The great high church of my own intellect

"For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." -- Genesis 3:5

"'God is a liar,' [Satan] implied. 'He has deceived you taken your freedom, and restricted your joy.' Satan's lie is the same today: 'You can be free. Do whatever you want. It is your life. There are no divine laws, no absolute authority, and above all, no judgment.'" -- John MacArthur, Think Biblically, p. 95

Have you ever noticed how often atheists point to the fact that they are rational? Many Internet sites for atheists carry names that are related to their claimed superior intellect, such as the Rational Response Squad, the Rational Responders or the Freethinkers. Those that don't adopt some claim to intellectual superiority in their names usually have some type of statement on their website talking about how they know better than poor theists because they are rational. Take, for example, the tagline of the Internet Infidels page which reads ". . . a drop of reason in a pool of confusion" or the Insitute for Humanists Studies which describes itself as promoting "a nonreligious philosophy based on reason and compassion."

Now, I am a fan of rationality. I personally think that if people were more rational or thought more about what they do and say, the world would be a much better place. God Himself appears to be in favor of rational exchanges when he says in Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, and let us reason together . . . ." Much of the middle chapter of Acts concerns Paul's travels to the synagogues and places of learning to argue with both Jews and Greeks about Christianity. So, it seems as if when atheists try to argue that Christians are irrational, they lack the wisdom to see that Christianity as it is meant to be lived and practiced also embrace rationality. You see, the question isn't which side is being rational -- both sides seek to be rational.

Having said the foregoing, let me make a quick aside and acknowledge that some churches are very anti-intellecutal in their approach to the Gospel. I do not agree that the approach of "just believe" is effective or Biblical. In Acts 17, the Bible calls the men of Berea "nobleminded" because they searched the scriptures to see if what Paul and Barnabas were saying was true -- an obvious compliment towards people using their intellect properly. So, to the extent that there are people who "just believe", while I am not going to condemn them (because it is better that they follow Jesus for no reason than that they not follow Jesus at all), I certainly agree with the skeptic who thinks that such an approach to the Gospel is intellectually barren.

But here is the problem that these skeptics have: they have elevated their own thoughts to godhood. If they can't grasp the concept of the Trinity, then they presume it cannot be true. If they cannot grasp the hypostatic union (the Biblical teaching that God was both fully God and fully man) they presume it cannot be true. In other words, the truth of God is judged by their own limited and faulty intellects. Rationality becomes the key, but the standard of rationality is what they can rationally understand. Thus, their faith is in what they perceive to be their own lofty intellects which are higher and better than the intellect of us poor Christians who are obviously steeped in superstitious nonsense. It is to their own intellect that they go to worship not just Sunday mornings, but every day.

The Christian faith is intellectual at heart. It makes a great deal of sense and it comes across as an entire construct that explains a great deal about the world we live in and why it is the way it is. In other words, it corresponds with reality. Is it sometimes difficult to understand? Yes, it is. The doctrine of the Trinity is difficult to understand, and while it is certainly tough to visualize, it is really not beyond comprehension. The hypostatic union is also difficult to grasp, as it the problem of evil, but they are both capable of being comprehended. If skeptics claims that the Trinity is nonsense because it doesn't make sense, it is important to note that they are omitting part of the claim: the claim is that it doesn't make sense to them. Of course, when your own intellect becomes the source of judging all truth, then it is easy to see why a person could become convinced that Christianity isn't true if a particular concept or idea is beyond their ability to comprehend. But simply because they cannot comprehend a concept doesn't mean the concept is incomprehensible.

If Christianity were easy to understand, it would strike me as being more difficult to believe because the truth is rarely easy. The ideas of quantum mechanics are difficult to understand, but that is not a sufficient reason to conclude that quantum mechanics isn't true. I know many people who would absolutely be baffled by Schoedinger's Cat, but simply because they cannot understand it doesn't mean that others cannot comprehend it either.

I do want to add that when I said earlier that skeptics have faulty and limited intellects, I didn't say that as a put-down to skeptics. We all have faulty and limited intellects. There is very little that we can know with absolute certainty, and there is no question that we as a human race often arrive at wrong answers because we cannot fully and effectively comprehend and take into consideration all of the various factors that are involved in making decisions about such things as right and wrong or truth. Moreover, I am certainly not saying that we should abandon the effort to try to study and understand everything that we can. I am convinced that the more we study and gain information, the more likely it is that we will arrive at good conclusions.

The point is that when skeptics claim that they are the rational ones, they are not really any more rational than Christians. They are simply trying to frame the debate in a way that says "stand with us rational skeptics or stand with those irrational Christians". But that is an unrealisitic assessment of the debate. The question isn't which of us is being rational, the question is whose rationality is closer to the truth? By claiming their own limited intellects as the standard for truth, it is my contention that the only way skepticism is closer to the truth is if truth is relative because then each of us has our own truth. If that were true then whatever I believe is true for me, and my mind is God.

As for me, I choose to acknowledge that truth is real and not relative, and I recognize that some concepts that may be tough for me to grasp are not necessarily false. But if people choose to worship in their own intellects, then I wish them luck because I have read a lot of skeptical arguments and while some are clever and even challenging, they are not as compelling as skeptics seem to believe.


Janell Price said…
A very well thought out and intelligent article. Balanced, too. I am the wiser for having read it!

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