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Jesus and Reason
by Vincent Cheung
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. (John 1:1, 9)
The Greek word translated "Word" in John 1:1 is Logos. There has been some debate as to what John has in mind when he refers God the Son with this term. Some of the Greeks regarded the Logos as the rational principle of the universe. It provided the structure that held everything together and regulated the operation of all of reality. It was this same principle that instilled reason in man, and provided him the ability to think, to distinguish, and to make deductions.
The question is whether John has this Greek Logos in mind when he applies the term to the Son of God. Some are concerned that, if this is admitted, then it would appear as if John is borrowing a Greek concept for use on something so fundamental to the Christian faith as the nature of Christ. Others suggest that John could not have the Greek Logos in mind since there are major differences between the Logos in John's Gospel and the Logos in Greek thought. To the Greeks, the Logos was not a personal entity, and they would have rejected the idea that the Logos could take up a human nature and walk among us.
Both of these objections are inadequate and inconclusive. Even if John has the Greek Logos in mind as he writes, it does not mean that his Logos is an adaptation from Greek thought, but it could be an answer to it. To illustrate, I could take the Chinese idea of "the King of Heaven" and use that as my starting point to speak about the Christian God. Whether or not that is advisable is a separate question, but it is possible, as long as I note the differences and add those things that are lacking along the way. I would not be borrowing the very idea of God from the Chinese, but using my existing understanding of God to correct their conception. And so, that the Greeks did not conceive of a personal Logos that could be made flesh has no relevance to the question. John could be asserting that God the Son is the reality of which their Logos is but a dim reflection, and along with this he introduces the idea that the Logos is in fact personal, and even had come in the flesh.
One proposed alternative is that John has in mind not the Greek Logos, but the "Word" or "Wisdom" in the Old Testament and Jewish literature. This "Wisdom" is said to be with God since the beginning, and is said to be an agent in the creation of all things. Thus there appears to be more similarities between this and the Logos in John's Gospel. However, we must not overstate the implication of this observation. The fact that the "Word" in John's Gospel may have more similarities with the Jewish "Wisdom" than the Greek "Logos" is no necessary indication that John must have in mind the Jewish Wisdom rather than the Greek Logos, or the Jewish Wisdom to the exclusion of the Greek Logos. It remains possible that John has the Greek Logos in mind, or that he has both the Jewish Wisdom and the Greek Logos in mind, or that he has neither one in mind.
The issue is of secondary importance, since what this Gospel and the rest of the New Testament say about Jesus Christ retain a complete and inflexible meaning regardless of any Jewish or Greek context in John's mind. Nevertheless, the debate brings our attention to the question of who or what Jesus was in relation to the creation and the operation of the universe, and to the rational nature of man. Does the Logos order and control the universe? Is it the Logos that enables man to think and to reason? We can understand the nature of the Logos from the teachings of the New Testament alone.
By the rational principle of the universe, we mean the intelligence that determines the structure of creation, and the power that regulates its operation. We refer to the Wisdom that conceives the design and the nature of all the various object in creation, and the Power that maintains the relationships between these objects. We find that Christ meets this description. Paul writes, "For by him all things were created…all things were created by him and for him…and in him all things hold together…in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 1:16-17, 2:3). Then, we read in Hebrews 1:3, "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." And back in John's Gospel: "In him was life, and that life was the light of men…the true light that gives light to every man" (1:4, 9).
Thus with a few words Christ is said to fulfill the entire conception of the Greek Logos, and even exceeds it, in that he is a person. If Logos is Reason, then Christ is Reason personified. And the Word made flesh was Reason incarnate. Again, Scripture says that all wisdom and knowledge are in him, and it says that all things were created by him, and that he is the one who sustains creation. Notice that it does not only say that he created and now sustains the universe, but that he is characterized by "wisdom and knowledge." So whether we call him Reason, or Wisdom, or Knowledge, Christ is the divine Mind or Intelligence that created and now sustains the universe. He fulfills and exceeds the Greek Logos, and he is what he is regardless of the Greek Logos, or whether we have any contact with Greek thought. It is entirely legitimate to call him Mind, or Intelligence, or Reason.
So, does John have in mind the Greek Logos? It does not matter. But is God the Son the rational principle of the universe? Yes, he is. This makes Jesus Christ the incarnation of supreme intelligence, and of wisdom and reason. Therefore, the disciples of Christ are rationalists in the highest sense of the word. Christians are the disciples of Reason. His revelation is our first principle, and our knowledge comes from valid deductions from it. Although he satisfies the idea of Reason, and although Scripture asserts that he is the Mind that created and now sustains the universe, some refuse to acknowledge this for fear that it would appear as if we are appealing to or agreeing with Greek thought. But this is to spit on Christ to spite the Greeks. It does not matter what the Greeks thought. And outside of the Old Testament, it does not matter what the Jews thought. The New Testament teaches that Jesus Christ is Reason, Mind, Wisdom, and Intelligence.
Reason, then, is the way God thinks. This is reflected in the order and design of the universe, and in the ability in man to engage in logical thought. Thus when "reason" is used in a sense that is void of content, it amounts to the bare laws of logic. That is, reason without content refers to logic. When content is included, it refers to God's mind, part of which has been revealed to us through the Scripture. That is, reason with content refers to truth. And we have been enabled to think like him by the regeneration and illumination of the Spirit. As Christians, we can think according to Logic – the structure of God's thought. And with logic, we can understand, process, and apply Truth – the content of God's thought.
Let us consider some of the implications.
Since Jesus is Reason, we should exalt Reason to the highest place. It is a testimony to the success of Satan's deception that Christians have an almost superstitious fear of reason. Part of this is due to unnecessary and inaccurate definitions. One use of the word assumes an exclusion of religion or revelation. But as you can see by the way we defined reason above, the rejection of religion or revelation is an unnecessary addition to the bare idea of reason. Another use of the word has it refer to the human ability to think or to discover. But such a meaning carries with it a huge baggage that has been smuggled in without warrant, and not by logical or linguistic necessity.
If reason is necessarily associated with anti-biblical thought, then of course we should be wary of it. But our discussion should have eliminated all doubt that reason belongs to us, and if there is any remaining reservation, we should learn to get over it. I could use the word "wisdom" and refer to the same thing. The word is sufficient. For example, I could say that Jesus is Wisdom, and therefore we must serve God in a manner that follows and applies wisdom. For this statement, I would mean approximately the same thing whether I use the word "mind," or "wisdom," or "intelligence." But I would choose to use the word "reason" even when I do not have to, because Christians have such a hang-up over it, and I hope that by rubbing it in their faces, I will help them get over it. It is a good word, and not to be hijacked by the unbelievers so that they may gloat over us with it.
The typical discussion on the relationship between faith and reason is misguided. Given what we have said above, we must reject proposals like faith against reason, or faith with reason, or faith beyond reason. In these proposals, the loaded version of reason is referred to, that is, one that is inseparably tied to man's ability to think apart from revelation. But we must reject this loaded meaning, and rather use the word in a way that is consistent with our own worldview, which would equate faith with reason. In fact, anything that does not make faith and reason identical must be false. The only legitimate conception on the relationship between faith and reason is that faith is reason.
You say, "Reason is limited." But God's reason is not limited. Stop using yourself as the reference point for everything in the universe, and you shall greatly expand your mental horizon, and the scope of your intellectual perception. For me, it would make no sense to say that God is beyond reason, since to me that would mean that God is beyond himself, or beyond his own ability to think. My view of reason leaves man's ability far behind, because it is a baggage that I have no obligation to accept regarding my use of this word or idea. If God can reason, and if God is reason, then the word does not have to be reduced to man's ability to think.
Another implication is that we must serve God with our thinking, with the utmost care and diligence in the use of reason. Consider what this means to our theology, preaching, education, and so on. We could spend many hours discussing these positive implications of the Christian's affinity to Reason; however, since we must mention a few other implications, I will leave it to you to spend more time thinking about how the proper use of reason should promote the health and soundness of Christian faith.
When God created man, he breathed life into him, and gave him a rational spirit. After man rebelled against God, the corruption of sin inflicted severe damage to his mind, including his desire and his ability to think in accordance to reason, to logic and to truth. This explains why non-Christians are very stupid. Any non-Christian of any period, any place, and any persuasion, can be easily defeated by a proper use of reason. There is no non-Christian view on any subject in all of human history that can withstand more than several seconds of logical analysis. And it takes several seconds because we are often too slow. (Hmmmmmmmm really?)
*Nevertheless, the non-Christian has not turned into an animal. There remains a spark of reason in him, albeit something that is but a faint shadow of intelligence. This is why non-Christians, although they are very stupid, usually do not roam the hills like wild beasts, or randomly urinate on the streets, or babble nonsense and foam at the mouth while blankly staring at the sky. God preserves their ability to function for his own purposes – for the glory of his name and the good of his elect.
*(Actually He preserves them because He loves them and because they were created by Him in His own image. God does not give up on His children and gives them every chance to respond to His word as long as they walk this earth. He is after all a reasonable Father.)
Even Satan can appear as an angel of light, but his light is one that blinds the judgment of man, and not one that guides him to the truth. The non-Christians are like their father, the devil. Instead of using the feeble intellect that remains in them to cry out to God for illumination and forgiveness, they use it to construct alternate interpretations of the world and of reality, and to conspire against the Lord and his people. Empirical science is one of the more prominent examples in our day. Non-Christians think that by seeing, touching, and experimenting, they can infer true information about reality. But sensation is unreliable, induction is fallacious, and the scientific method is merely a systematic way to repeat the unreliable and the fallacious over and over again. Yet, men think that this is the pinnacle of intellectual development, the surest and fairest way to discover truth!
Jesus is the Lord of Reason. He is the light of the mind. Although by his own decree, sin has darkened the intellect of man, by his power and for his purpose, he preserves a spark of reason in the non-Christian. But he can snuff out even this tiny intelligence whenever he wishes, as he did for a time in Nebuchadnezzar, so that his sanity was taken away from him. He became like an animal, and was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle (Daniel 4:29-37). On the other hand, in those whom he has chosen for salvation and whom he causes to believe his word, he kindles this spark of intelligence into a mighty blaze, flooding their minds with light – with clarity of mind, depth of thought, and grasp of the truth.
Jesus is my Reason. He is my wisdom, my truth, my sanity. Without him I am lost – no, not just lost to hellfire, but to foolish beliefs and irrational assumptions. By his grace, he has filled my mind with light, with true information and clear perception. His thoughts were not my thoughts, and his ways were not my ways. His thoughts were so far above mine as the heavens were above the earth. But he has changed me – I have been born again, this time, born from above. Now his thoughts have become my thoughts, and his ways have become my ways. Now I can grasp the heavenly philosophy, the thoughts from above, in a clear, precise, univocal manner. There are some who count themselves unworthy of this blessing, who refuse to enter and who prevent others to enter. But this is the inheritance of all believers, and those who hunger and thirst after wisdom and truth will break away from human traditions, from religious threats and deceptions, and enter into that which God has prepared for us even before the foundation of the world.
This is a preview of the forthcoming publication, The View from Above. The official release will include explanatory and bibliographical footnotes that are absent from the preview.
Copyright © 2010 Vincent Cheung. All rights reserved.
*I do not agree with Mr. Vincent Cheung that people who are not Christian are stupid by any means but I do like much of what is in this piece because Jesus' teachings always use reason. I put this here because it's a very different way of looking at Christianity and reason. Mr. Cheung does not address God's Grace or love and I find that troubling Jesus may be the Lord of Reason but he is also the Prince of Peace and most of all He is LOVE. -Beth Maxwell Boyle
"Human beings can attain a worthy and harmonious life only if they are able to rid themselves, within the limits of human nature, of the striving for the wish fulfillment of material kinds. The goal is to raise the spiritual values of society." -Albert Einstein
Here is a slideshow of various great scientists from the past who believed
they were saved by Christ. Music is With Every Breath by Sixpence
Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.