For a New Age of Faith and Reason

We have seen the abuse of power in the age of faith. We have worn the cloak of despair in the age of reason. Perhaps now we can know the power hope in a new age of reasonable faith.

The age of faith showed us that religion and power are like chemicals that cause chaos when they are combined. History testifies to their unhappy marriage and its inevitable offspring of abuse. But the age of reason that followed gave us promises of an age of wholeness that never came, while we remain haunted by the longing for more meaning than the material world can give us. Neither the age of faith nor the age of reason have been able to suppress the hint of something more—something that we can sense but we cannot see, something that we can feel but we cannot name.

The age of faith (600 to 1500 A.D.) was further way from the object of its faith than at any other time in history. Self-righteousness is the furthest distance that a person can keep from God. This was the distance between God and people in the age of faith. We went our own way, twisting reality that gave us a hopeful future, to create a religion that gave us a regrettable past. We took the name of God in vain.

The age of reason (1700 A.D. to present day) was right to reject the abusive power of religion, but it could not silence the cry of the soul for more than the material. It told us that we came from matter, we live as matter, we will return to matter and nothing else matters. But some of us know that we are more than merely molecules in motion; so we search for who we are, we wonder why we hate each other and we want to know how to turn this ship around.

Reason was rejected in the age of faith and faith was condemned in the age of reason. At the beginning of the 20th century, we can hope towards a new end—perhaps an age of reasonable faith, a pattern that was always the plan for human flourishing.

The first challenge to the church did not come from the age of reason, but from Jesus, the Head of the church. Long before the church was birthed, He warned us of false prophets and deceitful disciples, offering Himself as a credible alternative to power-hungry religion that was built on a weak foundation of self-righteousness.

He is the still-living moral point of reference that gives the church an internal compass with far more authority and credibility than any voice that emerged out of the age of reason, as important as they might be.

In the age of reasonable faith, thinking and faith will not be competitors. They will serve each other because they belong together and cannot survive without the other.

Anne Hathaway, in interviews about her new movie Interstellar, has been quoting Albert Einstein: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science in blind.”

In his reflections on Interstellar Krish Kandiah, president of London School of Theology, the largest interdenominational, evangelical theological college in Europe says, “The best science recognises human beings as more than just collections of cells. It values a holistic approach to human identity that has room for the contribution that spirituality plays in human flourishing. The best approaches to faith recognise that humanity was created to explore, experiment, discover and reflect on creation. Christianity has played a major role in the formation of the scientific method of the Western world and science has contributed huge advancements that can help the Church play its part in God’s plans for the universe. Let’s pray for a clear sighted Church and an agile and active science that draw on the best of each other.”

We are reasonable beings made in the image of a reasonable being. A thinking God invites us to love Him by thinking. A reason that does not appreciate faith struggles to find reason for its reasoning. A mind that does not appreciate thinking offers incomplete worship with an unloving mind.

Faith and reason are like star-crossed lovers, whose fathers do not want them to be together. But the self-seeking desires of these fathers must give way to the original design of a greater Father. The age of faith and the age of reason must give way to a new age of reasonable faith so that the sins of our fathers may be roundly overcome by the grand accomplishments of our children. For that new age of faith and reason, let us think and let us believe.

Image Credit: Natalie Shuttleworth

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