“Why do Christians just believe what they’ve been told concerning their faith instead of rigorously questioning it? Why suspend your mind when it comes to matters of Christianity?” An atheist asked these two questions on an Internet site.
Here is how I responded:
Though some churches may reflect an unhealthy anti-intellectualism, historic Christianity overall has viewed reason as one of God’s special gifts to humankind and has insisted upon “rigorous questioning.” Please consider four points concerning the Christian faith and its relationship to the human mind and reason:
1. For centuries, Christianity’s greatest philosophers and theologians have argued that faith and reason are indeed compatible with each other (e.g., Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Bonaventure). Thus the consensus of historic Christian thought has been that faith itself involves knowledge and comports with reason itself. These same world-class Christian thinkers have argued that it is actually atheism and skepticism that cannot be rationally justified. I respectfully encourage you to read some of the writings of Christianity’s greatest scholars on this topic before declaring that the historic Christian faith is somehow incompatible with reason and logic.
2. Science as an enterprise is based upon rigorous mathematical and empirical analysis and yet most of the founding fathers of science were Christians, including: Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Boyle, Pascal, Faraday, Mendel, Kelvin, and Maxwell. It is even correct to say that modern experimental science emerged from within the Christian world-and-life view. Furthermore, two modern day astronomers that played critical roles in the development of big bang cosmology were Christians: Georges Lamaître and Arno Penzias. Even distinguished medical geneticist Francis Collins, leader of the Human Genome Project, is a devoted evangelical Christian.
Is it likely these movers and shakers of Western civilization’s intellectual world failed to rigorously question their philosophy of life?
3. Though many Christians fail to appreciate it, intellectual virtues are mandated in the Bible. Scripture (both Old and New Testaments) implores believers to value and practice such conceptual principles as discernment, reflection, testing, analysis, discipline, and intellectual renewal (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; Acts 17:11; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 14:9; Colossians 2:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:21). From a biblical perspective, true knowledge and wisdom begin when a person has proper reverence for almighty God (Job 28:28; 34:4; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10).
4. Many of the advancements in the study of logic through the centuries have come from logicians with deep connections to Christianity. These scholars include Peter Abelard, William of Ockham, Gottfried Leibniz, George Boole, and John Venn. Believing that their minds were created in the image of God motivated these men to pursue abstract reasoning.
With these four points in mind, it’s clear it is no accident that the English word for logic comes from the Greek word logos—the very title given to Jesus Christ in the Gospel of John.
So, before one can make an evaluation of the Christian faith, he or she would do well to examine Christianity’s many contributions to the fields of knowledge and wisdom.
For more about the truth of historic Christianity and its vibrant intellectual world-and-life view, see my books Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions and A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test.