Faith and Reason
“And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures” (Acts 17:2).- Acts 17:1-9
In our study yesterday of the overlap between science and theology, we briefly noted how the work of Galileo helped to further our understanding of the Bible and nature. In his day, however, Galileo was placed under house arrest for advocating Copernicus’ theory that the earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa.
It was a misunderstanding of Scripture’s use of phenomenological language that contributed to the conflict with Galileo. While the Bible’s description of the movement of the sun (Ps. 50:1) may seem to affirm that the earth is the center of the universe, a second glance at how language is used demonstrates that such is not the case. Today we can speak of the “sun rising” without really believing it is moving because that is the phenomenon visible to the naked eye. The biblical authors use language similarly, and we must keep this in mind as we explore the Bible’s record of the natural world.
Since the Enlightenment, many have viewed faith and reason as opposed to one another, with theology in the realm of faith and natural science in the realm of reason. This view fails to recognize that faith and reason operate in both. Theology is a science, and, like the natural sciences, it is a human quest for knowledge, making use of the analytical method.
The analytical method uses induction and deduction to explain reality. Induction, exemplified in the scientific method, moves from the particular to the general by gathering data, making generalizations, and drawing conclusions. Deduction moves from the general to the particular. An example of deduction is the syllogism “All men are mortal, Socrates is a man, therefore, Socrates is mortal.” Deductive arguments like this one are neither true nor false. The syllogism “All heavenly bodies are made of green cheese, the moon is a heavenly body, therefore, the moon is made of green cheese” is valid (that is, logical) even though its first proposition is false.
Many theologians neglect deductive logic and inductive reasoning, preferring an irrational faith. But scientists can ignore logic and make irrational conclusions. We will explore this over the next few days.
When the Sadducees confronted Jesus with the doctrine of the resurrection (Matt. 22:23–33), our Lord answered them with an inductive argument (looking at the biblical text and drawing a logical conclusion based on the evidence). Logic is essential when we study Scripture, for irrational conclusions have produced many errors and most of the cults. Spend some time reviewing the elementary principles of logic so you can interpret the Bible correctly.
Passages for Further Study