The Place of Faith in Shaping Political Views • Part 1

It was from a college philosopher professor many years ago I first heard of the divorce between faith and reason. While standing in the doorway of the class, smoking a cigarette, sipping a cup of coffee and some adult beverage, he lectured us on how The Enlightenment placed an unpassable wall between religious faith and rationality. With dogmatic certainty, he asserted faith was to believe something apart from evidence. If there was any evidence involved, it was a matter of reason, not faith.

This professor was usually fair-minded in regard to philosophical discussion, so I raised my hand to clarify—silly me. I asked if his distinction between faith and reason didn’t, therefore, make faith irrational and unreasonable. He fixed me with a steely glare, nodded, and said, “Precisely.” His countenance made it clear he was eager to debate his point, hoping I’d object. I wanted to but knew the unspoken college “rules of the class.” Defy the professor, fail the class, and there’s no appeal. So I just stared back, shaking my head in negation. The rest of that semester, he regularly made disparaging remarks about faith with a chin-point in my direction.
Having spent the majority of my upbringing among those with a Judeo-Christian Worldview, I was curious if what that professor said was merely his own idea or the accepted position of modern philosophy. I discovered it was indeed the majority view. Moderns tend to regard faith and reason as on opposite sides of the intellectual divide. Rationality is an exercise of human reason, based on evidence and following the rules of logical deduction. Faith, on the other hand, is an exercise of pure will without regard to evidence, frequently disregarding logic. It is, as one popular phrase puts it, “a blind leap into the unknowing dark.”

This view of the divorce between faith and reason is inaccurate and historically untenable. It’s an unwarranted assertion of modern philosophy; a verbal sleight-of-hand promulgated on the historically unaware. In asserting the divorce between faith and reason, modern philosophy cuts itself off at the knees because many of its presuppositions were shaped by Greek, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic philosophers who provided its vocabulary and dictionary. The rules of logic and assessing evidence were developed by people of profound religious faith. Their worldview enabled them to develop the mental and procedural models moderns use to ridicule that worldview.

Contrary to the unsubstantiated assertion of modern philosophy that “faith has no reason and reason has no faith” the Christian understanding of faith rests on evidence. Biblical faith is a rational response to evidence.

It’s crucial to establish this at the outset of our investigation into the place of faith in shaping political views. Just as modern philosophy divorces reason and faith, there are those in the secular community who allow no place for religion in politics. They make a fundamental mistake in understanding reason and faith, as well as religion and politics.

The premier passage defining the Christian conception of faith is found in Hebrews 11:1. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” In speaking of faith this way, the author of Hebrews intended the reader to regard it as connected to something substantial. It may not be apparent to the senses, but it is no less real for that.

There are many things we regard as real yet not tangible to our five senses. Our emotions are internal states of mind we give labels to like; peace, happiness, sadness, love, hate. No one doubts their existence though they are immaterial. We might encounter evidence of emotions in someone’s behavior or speech. But what we’re seeing and hearing isn’t the emotion itself, only it’s expression.

Though God, by His very nature as a spiritual being, isn’t apparent to our senses, the evidence of His existence is all around us. I will go so far as to say, the existence of ANY evidence, is proof of God. Indeed, the existence of the Supreme Deity the Bible describes is a logical necessity. It’s simple Ontology. The Apostle Paul puts it this way in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.”

No petty intellect himself, the Apostle Paul removes the excuse of the materialist who denies the existence of God because he/she doesn’t perceive Him through their senses. Knowledge doesn’t come to us only by sense perception. Our minds link and manipulate perceptions to draw conclusions. That’s the essence of reason. Paul says there’s an underlying reality the existence of creation requires for there to even BE a creation. That is the existence of an eternal, all-powerful Creator.
In order for there to be anything now, there must be Some Thing that has always been. If there was ever a moment when there was nothing, there would be nothing now because nothing is no-thing and can nothing. That means there must be Some Thing that has always been, that possesses self-existence.

Reason and logic make clear the physical realm we inhabit is ruled by cause-and-effect. Everything owes its existence to a prior cause. But logic also prohibits an eternal regression. There has to be a starting point. The only reasonable conclusion is that that starting point cannot itself be inside a universe ruled by cause-and-effect. It must be a sufficient first cause, something that stands outside of the physical universe, eternal, with the power to give rise to everything else. This is basic logic. Reason demands the existence of an eternal, all-powerful Creator that owns its own existence.

What Paul says in Romans 1:20 makes clear that rather than faith lacking evidence, correctly understood evidence produces faith. To deny the existence of God because of a lack of evidence is a flight of irrational fancy because the use of evidence presumes the existence of a Creator Who made it.

In Part 2, we’ll consider how the eminently reasonable faith of the Judeo-Christian Worldview shaped the modern world. >> The Place of Faith in Shaping Political Views • Part 2