In a recent post, Karen posited that while there are those beliefs that by their very nature cannot be subjected to the disciplines of philosophy and science because of their meta-rational nature, shouldn’t we as Christians still put at least some effort into having reasonable explanations for what we believe?
The answer to that question lies in the greatest commandment, the Hebrew Shema: Hear O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. For the Hebrews, heart encompassed the mind as well, a fact that the gospel writers and Christ himself made more explicit in the New Testament, where Deuteronomy 6 is quoted as “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, MIND, and strength.
Today, Christians emphasize discipleship of the heart and the soul. It’s about how you feeding your soul and the emotions of the heart. Important, true, but incomplete. Many a well-intentioned person has simply responded to philosophy and theology with “I just love Jesus” or the other famous cliche “It’s a relationship, not a religion.” The fact, though, is that Christianity IS a religion in the purest sense of the word, and as such contains teachings, doctrines, and beliefs which must be rational in and of themselves for Christianity to be a rational religion. Christianity can be understood as a consistent, comprehensive, rational system of beliefs that can and should be examined by the mind as part of loving God with our mind.
Consider for just a moment if Christianity taught that God was finite. The very framework of Christianity would begin to crumble. Or, what if Christianity taught there is no life after death. Again, the result would be the internal disintegration of Christianity as a rational religion. Only a pure simpleton would believe in a ‘irrational’ religion, such as one that taught that squares were really circles, unless they were triangles. Needless to say, the Church Fathers were not simpletons. As challenges arose to the doctrines of Scripture, they responded with well-thought out, rational explanations from the consistency of Scripture.
And yet, as Karen has pointed out, many Evangelicals (Catholic and Protestant) seem to be content to treat this religion of God and His Word as though the requirement of faith eliminates any need for rationality. Instead, as part of our Discipleship of the Mind (nod to James Sire and his book of the same title), we should stand amazed and awed at the internal rationality and comprehensive consistency of the doctrines which believe. This is the value of catechizing, as catechisms present a systematic, rational explanation of Christianity.
To allow our children to go off to college without a well-thought out understanding of the rationality of our holy religion is to disciple them incompletely, allowing them to think that Christianity is a religion of the heart and not mind and HEART. One can see the conflict of sending someone who understands only on the level of the heart into a world that examines only with the mind. No wonder the two sides rarely understand each other. Rather than trying to come up with rational “proofs” per se of Christianity, we should be preparing our children and students to present the rational of Christianity itself, complete with its avoidance of square triangles.