Faith, Reason, and the Spirit

A while back, a friend shared a blog post with me in which the author recounted lessons learned from reading Joyce Meyer’s book, Battlefield of the Mind. The author of the blog quotes Meyers:

Joyce writes “Reasoning opens the door for deception and brings much confusion. I once asked the Lord why so many people are confused and He said to me, “Tell them to stop trying to figure everything out, and they will stop being confused.’ I have found it to be absolutely true. Reasoning and confusion go together.”

reason, confusion, faith

To be charitable, when I looked at the quote in context, what I found is that Meyer’s worry is that (human) reason, as a source of knowledge, is fallible. Meyer goes on to say:

“Reasoning is dangerous for many reasons, but one of them is this: we can reason and figure something out that seems to make sense to us. But what we have reasoned to be correct may still be incorrect.”

It would be easy to tear into Meyer, and the blog’s author here, but that isn’t really productive. I’ll simply point out, before moving on, that Meyer uses reason and logic to make her case for the dangers of reason. But I’ll set that aside for now. Better yet, I’m going to identify the legitimate concern that underlies this kind of attitude and address it.

Sources of Knowledge

Thomas Reid, reason
T-Reid: known for epistemology and lit turbans

I’ve discussed elsewhere that there are at least five main sources of belief and knowledge: perception, memory, inference (reason), testimony, and introspection. Included in the category of “perception” are the five senses, and perhaps some kind of religious perception as well. The Scottish philosopher and pastor Thomas Reid argued that we must assume the equal reliability of all these sources. If we try to play the skeptic about some of these sources, then we are assuming the reliability of reason and then using it to critique the others. This is akin to asking a used car salesman if he is honest.

My point is this: we should treat reason as equal in reliability, and equal in fallibility, to the other sources of knowledge. As Christians who believe in the doctrine of the fall, that is the natural brokenness of all human beings, we should not doubt for a second our ability to distort any information coming our way. Even revelation can be misinterpreted, twisted, or repressed. This is why I like to think of the five sources as a sort of committee who must work together to discover truth. Additionally, the pursuit of truth must be done in community to further guard against error.

Luther vs. Logic

But ever since the Reformation, many Christians have been profoundly suspicious of anything other than divine revelation. The fallen condition of humans runs so deep that we cannot even trust our own minds. But we have gone too far, as evidenced by Joyce Meyer’s attitude. We throw out the bathwater of reason and then look around in surprise for our missing baby of knowledge.

Martin Luther

Certainly we make errors in reasoning. Certainly our reasoning should always be Spirit-filled. But it is literally impossible to take a stand against reason without standing on reason itself. When Martin Luther proclaimed, “Sola Scriptura!”(“By Scripture alone”), he was making an argument found nowhere in Scripture. So Meyer’s viewpoint makes no sense. I recognize that calling her stance “unreasonable” would carry little weight with her. So, in my next post, I’m going to argue that her position is unbiblical.

3 thoughts on “Faith, Reason, and the Spirit

  1. I quite agree that reason and confusion go hand in hand. I heard one that the natural state of mathematicians is one of confusion, and that they are trained how to become *unconfused* and then go find something else to be confused about. And it’s much the same in philosophy, of course. Sounds like (from second hand) that Mrs. (Or Dr.? idk) Meyers’ mistake is to think of confusion as a *bad* thing.
    There are times, of course, when confusion can be… uncomfortable. And my personal (non-Christian) belief) is that is where faith comes into play. A quote from a favorite sci-fi show says that “faith is the surrender to the possibility of hope.” Based on this analysis of faith, I believe that it is permissible to take a proposition on faith if all alternatives to that proposition being true are causes for despair. I also believe that questions of faith must be resolved before we can turn to questions of reason.
    I’ll be the first to admit that this analysis of faith is flawed, but it does lend itself to some rather interesting conversations about the motives for our beliefs.
    For example, what is the basis for the claim that our ability to reason is irreparably flawed? Is it itself based on reason? Or on faith? Scripture? What? (Given my analysis of faith, it is fairly easy to see why Christians believe in things like God and redemption. It is more difficult to see why they believe in things like hell and sin…)

    1. That’s a great question. I suppose my belief that our reasoning is flawed or limited is itself based on a combination of reason and revelation. Something for me to think about more . . .

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