Religion and Rationality
The root of rationality is a basic fiber that runs through human beings. Doubt may reject it. Disease and decay may ravage it. However, normal human beings seek to be rational. Varghese in his book, The Wonder of the World: A Journey from Modern Science to the Mind of God, shows how an atheistic answer to life’s ultimate questions is both scientifically and philosophically insufficient. Concerning the reality of rationality he wrote:
Rationality is fundamental to sanity. . . . [W]e know without a doubt that rational inquiry [i.e. theorizing, experimenting, communicating] requires a rational order of things; that two contradictory assertions can’t both be true, for example, the same object can’t exist and not exist at one and the same time; that a valid [true] inference from a valid [true] premise leads to a valid [true] conclusion; that the mind is capable of knowing truth, since we can’t deny this statement without assuming that the mind is capable of knowing the truth of the denial . . . that we exist (the wise response to the skeptic who denies his or her existence has been, “And who’s asking?”). (325)
What does it mean to be rational? Brown answers, “. . . [R]ationality consists in being intellectually justified in one’s belief” (264). To be rational simply means that one honors the law of rationality which states that one should draw only such conclusions as are warranted by the evidence. Lionel Ruby wrote, “Every person who is interested in logical thinking accepts . . . the “law of rationality’ which may be stated as follows: We ought to justify our conclusions by adequate evidence” (131). Even a small child, during its earliest years, will ask the question, “Why?” Although the child is not aware of the implications of this question, such seems to imply a basic human need for conclusions to be justified by sufficient evidence.
One of the great apostles of the Christian faith is Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus). Paul was a good thinker having been taught by a great teacher, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). It appears that Paul had received a rather extensive education given the comments of a public official concerning Paul (cf. Acts 26:24). The word translated learning in Acts 26:24 refers to “the body of information acquired in school or from the study of writing, learning, education . . . and higher learning” (Rogers and Rogers 304-05). Paul was very concerned with being rational. He defended his commitment to Jesus Christ and the Christian faith with the affirmation that his position was rational (cf. Acts 26:25). What he meant was that the Christian faith is “intellectually sound” (cf. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 7 1097). New Testament Christianity is the religion of rationality.
Brown, Colin. Christianity and Western Thought: A History of Philosophers, Ideas and Movements. Vol. 1. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1990.
Rogers, Cleon L., Jr., and Cleon L. Rogers, III. The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998.
Ruby, Lionel. Logic an Introduction. Chicago: Lippincott, 1960.
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 1971. Vol. 7. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978. 10 vols.
Varghese, Roy Abraham. The Wonder of the World: A Journey from Modern Science to the Mind of God. Fountain Hills: TYR, 2003.