Should Faith Be Based on Reason?
“There are too many ‘religious’ people who become religious precisely to avoid having to think,” writes the dean of a theological seminary in the United States. “They simply want to accept everything ‘on faith,’” he adds.
THE implication is that most people who profess religious faith give little thought to why they believe what they do or to whether there is a reasonable basis for their faith. It is no wonder that religion has become a topic that many are reluctant to talk about.
Regrettably, such practices as using religious images and repeating prayers by rote also discourage reasoning. These practices, along with impressive architecture, elaborate stained-glass windows, and captivating music, more or less define the extent of the religious experience of millions. Though some churches claim that their faith is based on the Bible, their message of ‘believe in Jesus and you will be saved’ makes light of serious Bible study. Others turn to preaching a social or political gospel. What is the result of all of this?
Concerning the situation in North America, one religion writer said: “Christianity . . . tends to be superficial, [and] its adherents are poorly educated in the faith.” A pollster even went so far as to describe the United States as “a nation of biblical illiterates.” To be fair, these observations would also be true of other countries where so-called Christianity prevails. Many non-Christian religions likewise discourage reasoning and instead emphasize chants, ritualistic prayers, and various forms of meditation that involve mysticism, rather than logical, constructive thinking.
Yet, in their everyday life, the same people who give little thought to the accuracy or truthfulness of their religious beliefs often think other matters through very carefully. Does it not strike you as odd that the person who does extensive research just to buy a car—which one day will end up on the scrap heap—would say regarding his religion, ‘If it was good enough for my parents, it’s good enough for me’?
If we are truly interested in pleasing God, should we not consider seriously the accuracy of what we believe about him? The apostle Paul spoke of certain religious people of his day who had “a zeal for God; but not according to accurate knowledge.” (Romans 10:2) Such ones could be compared to a hired painter who works hard to paint a house but uses the wrong colors because he fails to listen to the owner’s instructions. The painter may be pleased with his work, but would it be acceptable to the owner?
What is acceptable to God regarding true worship? The Bible answers: “This is fine and acceptable in the sight of our Savior, God, whose will is that all sorts of men should be saved and come to an accurate knowledge of truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3, 4) Some may feel that it is impossible to find such knowledge among the many religions of today. But think—if it is God’s will that people should come to an accurate knowledge of truth, would he unfairly conceal it from them? Not according to the Bible, which says: “If you search for [God], he will let himself be found by you.”—1 Chronicles 28:9.
How does God make himself known to those who sincerely search for him? The next article will provide the answer.