Rational but not Rationalistic (Guinness)

God in the Dark: The Assurance of Faith Beyond a Shadow of Doubt by [Guinness, Os] As I’ve mentioned here before, Guinness’ God in the Dark is my favorite book when it comes to tackling doubt from a solid Christian perspective.  I was reading part of it again this morning and came across a helpful section on reason and faith and how they relate to doubt.

Guinness notes that many doubts about the Christian faith (or doubts that arise in the Christian faith) have to do with wrong thinking or no thinking rather than with too much thinking.  Mature thinking is needed to counter doubt.  He goes on:

“The Christian wholeheartedly supports genuine rationality.  But we must add a qualification to give this balance.  The Christian faith is second to none in the place it gives to reason, but it is also second to none in keeping reason in its place.  We never know the value of a thing until we know its limits.  Put unlimited value on something and in the end you will exhaust it of all value.  This is as true of reason as it is of natural resources such as oil.  This is why the Christian faith is thoroughly rational but not the least bit rationalistic.  It is also why rationalism – and not Christian faith – leads to irrationality.”

Guinness also says that though there are sufficient reasons for believing in God, it doesn’t mean we’ll know all the answers or have all our questions answered.  Since we’re finite, and since we “see through a glass darkly,” we will never know everything as God knows it.  So the Christian faith is reasonable, but there is room for mystery in it.  Here’s where this applies to our lives when we’re struggling in the faith:

“If the Christian’s faith is to be itself and let God be God at such times, it must suspend judgment and say, ‘Father, I do not understand you, but I trust you.’  Notice what this means.  Christians do not say, ‘I do not understand you at all, but I trust you anyway.’  Rather we say, ‘I do not understand you in this situation, but I understand why I trust you anyway.”

In other words, as Guinness wrote, the Christian’s faith and reason go hand in hand, but sometimes as they walk by faith “their trust may sometimes be called to go on by itself without their understanding.”  Or, as one Puritan said, “We can trust God even when we cannot trace his ways.”

The above quotes are found in Os Guinness, God in the Dark, p. 167-168.

Shane Lems