Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Reason and Humility

We talk a lot about faith and reason. How do the two interact? But one of the key problems in arriving at religious truth through reason is those truths hit very close to home. Where is our self esteem rooted? Even the most logical among us will have their thinking skewed when dealing with such matters. But that is exactly what we are talking about when it comes to religion. That is accepting truths about God and about yourself that are very hard. Our reason tends to fail us at that moment. Rational people become rationalizers.

Christianity asks us to accept two truths about ourselves. Almost everyone will have a huge emotional barrier to one of them. The first truth is we are sinners. Not that we have a few flaws. It is that we are deeply inclined towards every kind of evil. It is a huge problem. We cannot solve it. It will destroy us unless we get help.

Denial of our sinfulness is actually one of the features of sin. Our sin is rooted in pride and our pride does not allow us to look directly and honestly at our sin. Can we be rational about it? We can see when other people can't be. How many people do you know that can't see their own faults when they are plain as day to other people? We get that. Their reason is failing them. Still we have trouble seeing it happen in our own minds. We have even more trouble realizing the significance of it. We can't trust out own thinking in these matters. We need to trust something beyond our reason. It is humiliating.

The other hard truth Christianity gives us is that we are children of God. That we are made in His image and He loves us. Typically those who have an easy time accepting they are sinners will struggle with the idea that they have great dignity and God loves them dearly. Often they are people who have had their self esteem destroyed in some way. The good news is God's love for us is an even deeper truth than our sinfulness. That is our essence. Sin corrupts that essence but does not destroy it. We continue to be beautiful creatures of a loving God.

But when people just can't believe that God loves them and forgives them, is logic going to solve that problem? Typically not. Even when the rational mind accepts it there is something in their psyche or their spirit that just does not buy it. Again reason alone becomes inadequate.

So what is the solution? It is not a better argument. It is to look at the cross. Pray with a crucifix. Watch The Passion of the Christ. Read the crucifixion accounts in scripture. Spend some time contemplating the death of Jesus. His death is the ultimate statement of the seriousness of my sin and at the same time the assurance that God's love for me is stronger and has conquered that sin. Those of us who are thinkers rather than feelers have a hard time doing that. Are you not just checking your brains at the door? Yes and No. You are rationally coming to the conclusion your reason is inadequate due to your pride. That you need the grace that comes from the cross even beyond what your intellect can process.

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