Sunday, September 7, 2008

Reason and Mythology

My wife recently received an email from an old friend who is currently studying philosophy at a state university in Illinois. She writes:

“It's interesting…in secular universities how strong the bias is against God, particularly against Christianity. In one of my philosophy of religion classes, one of the girls got up in front of the class and said, ‘I was born and raised a Christian. But this class has torn me up. I don't know what to think anymore.’ I was at a low point spiritually when I first started studying philosophy. I'd had a lot of weirdness in my church and in my own spiritual life that became very confusing. It's a long crazy story, but part of it, I think, is that my church was so ‘spiritual’ that there was no room for rational thought. The ‘rational mind’ was preached against from the pulpit; my own spiritual experiences were almost always anti-rational. I always felt pushed and pulled in strange directions, compelled to do things that didn't quite make sense, and yet they were ‘spiritual’ enough for me to think God was talking to me. Anyway, my church and my life fell apart. I tried to hold myself together. I went back to school. I took anti-depressants. And this pragmatic rationalism that I was being offered was an enticing contrast to the messed-up spirituality I had come from and had bought into. My faith became quite precarious. There was no answer to any of my questions; all the answers were shallow, trite, and banal.”

To many, Plato’s reason makes more sense than Homer’s mythology. I have had experiences similar to my wife’s friend regarding church and secular education. When Christians leave off the very important ideas in nature, and solely stress the "spiritual" aspects (often more accurately identified as emotional aspects) of faith, they come to a rather impractical way of life. They are in danger of losing touch with reality when they lose touch with the whole.

For the gentile, the first lesson toward faith is creation (nature reveals God’s character). The Jews had an even further step—the oracles of God—in the Law of Moses. Nature is for the Gentiles what the Law is for the Jews.

Christian education does not abandon the natural side of life. The Christian life alone is truly holistic. Wholeness in Christ includes nourishment for the spirit, as well as the body and soul. To section off one or two parts from the complete person is to cease to be practical. One could even say it is to cease being a complete human (spirit, soul and body).

Perhaps Abraham was faithful to see God’s goodness in nature before he believed. God did, after all, show him the stars as symbols of His goodness. Guileless Nathanael had a moment of truth under a tree, and Jesus called him a “true son of Israel.” As a young man, I exercised my natural faculty of sight, and turned my eyes to the stars in honest wonder. God answered me in a fashion so undeniable that I would sooner doubt the sun than the heavenly Light revealed to me.

To negate nature—to lessen its importance—is to miss the first step in seeing God; it is to try to read without learning the alphabet. It has been the strategy of Satan to infuse the study of nature—science—with the pagan philosophy of unbelief. Not only pagan philosophy, but also pagan science is being crammed down the throats of students in secular schools everywhere. Like the Socratic poison, it is killing our nation.

The basic lessons of God’s goodness are fundamentally seen in the created world. The testimony of the natural world is being discredited, not by science, but by the connection of science to pagan philosophy. What is seen in nature is seen, not objectively, but according to the bent of self. If we discredit the alphabet, then how can we read? If philosophy begins when one doubts that a tree is a tree, then one can truly, like “humble” Socrates, "know nothing." How much less can one know the invisible God if one can’t even know if a stone is a stone?

God is seen through the heavens, and under the tree; He is seen in the stable and the carpenter’s shop. As learning the alphabet precedes writing, addition comes before calculus: line upon line, precept upon precept. The manger preceded the Ascension; a flower grows from a seed; a building is built on a foundation, and a foundation is built from a cornerstone. One can begin to know an artist by the art he creates; one can surmise there is a builder by seeing the building.

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