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LIFE > Life in Christ > The Necessity of Faith 


The study of Biblical Truth necessitates Christian faith, whereas the pursuit of physical fact (knowledge) does not require Christian faith. Facts or knowledge can be handled by the intellect (an atheist can discover, understand, and explain some phenomenon of physics, though he is not capable of giving the metaphysical or theological significance of his discovery), whereas, Truth must be handled by the intellect which has been quickened, conditioned, and equipped by faith. Therefore, the unregenerate man can never be a Christian theologian!

It is faith that produces the certitude and makes possible the comprehension necessary for the study of Truth; with Christian faith one is then competent to examine the Truth of Revelation.

What is at issue is the proper perspective for approaching Truth. Reason and intellectual capabilities are inappropriate as the essential qualities necessary for theological work. The fundamental state of the theologian as he approaches God’s Truth is not to be one of rational investigation but one of humble, child-like trust. This does not reject academic preparation or underestimate the benefit of keen scholastic abilities; it does affirm, however, that the most vital and foundational asset of the theologian is Christian faith, not scholarly acumen. Only faith can understand Truth, and only faith can discuss God.

Christian theology must be produced in the crucible of confidence not in a sieve of doubt. In the theologian’s mind, the existence of doubt acts as a leech, extracting from the theologian the ability necessary to accomplish a valid investigation of the Biblical record, which itself proclaims that whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). The acceptance of the truthfulness of the Truth of the Divine Revelation is crucial. In fact, Christian faith confidently affirms that God is, that God has spoken, and that God did not stutter—these are the very foundations of the believer’s mindset (see: Foundations).

Doubt concerning the proper interpretation of particular passages is normal and healthy, but the basic approach to all the passages of the Canon must be one of Christian faith. The believer will not have assurance of the proper position to take on all passages, but he must have total assurance in the absolute integrity of all passages.

In disciplines where secular knowledge is pursued, doubt may be beneficial or even necessary. A certain amount of skepticism is normal when a scientific theory is being investigated or ancient documents are being explored. But doubt in the theologian’s mind is deadly! The theology resident in Scripture can only be extracted and comprehended when the mind is characterized by Christian faith. Doubt, the greatest liability in the study of Truth, empties the believer of the capacity to perform adequately the theological task.

Faith is both a gift and a response; it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8) and the response of man (Heb. 11:6). That is to say that man returns to God what God’s grace brings to man. Christian faith does not lie within the boundary of man’s possibilities; he is incapable in and of himself to initiate or to achieve, much less maintain, Christian faith. He can only give to God what God gives to him. “The only true faith is that which the Spirit of God seals in our hearts” (Calvin, Institutes, I, 81); according to Pascal, “this faith” is something “that God Himself puts into the heart” (Pensees, IV, 248).

It is this faith, Christian faith, which is crucial to the work of theology, for revealed Truth stands impenetrable and incomprehensible to the mind devoid of God’s gracious faith. But to the mind endowed with Christian faith God’s Truth, slowly but surely, begins to unfold and to make itself accessible. With faith there is confidence in the Word and an ability to understand the Word. “It is only when we encounter the living God in faith that we are in a position to grasp the truth of Christian faith” (Brown, Philosophy and the Christian Faith, 24).

Once an individual comes to have Christian faith, then reason can be appropriately utilized. Reason is not to be used as the foundation of faith or as the vehicle to make Truth acceptable to modern man. However, the believer/theologian is to be reasonable in his study of the Truth of Scripture. A methodology that is reasonable, not illogical, or irrational is to be followed. In other words, sound and Scriptural principles of hermeneutics are to be adopted and adhered to (see: Principles of Hermeneutics). The proper approach is to employ reason in the presentation of Truth, using reason to organize the subjects, topics, or divisions of the theology. Once on the level of faith the theologian may use reasonable thinking, but it is merely a tool.

Faith does not need reason; it is not even enhanced by reason. Christian study is not anchored in an irrational faith; in fact, faith itself is not irrational, but that is not to say that faith is rational. Faith is supernatural; it is of God. The basis for faith is not reason, but faith is not unreasonable. Christian faith is anchored in fact and history, but Christian faith is also concerned with Truth that supersedes both fact and history, Truth that is both physical and metaphysical.

Faith is the foundation, and reason is used, when needed, in the construction of a system of theology. Reason has its place and must be kept in its proper place: “If we submit everything to reason, our religion will have no mysterious and supernatural element. If we offend the principle of reason, our religion will be absurd and ridiculous” (Pascal, Pensees, IV, 273).

For the Christian theologian,
reason is the servant of faith.

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