Moderator: Ok gents take your seats. I want to start by thanking you for coming to our round table discussion today. As you all know from your invites, we have a fun topic today: “Is the Christian faith rational?” Our structure will be fairly informal but I will be guiding our discussion. We’re going to practice the five B’s of our round table discussions: “Be Brief, Baby, Be Brief!”
With that said, let’s begin with seniority. Augie, the floor is yours, is Christianity rational?
Augie: Omnia habent esse a Deo, quod est ex certa rei omnino
Moderator: I apologize, Augie. I should have mentioned that although most of you speak Latin, we’ll be conducting this discussion in English for the sake of our audience.
Augie: Ah yes, I still can’t believe you people let Latin die! As I was saying, all things derive their being from God, the indisputable proof of this is the fact that they exist at all. In that sense, of course Christianity is rational. Any desire to denigrate faith for a more “sure” form of knowledge overlooks the fact that to know anything, you must first believe something. All knowing proceeds from faith.
Christianity is not opposed to reason, it’s not a blind faith, rather, the Christian believes in order to understand. Truth itself is a proof of God. Truth is immutable, for if truth ceases to be true, then it’s true that truth is no longer true, thus truth still exists. Truth is eternal, and necessary, God is truth!
Moderator: Wow, what a great start to our discussion, thank you Augie. I’ll remind everyone that the topic is not “whether Christianity is true or not”, the question is “is the Christian faith rational?”.
Augie: Indeed, but if it’s the truth, then it would be rational to believe it, would it not?
Moderator: Fair enough. Let’s hear from someone else, shall we? Ah, yes, the gentleman from Canterbury, the floor is yours.
Gentleman from Canterbury: Call me Annie. Personally, I’ve always said that “I believe in order to understand”. I have faith seeking understanding!
Moderator: Yeah.. how is that different from what Augie just said?
Moderator: Ok.. so who’s next? Tom?
Tom: Yes, of course the Christian faith is in fact rational. There’s all sorts of proof and evidence for the God of Christianity to be found in nature. If we have the time I can expound on five major ways to prove that God exists.
Moderator: Can you give us a five word summary?
Tom: Rational faith based on evidence.
Jean: I agree that there are evidences for our faith but God is immediately known to us, we are made in His image and just as we know ourselves we know Him who’s image we’ve been created in. It’s rational to follow the sense of the Divine to it’s proper terminus.
Cal: I agree! While it may seem irrational to an unbeliever, the Christian faith is not the problem, the problem lies with man, himself. Man’s hardness of heart causes inability to see that which he has no reason to reject. However, I’d like it stricken from the record that I agreed with my fellow Frenchman, Jean.
Moderator: Sir, this isn’t a court of law.
Cal: Perhaps not, but if a certain group of counter reformers (*cough* *cough* Jesuits!) should hear of this, I should no doubt find myself in a court room shortly. In fact, I think it’d be a safe bet for me to be leaving now but I shall leave you with this:
Is Christianity rational? Yes, of course! Think about it, if the Christian is wrong, so what? He should never even know it, he will just poof out of existence, never knowing his folly. If he is correct then he stands to gain eternity with God. Seems very rational to me. And with that I bid you adieu.
Moderator: Thank you Cal, and I think it’s safe to say we wont tell anyone that your thought is so similar to Jean’s. Let’s hear from some of our younger members. Gordon? Your thoughts?
Gordon: Well, of course the Christian faith is rational! Christianity is a rationally coherent system of thought, a intellectually rigorous view of men and things. The Christianity of the Bible is a worldview with richness and logical consistency. Not only are our dogmatics rational, our God is the Rational Being that is the very source of the law of non-contradiction, the law by which every system of philosophy must be judged. What a preposterous question.
Moderator: Wow, strong words, Gordon. Bill, I know you have something to say.
Bill: Well, I see no possible reason not to call Christianity rational. There’s a preponderance of evidence that points to the probability, that a God possibly exists. There’s lots and lots of evidence for God and there’s even evidence for Christ’s resurrection. I personally don’t even use the Bible in my arguments, so you know i’m serious. I’d have to agree with Tom’s view as well, but I’m looking forward to hearing from my friend Al.
Moderator: Al, looks like you’re up.
Al: Well, I agree with a lot that’s been said so far, however, I have some disagreements. For instance, I think Christianity is perfectly rational without proof. Think about the other people in this room right now, do we have adequate evidence, on some of your views of epistemic justification, to believe that the person next to you has a mind? Perhaps they’re an advanced cyborg? Can we prove what you ate for breakfast yesterday? Are we able to prove we aren’t all brains in a vat somewhere or being deceived by Descartes Demon? Are we able to prove that the universe wasn’t created thirty seconds ago with the appearance of age and memories implanted in our brains? No, of course it’s unreasonable to ask such things. Just as it’s reasonable to believe in other minds besides our own, so it’s reasonable to believe in God.
Moderator: Very interesting stuff there, Al, but then you’re saying it’s equally reasonable to believe in other gods, myths, or even no gods at all, based on our common sense?
Al: Well, there’s more to say on that front but basically, the belief needs to at least be a live option from amongst today’s worldviews.
Moderator: Great, thanks Al. We have time for just a few more. Jack, how about you?
Jack: Well, to quote Aristotle, “Those who wish to succeed must ask the right preliminary questions.” Those who would deny Christianity the status of “rational” do so not by asking the right questions about it, they don’t examine it’s own claims and find Christianity wanting, rather, many of them hold a philosophy which excludes the supernatural from the get go.
Of course, an accusation always implies a standard, so any claim that Christianity is irrational or illogical must justify Reason itself. Of course it follows that no account of the universe can be true unless that account makes it possible for our thinking to be a real insight. Christianity makes sense of reasoning, we can be rational in believing in Christianity. We believe that the sun has risen by seeing it and by it, seeing everything else, so it is with Christianity. Reason, meaning, and longing make sense on this account of the universe. Other philosophies aren’t serious enough to account for our human experience.
Moderator: Well done, Jack! That was wonderful. John, you and I talked about something similar last week, do you have anything to add?
John: Well, I suppose I could take a crack at an answer. I too, agree with a lot that’s been said so far. Like Jack, I believe we need to define our terms. The term “rational” could be defined from three perspectives.
From a descriptive point of view, being rational is having the ability to form judgements and make inferences.
From a normative point of view, rational would denote a correct judgment or inference.
Thirdly, from a personal perspective, rational would mean coherence with my other beliefs. So in the first and third senses of the term rational, there is no necessity for truth in my beliefs. The second perspective, the normative, would imply that the belief is in fact true.
So, is Christianity rational? Well, in the first sense, yes of course! Is the faith rational in the normative sense? As a Christian, I’d heartily say yes, indeed! I believe Christianity to be true, and if it’s true then it’s rational for me to believe in Christ.
And from a personal perspective, I believe that the Christian faith alone can make sense of my inner and outer subjective experience. Therefore, on all the accounts, the faith is surely rational(!).
Moderator: Alright, I see your hand there, Cornelius, you can stop your frantic waving already.
Cornelius: Thank you, Mr. Moderator. We’ve certainly heard a lot of opinions about the rationality of the Christian faith so far but this entire time you’ve missed a glaring presupposition underlying our whole conversation. We may ask if Christianity is rational only because it is in fact true. Unless Christianity were true we couldn’t know anything at all. The house of human knowledge is built on Christian presuppositions about reason, science, and morality. Without the triune God of Scripture we couldn’t make sense of reason itself. Thus in order to ask if the faith is rational we must first presuppose it’s truth. Christianity alone doesn’t crucify reason on the alter of chance; the ultimate proof that Christianity is rational is that without it we can’t prove anything!
Moderator: Ah, well, powerful stuff there! Thank you for your patience, Cornelius. With that last word, let’s call it a- ah, it looks like we have a latecomer! You there, yes you, come in, come in! Please introduce yourself.
Mr. Latecomer: Rich, my name is Rich. This is the Skeptical Darwinist Round Table, is it not? I’m to be the keynote speaker on “the delusion of religious belief”. Wuh- why are you all looking at me like that?
Moderator: Tom, lock the door! Rich, I believe you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be. Let’s have a chat.