Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Return to Reason:

A Critique of Enlightenment Evidentialism and a Defense of Reason and Belief in God
by Kelly James Clark
1990, 158 pages

I wish I had had this book back in university. Back then, I struggled with whether my faith was reasonable. Unfortunately, this often translated, under the pressure of likeable but strongly atheist professors, into the question of whether I could prove what I believed.

Of course, I couldn't - nor should I have to - and that is the point of Clark's book. In His word, God Himself never proves His existence, and frequently the Bible speaks of the necessity not of proof, but of faith. At the same time, God mocks and condemns those who are stupid enough - willfully stupid enough - to turn to idols and to ignore the signs of His presence in His creation.

The coexistence of faith and reason (not faith in reason) is why Clark titles the two main sections of book "The Way of Argument" and "The Way of Reason."

As a philosopher, Clark loves reason, but he critiques many of the arguments that other philosophers have used to justify belief in God (arguments often used by Christian apologists today) - such as the cosmological argument and the argument from design. Clark also deals with many of the arguments that answer the atheist attack on God's existence by asserting that the world isn't big enough for both God and evil to exist side by side. What distinguishes Clark's summary of the arguments from many others is that he makes clear that the best defence against the atheist argument from evil is the belief in the work of Christ. As well, Clark affirms that evil really is evil, that its power against our faith is not primarily intellectual but spiritual and psychological - and that therefore, the best first defense against questioning God's goodness is not usually an argument, but our willingness to suffer with the sufferer, to be Christlike in our love, as God loved us in Christ.

So, if arguments for God's existence and goodness are so problematic, what is "the way of reason"? Clark starts by showing that evidentialism is irrelevant, because God is not a being to be proved, any more than anyone we love is a hypothesis rather than a person. The belief in the existence of other minds is part of what makes us human - and not sociopaths, who indeed live as if no-one else has any real existence. Finally, Clark asserts "The Rationality of My Grandmother." In other words, it is entirely reasonable to believe in the God of the Bible for a combination of reasons that do not necessarily convince someone else. The mere fact that one can believe in God without argument shows the irrationality of the attempt to compel belief with argument. In the end, the Bible and the whole world (and the work of Christ and the Spirit) are what God uses to deliver us from both sin in general and our sinful idolatry of reasoning based on Enlightenment evidentialism.

A great book for any student struggling with the "need" to prove his or her faith!

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