not bypassing the mind

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
don’t rely on your own intelligence.
Know him in all your paths,
and he will keep your ways straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

Scripture makes it clear that we’re not to rely on our understanding, on reason. But scripture certainly doesn’t tell us to bypass reason. The entire appeal of scripture is related to our understanding; after all, it’s written to be read and understood by the community of faith.

We don’t understand so that we might believe, but we believe so that we might understand (Augustine). But we do end up with some understanding, even while we understand that mystery will necessarily accompany that, since we’re referring to matters of God.

In what is called “the Wesleyan Quadrilateral” there is scripture first, followed by tradition, reason and properly understood, experience. Reason is always and forever in the mix. In fact it is indeed as essential as the rest. Yes, tradition necessarily precedes it. As scripture itself makes clear, what the church at large teaches concerning the gospel and that related to it matters and in fact informs us. But reason is never set aside.

We set aside reason only in the sense that our reason can get in the way of proper understanding from God through scripture and tradition. But we end up with something which does appeal to our understanding. And we’re to work hard at understanding well what God gives us.

We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand.

Hebrews 5:11

Yes, we need to make the effort to understand. God appeals not only to our understanding, he appeals to us in the totality of who we are on the basis of beauty and all the rest. Our understanding is certainly in the mix.

We don’t want to fall into a cold, barren, essentially dead Christianity reliant on our own reason. But neither do we want to fall prey to a Christianity which ends up antithetical to reason, setting it aside. We live by faith, but it’s a faith which meets us where we live, part of that always and forever being reason. Rooted essentially in Jesus himself who is the truth as well as the way and the life.


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