of faith right? Is it reasonable in this case to have faith that it will rain? Probably not. I would say this faith is unreasonable.

    I would consider faith in the golden rule quite reasonable. You have many reasons to have faith in it. I would consider much of what the Bible teaches as resonable and worthy of your faith in it. But I would consider many things in the Bible like keeping the Sabbath day holy any that Jesus is the son of God and the Bible is the word of God very UNresonable.

    So, faith and reason must coexist because one relies directly on the other or should in my opinion. It is not that the 2 things are opposed to each other rather reason is used to give a foundation to faith. Without reason there is no faith. And there never should be faith without good reason.

    A good analogy is a bridge. If you are building a bridge you need 2 things; solid steel girders and nuts and bolts to hold them together. If you use nothing but steel girders it will not hold up as it will not with nothing but nuts and bolts. You need both.

    So too is it with knowledge. If you are building a bridge to knowledge you need lots of strong reasoning held together with faith before you can cross that bridge. Never should you try to build a bridge to knowledge with faith alone and you will never make it accross with nothing but reasons. And as with a bridge where one strong girder can get you accross with few nuts and bolts, one strong reason can get you to knowledge with little faith. The object should be to use as little faith as possible.

    Parts of the Bible, like the Golden Rule, use very little faith and indeed are a part of most religions and are very stong bridges to knowledge. Other parts of the Bible use way too much faith and make weak bridges at best.

    So, I think that is where I struggle with religion. It makes such great sense in the “common sense” areas but very little in the “non-common sense” areas.

    And I think this is where religion does something very sneaky. It takes these common sense notions, like the Golden Rule, that we already understand logically and claims them as it’s own. As if IT is the one that taught us that. Then because we accept it as the source for truth and knowledge it feeds us other notions and we end up with a whole lotta far less common-sense ideas that we struggle with like the idea that believing that there IS a heaven and a hell and believing that Jesus is the son of God is the only way to get to heaven! WHAT?!?!

    We just went from reasonable faith to unreasonable faith. And that is your stuggle Noel. The unresaonable faith of religion. And specifically you struggle with how religion tells you these unreasonable things are actually reasonable and in fact neccessary to the point of even negating the resaonable. That is, it doesn’t matter if you follow the Golden Rule or any of the other Biblical ideas that are reasonable because you do not believe Jesus is the son of God. The Bible tells you it is the ONLY reasonable thing and that you MUST accept unreasonable things as truth. All this because you accepted the Bible’s notion that it is the source of reasonable ideas like the Golden Rule.

    It is like one of my favorite quotes, “I used to think that the brain was the most important organ of my body but then I realized that it was the one telling me that.” The Bible is telling you it is truth and to just accept it. Well, there is absolutely no way you can do that because you must first objectively come to a conclusion about that completely on your own! And your reasoning brain knows this. Just accepting something without stronger reasons than “because I said so” is like accepting it without any reason at all. And it is never a good thing to have faith in something without good reason.

    So, can reason and faith coexist? Yes, in fact they must, faith should depend on reason. But faith without reason is useless.

    Sorry this got so long!
    -Kermit

    • Noel

      Kermit, do you use wordpress.com? If you do, you might be interested in readers linking to your blog. Go to your Dashboard and click on USERS. Under Users, click on Personal settings. Then click on Account details and put in your blog address. Then when you comment on a blog, you site can be viewed when they click on your name. Just a suggestion. I’m interested in visiting your blog.

  • LoLgical Nihilism

    I think of it like this: You already know the kind of Person God wants you to be, and I pray for him to show me how to get there, not for him to just give it to me. I also think the division between rationale and faith is a bit phony. I mostly think that because of the writings of carl jung. If you are having problems and need some intellectual guidance or what have you, i’d head towards him, particularly if your feeling ‘non-traditional’ at the moment.

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