Part II: Getting Down to the Brass Tacks
As I mentioned in my last post, general conclusions that are arrived at via the inductive method of reasoning are neither certain nor true. There is no way for a consideration of individual instances of phenomena to serve as the foundation for universal propositions regarding those phenomena under consideration. It is, in other words, logically impossible to derive universal propositions about reality from our severly limited observations of reality. This is difficult for us to accept (myself included at times), but it is prerequisite to forming or answering any questions raised against the Christian faith. For if one has any doubts about the truth of Scripture, then one is more certain about something else and as such should be able to meet his own criterion of judgment. If one cannot do this, then his objection to the Word of God doesn’t seem to hold much weight.
Why is it that his objection doesn’t hold much weight? Simply put, because it is based upon a foundation that is, by his own standard, completely insufficient to prove itself true to him. Here is what I mean. Consider the person who says, “All true statements about reality can be proven by an appeal to empirical evidence.” Is this person’s standard a legitimate standard whereby he can question God’s truth? Well, no. In fact, it is completely irrational. You see, if all true statements about reality can be proven by an appeal to empirical evidence, that includes the statement given by our hypothetical objector to Christianity. And yet, as we’ve already shown, it is impossible for induction to ever reach certainty. In other words, the proposition “All true statements about reality can be proven by an appeal to empirical evidence” is a proposition that (a.)is assumed to be a true statement about reality, (b.)is included under the term “all,” but which (c.)cannot be proven by an appeal to empirical evidence. If it is true, then it is false. Therefore, it is absurd and, consequently, cannot serve as the foundation of even beginning to raise a single doubt against the Christian faith.
How can an individual question the veracity of the Christian system? By presupposing that his own ideas about reality are more certain than God’s. He must first place his own word above God’s. His own word, however, is based on two logical fallacies (i.e. the inductive fallacy called “hasty generalization,” see here for more information, and the fallacy of affirming the consequent, see here for more information). His own word is, to be blunt about things, irrational. And it is this word that he, for some reason, places above God’s. God’s Word, on the other hand, is by definition certain and true; for if God has spoken anything that is neither certain nor true, nor both, then He is not God. But if God is God, then He is eternal and all knowing; therefore, His Word cannot ever be subject to change or be found to be in error.
So the question of whether or not faith and reason are compatible is not what is really at stake here. Rather, the question is this: Whom do I believe? Do I believe my own irrational ideas about reality? Or do I trust the Word of the God who created all things, including my own finite mind? If I am looking for certainty and truth, I cannot look to my own ideas about reality, for they are intrinsically uncertain and not-true. I must look to the Word of God, who is Truth. Faith and reason are not opposed. Prior to pursuing questions about the Christian faith, the objector must believe that the products of man’s inductively (i.e. falsely) drawn general conclusions about reality are more certain than revelation given by the One for whom all things have been made.
“But,” our objector might retort, “isn’t it the case that man knows mathematical and logical truths quite apart from the Word of God?” And the answer is: No. But we need to explain the subtle equivocation involved in the objection just given by our hypothetical character. In the first place, man can and does know truth apart from the Bible. Man knows, for instance, the laws of logic and the laws of mathematics apart from reading the Bible. However, insofar as these propositions (for all logical and mathematical laws are reducible to propositions) are certain and true, they cannot be the product of the reasoning of finite creatures. Instead, they are propositions that necessarily find their origin in the mind of One who is not finite, who does not learn, who is, moreover, not subject to change – viz, God. They are the revealed truth of God. The Scriptures tell us that “what can be known about God is plain to [unbelievers], because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”1 In other words, men have been given what theologians call “general revelation.” This revelation cannot save them, but it can and does condemn them. For by general revelation all men know that they are creatures who are responsible to God for the way in which they live their lives. Moreover, by general revelation all men know that they do not meet God’s perfect moral standard. Instead of turning to God in repentance, however, fallen men continue in their course away from the Lord who made them, hardening their hearts against the Truth of special revelation (i.e. Christianity) by suppressing their knowledge of the Truths of general revelation (i.e. laws of logic, laws of morality, laws of mathematics, etc).
So to (finally) answer the question of whether or not faith and reason are compatible, I have to say: “Yes, faith and reason are compatible.” More strongly, I assert that one cannot reason apart from first exercising faith in either (a.)God’s Word, or (b.)the word of some creature. I will assert further that it is rational to believe the Word of the Creator; and it is irrational to believe the word of man. And to go yet the next step, if one attempts to argue against the Christian faith at all, he can only do so on the basis of God’s Truth as given in general revelation. He must, in other words, try to use God’s own revelation (general) against God’s own revelation (special). And this only further indicts him as doubting the Lord who made him without evidence in favor of his doubting, but in absolute rebellion to the facts that no man can deny.