Reason & Religion. Why do we think they are opposed to each other?
Instead of “checking the mind at the church door” it seems to me that the biggest questions about humanity’s purpose and meaning bump into the biggest questions about ultimate purpose and cosmic design. “The glory of God is man fully alive!” St. Ireneaus said in the 2nd century. And while the 21st century can only press that quotation so far, it still stands as a comment that a human fully engaged is something both imminent and transcendent. Someone worthy of being a bearer of God’s image.
One of the gifts of being human is the ache of curiosity, the longing to understand, the quest to experience and to push the boundaries of the known. What a marvel it is to be human. Why would God ever want to deny any part of the human experience? And perhaps most relevant to right now, how could a ever-creating God be summarily dismissive of creations who imitate their deity by exploring, questioning, advancing and creating themselves?
The writer Phillip Yancey, speaking at LaSalle Street Church several years ago said, “God likes people who go toe-to-toe with him.” So true! The history of the Judeo-Christian faith is not one of auto-pilot obedience, but the cry and engagement of the robust believer. The Abraham who barters with God on the future of Sodom, the ambitious Jacob who wrestles with God and is renamed and the petulant Jonah who argues about God’s mercy and is redeemed. They argued with the almighty – using reason, persuasion, knowledge and experience to create a different kind of future.
This is why it was so refreshing to read the recent op-piece in the Wall Street Journal by Jewish scholar Yoram Hazony. Taking issue with the assumption of Richard Dawkins and some of the new atheists that religion is for the brainless, Hazony romps through the Jewish tradition happily illustrating that the history of our shared faith is a gritty engaged dialogue between the Maker of heaven and us.
Jesus even goes one further, extending the discourse to a living conversation, filled with questions, story telling and give-and-take friendship. The only time people really “lose” with Jesus is when they stop engaging and walk away.