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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sungyak Kim on faith and reason

Seminary student Sungyak Kim has an unusual vision of Christian apologetics. Quoting Soren Kierkegaard, he laments the existence of that apparently typical apologist who naively attempts to "deal with every accusation, every falsification, every unfair statement, and in this way is occupied early and late in counterattacking the attack." And who exactly does he have in mind, here? Well, it's hard to say exactly, but at the beginning of his piece he drops the names of William Lane Craig and Alvin Plantinga.

I think it's clear that Craig and Plantinga are guilty of no such thing. But perhaps that was just Kim's attention-getting introduction. Before long he moves on to his real thesis: Christians should live by faith, without having to "surrender" to culturally-defined notions of rationality, reasonableness and justification.

And yet surely that can't be right. Who wouldn't value rationality and reasonableness? Kim himself reminds us that Paul "reasoned" with the non-Christians of his day; and he also praises his presuppositionalist heroes Bahnsen and Van Til for being, according to Kim, "great Christian thinkers." Yet throughout his essay he makes constant jabs at the idea of respecting reason. So when he says things like, "Our faith in Christ has to be greater than our faith in wisdom and reason," it's hard to see what else he could mean but that we ought to discard reason whenever it happens to conflict with his favorite religious beliefs.

He is free to do that, of course. Nobody is going to twist his arm or put a gun to his head to get him to see reason (although given his closing comments about "persecutions," perhaps that really is what he thinks will happen). But---call me crazy---it just seems like being reasonable is a worthwhile goal. One would think he would agree, Christian or not.

2 comments:

Tom Cantine said...

Interesting link, and I tend to agree with your comments. Obviously, I have a different conception of what "faith" means, and he seems to be using it in the usual sense of "credulity", which I reject.

There's a simple way to correct his position, I think, and it is most easily shown in this one line, where he says: "Our faith in Christ has to be greater than our faith in wisdom and reason, regardless of what label might be pinned on us." I'd have no beef with this if he just added the word "our" before "wisdom" and "reason".

It IS a mistake to have too much faith in our own wisdom or reasoning capacity. But I would argue that a sensible Christianity holds that faith in Christ is faith in wisdom and reason, a conviction despite a lack of conclusive evidence that wisdom and reason are the road that leads to truth, even though we may go astray as we try to follow it.

Ultimately, though, he's betrayed a profound but subtle lack of faith in Christ, by buying into the notion that he has to choose between Christ and reason. If he had true faith, he'd cheerfully say, "Fine! Let's follow reason wherever it will take us!" because he'd have the utmost confidence that in the end, it could only ever lead us to Christ. But he's unwilling to make that leap. He wants to be able to bail out if reason looks like it might be going somewhere he doesn't like.

Personally, I don't know where reason leads to ultimately. It might lead to Christ, but I suspect it does not. However, I DO have faith that it must lead to Truth, whatever that truth may be, and so I'm happy to seek it unconditionally.

awatkins69 said...

I agree with your comments. Historically, theology has taken to go hand-in-hand with reason. Think of, for instance, the great theologians like Augustine, John Damascene, Anselm, Aquinas, Scotus, and even in historical Protestantism the Lutheran and Calvinist scholastics. I'd argue fideism wasn't really ever a majority view, even if you have a few fideists popping up here or there in history.

Fideism was condemned as heretical by the Catholic Church in the First Vatican Council:

"If anyone says that divine revelation cannot be made credible by external signs, and that therefore men and women ought to be moved to faith only by each one's internal experience or private inspiration: let him be anathema."