That's fair enough, and I appreciate the clarification. Thanks. I still wonder about the focus on the rationality of Christianity, however. It seems to me that in the history of Christianity this is a relatively recent phenomenon, at least as it pertains to people in the pews. I'm not suggesting that we return to a time when most people were illiterate, and when the experience of God was mediated via soaring Gothic cathedrals, and incense, and stained glass windows, as beautiful as those things are. But I do think there is an essential element of mystery -- of plain, unadorned, we-don't-know-and-we'll-never-understand-so-you-gotta-have-faith bedrock belief that has been missing from this discussion.
Andy, I'm very sorry to hear about your friends. My prayers go with them. I think you have a very good point that we all either have had, or will have, times of crushing grief and suffering. And it is during these times that our faith will be most tested. I agree with you that rational discussion of general revelation and evidence for the truth of Christianity during times of grief are not particularly comforting. But works and discussions like those of C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain are meant, not to console suffering believers, but to provide an answer to nonbelievers who are wondering about Christianity and how a good God could allow evil in the world. There is a time and place for everything.
I realized that there is something else I haven't made clear in this thread yet. Just because I disagree with the Christian Existentialist use of faith to supplant reason does not mean I don't hold faith to be a major requirement and life-saver within Christianity. Faith is what makes you a Christian - putting your faith and trust in Jesus, and His death on the cross, and His resurrection from the grave - that is the only thing that makes us Christians in the first place. A philosopher could prove that God exists, that Jesus existed and the gospels were true, that Christianity is the only religion that is true, and that still wouldn't make him a Christian. I don't think you need faith to know God exists or that Christianity is true. But there is still a huge difference between rationally demonstrating a Christian truth and placing your faith in Christ. ALSO, someone who falsely believes that there isn't really any good rational basis for the truth of Christianity, but who still puts his or her faith in Christ ... well, that person is just as much a believer as the one who only choose to put his faith in Christ to save him, after first looking at the rational evidence.
Christianity is not rational. It's crazy through and through. It purports that a poor, itinerant preacher from a cultural backwater who was put to death as a common criminal was actually God in the flesh, that he was really dead and then came back to life, that he could walk through walls but still eat fish, that after a while he flew up to heaven, that he's still alive today, that he's always been alive (except for that brief bit where he was dead; don't think too hard about that), and that because of these events my sins, which are many (talk to my wife), have been forgiven, and that I have obtained eternal life with him when I trust him to save me and make me less of a jerk.
This is certifiably nuts. I happen to believe it's true, but it's certifiably nuts. This is the scandal of the gospel, and it should not be minimized. Furthermore, any rational basis for faith is shot to hell whenever a Christian encounters unexplained and unexplainable tragedy. I'm not going to say to my friends who just lost their infant son "you just gotta believe." And I'm certainly not going to regale them with proofs for God, and bring up Anselm and the Ontological argument, or any other piffle for which they ought to rightly punch me in the nose. I'm going to hug them, bring them some meals, sit with them and cry with them. But I'm not going to try to explain any of it. I have no idea.
Perhaps, some days or weeks or years later, they will think back on their time on the planet and recall the reality of God in their lives. I hope so, because I know they have experienced the reality of God in their lives, just as I have. This is as mysterious and a-rational (not irrational; it's just that rationality has nothing to do with it) as it gets. But it's scriptural. Time and time again the authors of the Old Testament books call the people of Israel to think back on those times when God was most real, most evident in their lives, when crazy, unexplainable things happened. They often did this in the midst of sorrow, in the midst of dry times when God seemed galaxies away.
Rational faith is fine as far as it goes. But frankly, it doesn't go very far. In fact, "rational faith" sounds a lot like "proof" to me, and proof is the one thing we absolutely do not have. I suspect that's why we're called to have faith.
Edited by Andy Whitman, 17 February 2011 - 09:45 AM.