Reasons to Believe

Think Again: Christianity’s Relationship to Reason

Are Christians well known for their careful thinking, or does faith do damage to reason? While skeptics sometimes question whether historic Christianity comports with a vigorous logical outlook on life and the world, the truth of the matter is that many advancements in the area of logic have come from the work of Christian scholars.

In Patrick Hurley’s popular college textbook, A Concise Introduction to Logic, he lists ten eminent logicians who have made significant contributions to the field of logic. Interestingly enough, six of the ten famous logicians were either Christians or closely associated with theism:

  1. Peter Abelard (1079–1142)
  2. William of Ockham (1285–1347)
  3. Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716)
  4. George Boole (1815–1864)
  5. John Venn (1834–1923)
  6. Kurt Gödel (1906–1978)

So, just what is Christianity’s relationship to reason? Well, even though there are far too many individual believers who seem to have an anti-intellectual faith, the Christian worldview overall proposes that faith involves knowledge and is itself compatible with reason. Here’s the assessment of Christian philosopher Ronald Nash on the topic: “Even though most people who reject Christianity treat it as a refuge for enemies of reason, the truth is that there may be no worldview in the history of the human race that has a higher regard for the laws of logic.”1

While some Christians remain unaware that the Bible has a high view of reason, here are some of the intellectual virtues that Scripture mandates: checking sources, reflection, discernment, honesty, and testing (Acts 17:11; Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 14:29; Colossians 2:8; 1 Thessalonians 5:21). Scripture also indicates that because God made human beings in his divine image, human cognitive faculties and sensory organs function reliably to engage in the rational enterprise. Historic Christianity therefore values logic as a good gift of God.

So the next time a skeptic insists that Christianity doesn’t have a high view of logic, inform them that the Bible promotes and values critical thinking and that there have been many eminent logicians who were believers. And stay tuned for more articles on logic as we attempt to think again!

See other installments in this series here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6.

Resources

  • My former podcast, Straight Thinking, contains a number of episodes given to the topic of Christianity’s relationship to reason. It is archived at reasons.org. I recommend in particular that you listen to the three-part series entitled, “Intellectual Code of Conduct” (part 1, part 2, and part 3).
  • Two chapters in my book A World of Difference are devoted to the subject of logic. Most formal logic texts (even used ones) are very expensive, but RTB sells my book at a very reasonable price. Moreover, the logic chapters are conjoined with a detailed discussion of worldview thinking from the perspective of historic Christianity.

Endnotes

  1. Ronald H. Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 74.

Subjects: Logic