When posed with the assumption that Christianity is based in blind faith it makes me think that we as a Church are either not talking to people enough about the faith or we’re allowing a false narrative to control the image of the Church. In my opinion, I think it's both. Why do I come to this conclusion? Because, these are the assumptions I get from Christians, and not just the laity, but from people who are considered leaders in their churches.
In the Theology Pit we want to address the issues that are brought to us by you the readers and listeners. A concern that I have is that I’m going too fast or I’m just not explaining the topics well enough. This might be due to the fact that there is a lot of information to cover and by answer questions on an off topic subject, it might become information overload.
That being said, the post has three different parts to it that I will be answering. The first is about the historicity of the religious establishment (presumably Judeo-Christian) rejecting reason in favor of “blind faith”. The second is the veracity of Martin Luther’s colorful hatred for reason. The third of is the assumption that unbelievers have a better grasp of reality than believers.
Historically, the religious establishment has taken a negative view of reason in that it is the antithesis of “faith".
Whenever I see a statement like this posed to me it makes me wonder if the person really thinks this or if I’m just being trolled. The reason I feel this way is because just a shallow view of the Judeo-Christian religions presupposes the necessity of reason grounded in reality as well as history.
Christianity is the most falsifiable religion. When compared to the other major religions that came about by private revelation, Christianity came about by a very public and visible means. Micheal Patton of Creedo House Ministries wrote an excellent post on this subject. I would like to direct the reader here for a fuller understanding of this concept.
The concept of a religion that historically requires a faith devoid of evidence but goes out of it’s way to preserve and promote evidence for it’s validation would be ridiculed publicly. Nobody would hold to a religion, let alone die for one, that was by definition undefinable. The fact that Christians have, not only a bible, but liturgies, creeds, sacramental rituals, iconography, among other proofs, give very strong evidence to the contrary.
Within these evidences is the assumption that they required an evidence that they were based on. A few examples we can list internally from the literature are as follows:
The entire Bible encourages faith based in evidence.
God instructs people to build alters as reminders of what has transpired. To have feasts that remind them of what He has done for them. Inspires liturgical framework for the sake of remembrance and understanding of who He is and what is required of His people. Tablets that He writes with his own finger. Instructions to teach about Himself, His will, His precepts, His Laws and promises.
God even has his own apologetic! In Isaiah 48:3-7 here is what the Lord says;
3“I announced events beforehand, I issued the decrees and made the predictions; suddenly I acted and they came to pass. 4I did this because I know how stubborn you are. Your neck muscles are like iron and your forehead like bronze. 5I announced them to you beforehand; before they happened, I predicted them for you, so you could never say, ‘My image did these things, my idol, my cast image, decreed them.’ 6You have heard; now look at all the evidence! Will you not admit that what I say is true? From this point on I am announcing to you new events that are previously unrevealed and you do not know about. 7Now they come into being, not in the past; before today you did not hear about them, so you could not say, ‘Yes, I know about them.’
As you can see God never asks for blind faith. Let’s look at one more piece of evidence from the New Testament. In 1 Cor. 15: 3-8 here is what St. Paul says;
15:3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 15:4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 15:5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 15:6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 15:7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 15:8 Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.
This along with the entire New Testament is railing against the concept of “blind faith”. I believe it’s only been in times of laziness or lethargy that a blind faith virtue was pressed in churches. This may be an argument for some of the laity but certainly not for the Church historical or present. Not all denominations look to blind faith, but in my observations there are some that are more predisposed to this kind of dogma and it’s probably not the ones you're thinking of.
One needs only to look at Martin Luther's assessment of "reason" where he referred to reason as a filthy whore who should have dung rubbed in her face.
I think I’ve demonstrated that one need look further since churches aren't burning bibles and canceling apologetic classes. Because of this I will focus on the error of this conclusion of Martin Luther.
As we know Martin Luther was trained to be a lawyer before he joined the Augustinian order. He uses very colorful language which makes him fun to quote but, also prone to take out of context. He is careful of his wording too, which makes it fun to go through his argumentation.
Martin Luther’s epistomology is a three fold understanding of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason known as his Trilateral. I think that he would recognize the irony that he would be using reason to reject reason.
What’s more, is that anything can be taken out of context when you have a particular theological bent. Just as an example before I get to the meat of the quote, in his 95 thesis he states this:
93 Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, "Cross, cross," and there is no cross.
Now, this quote could be used by Muslims to show that Christians agree with the Qu’ran when it states that Jesus was never crucified. Qu’ran S.4:157
"And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger - they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain”.
In order to force this meaning into Martin Luther’s work you would need to completely ignore the facts and issues surrounding him at the time. You would have to ignore that the 95 Thesis was a list of things to be debated and discussed as well as a few rhetorical observations. In this particular instance he was pointing out that there were those saying that they actually had a piece of the cross of Christ. Relics were very big at that time.
Back to the objection at hand, I would just like to point out that he was fighting against “Aristotelian Philosophy” plaguing the church theologians. In my opinion the Pelagian or semi-Pelagian influence rubbed against anyone from an Augustinian background. In doing so he attacked the concept reasoning your way to God apart from Scripture and Faith. Daniel G. Sinclair wrote a wonderful blog on the subject, I suggest for further understanding of the quote.
I would submit that un-believers have a better grasp of reality than most believers do. The very reason that they reject religion in general and "christianity" in particular is that it requires a "faith" that is devoid of reason. They reject the cognitive dissonance that is created when they try to reconcile what they observe of the reality around them with what the religious establishment preaches to them.
As you can see from what I’ve already said this doesn't follow suit. An unbeliever is someone who would not have a grasp of reality for the fact that the one who determines reality is absent from their understanding. What they reject is a Strawman version of Christianity that is propagated by Christians ignorant of their faith and unbelievers who dominate the narrative. This is a theme that runs through most Atheist books and literature.
They actually embrace the cognitive dissonance of their entire rational by denying Christ. They will hold to science without recognizing that the method of observation presupposes an order of design. That logic and reason itself presupposes a first cause of order from a Necessary Being.
People are rational because we are created in God’s image (imago dei) and we possess certain communicable attributes. But, we must take into account the effects sin has on us in body, mind, and spirit. For this reason, only with God can we fully realize and come into a knowledge of what truth is. Reason devoid of God is unreasonable by definition.