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Reason

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Reason is the "…ability to think in an intelligent way, make sensible decisions, and form clear arguments"[1]

The use of reason has produced great benefits for individuals and society, with one notable example being in science, in which reason is a key factor.

Contents

Reason in religions and cultures

Ancient Greek

Although they were not the only ones who did so, the ancient Greeks are famous for their development of formal rules of logic. The English word logic comes from the Greek logos[2] which embodied the idea of putting ideas or reasoning into words.[3][4] However, the Greeks eventually came to reject logic, in part because it was used for, and became associated with, political manipulation more than with discerning truth.[5]

Christianity

Christianity has long—if not always—embraced reason as a vital gift from God.

Sociologist Rodney Stark wrote that

While the other world religions emphasized mystery and intuition, Christianity alone embraced reason and logic as the primary guide to religious truth.[6]

He added

As Quintus Tertullian instructed in the second century: "Reason is a thing of God, inasmuch as there is nothing which God the Maker of all has not provided, disposed, ordained by reason—nothing which He has not willed should be handled and understood by reason."[ref] In the same spirit, Clement of Alexandria warned in the third century: "Do not think that we say that these things are only to be received by faith, but also that they are to be asserted by reason. For indeed it is not safe to commit these things to bare faith without reason, since assuredly truth cannot be without reason."[ref][7]

An example of Christians using reason is the abolition of slavery. The Bible does not explicitly condemn slavery, and in fact appears to condone it, or at least tolerate it (but this ignores the realities of the societies at the time the Bible was written; see slavery for more), but Christians, starting with the biblical revelation that mankind was made in the image of God, reasoned that slavery was unacceptable, and worked hard for its abolition.

One of the reasons for the Christian embrace of reason is John's description of Christ as the "Word". In the original Greek of John, the word translated "Word" is logos.

If Christ is Logos, if God introduces himself as ratio, then God is not only all-powerful, He is reason. … What is more, Christ, as Logos, is He "who sustains all things by his mighty word" [my emphasis]" (Hebrews 1:3). Because it is primarily His Word upon which creation rests—rather than solely His will—creation has a steady, rational foundation upon which man can rely. This view constitutes an open invitation to examine the rules and laws of creation in order to know the Creator, an invitation very familiar from the Old Testament (Wisdom, 13:1-6). In Romans 1, St. Paul reiterated it by saying, “ever since the creation of the world, the invisible existence of God and his everlasting power have been clearly seen by the mind’s understanding of created things.” The laws of nature are not a challenge to God’s authority but an expression of it, as seen in Thomas Aquinas's statement that we are able to apprehend created things with our minds because they were first “thought” by God. Reason and revelation are compatible.[8]

This view of God as reason was to be found all the way back in the creation account in Genesis, which records God "thinking, speaking, creating, naming, and judging".[9]

Christians reject the "magisterial" use of reason—using reason to judge Scripture. This is because such reason is based on axioms invented by fallible humans.[10] However, reason can be, and needs to be, applied based on the knowledge revealed in Scripture.

Without [logic and reason] it is impossible to deduce anything from the true propositions of the 66 books of Scripture, the Christian’s final authority.Jonathan Sarfati[10]

The Bible instructs Christians to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.".[11] In this passage, the Greek word translated "answer" is apologia, which refers to giving a reasoned defence, and the word translated "reason" is logos.

Christianity's embrace of reason was a factor in Christianity giving rise to science.

Islam

Islam rejected the use of reason early in its existence. Hassan al-Basri (who died in AD 728), founded the Mu‘tazilite theological school, which taught that the Qur'an was created by Allah, and was therefore subject to rational criteria. This view was opposed to the standard view that the Qur'an was uncreated and co-eternal with Allah. The Mu‘tazilites believed that God created man with reason so that man could know God. To help with this, God created his creation rationally, so that we could understand it.

The Mu‘tazilite school of thought came to predominate for a while, but the traditionalists remained, and one of the best-known—who was imprisoned for not conforming—was Ahmad ibn Hanbal. However, in 848, Caliph Ja’afar al-Mutawakkil started to suppress the Mu‘tazilites, and Hanbal was released. The suppression reached a point by the eleventh century such that the Mu‘tazilites were essentially finished, partly due to opposition by Hanbalites.

The main school of thought opposed to the Mu‘tazilites was the Ash‘arite school, which initially supported the Hanbalites, although were not as extreme as the latter. Ash‘arism still has a considerable influence today, although gaining traction is Wahhabism, a form of Hanbalism.[12]

Atheism

Far from being the defenders of reason, [atheists] are among the chief offenders against it.

Atheists celebrate reason, but often fail to practice it.[13][14] For example, it bases its thinking on a presupposition of no God, i.e. a presupposition that the natural is all there is; there is no supernatural, a view known as naturalism. This results in it arbitrarily rejecting evidence that contradicts its worldview:

Even if all the data point to an intelligent designer, such an hypothesis is excluded from science because it is not naturalistic[15]

Rather than exclusively using reason to support their views, atheists will non infrequently invent arguments and attack straw-men. For example, they invented and spread the false idea that Christianity used to believe in a flat earth. They fraudulently invented the idea that developing embryos repeat their supposed evolutionary history, even having trouble letting go of that idea despite its fraudulent origins and scientific disproof being well documented.[16] They frequently fail to address the claims of the view that they are arguing against, such as claiming that there was not enough water in the Great Flood to cover Mount Everest, despite that not being the claim of any flood geologist.[17]

Author Tom Gilson, after documenting some of the fallacious arguments of leading atheists, wrote:

From my observations, it adds up to this: the new atheists’ difficulty with valid, responsible reasoning is widespread and systemic. Far from being the defenders of reason, they are among the chief offenders against it. It’s time we called them on that.[14]

Atheists also deny that faith and reason are compatible, but have trouble demonstrating that. "Faith and Reason are Mutually Exclusive Opposites", wrote atheist John W. Loftus,[18] in a blog article that then proceeded to support that claim on the basis of a series of atheist-sourced straw-man definitions of "faith". The atheist-run RationalWiki web-site, despite its name, is rife with logical fallacies in its arguments against Christian views.

Many atheists try and avoid the implications of the fine-tuned universe by proposing a multiverse, but this idea itself is irrational, beyond even the issue that there can be no real evidence for it.

A notorious example of atheists worshipping reason is the French Revolution. This violent uprising included churches being converted into "temples of reason". By contrast, the reforming movement of evangelist John Wesley in England is credited with avoiding a similar bloodbath in that country.

Ironically, atheists' worship of reason without revelation is self-refuting. By adopting a naturalistic view, the atheist rejects that reason is a God-given gift, and thereby removes any possible grounds for humans having the ability to reason. That is, our "reasoning" is merely various chemical and electrical processes in the matter of our brains, and there is no reason to think that such processes produced rational thought. According to evolution, such processes evolved to provide us with survival value, not to help us determine what's correct and what's not.[19]

‘If my mental processes are determined wholly by the motions of atoms in my brain, I have no reason to suppose my beliefs are true … and hence I have no reason for supposing my brain to be composed of atoms.J. B. S. Haldane[10]

References

  1. reason, Macmillan Dictionary.
  2. logic, Online Etymology Dictionary.
  3. Thayer and Smith, Logos, The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon, 1999.
  4. Logos, Glossary, Public Broadcasting Service.
  5. Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book That Made Your World, Thomas Nelson, 2011, p.81, ISBN 978-1-59555-322-5
  6. Stark, Rodney, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success, p.5, Random House, 2006, ISBN 0-8129-7233-3
  7. Stark, Rodney, 2006, p.7.
  8. Reilly, Robert R., The Closing of the Muslim Mind, p.56,57, ISI Books, 2011, ISBN 978-1-61017-002-4. All parentheses are Reilly's.
  9. Vishal Mangalwadi, 2011, p.82.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 D. Sarfati, Jonathan, Loving God with all your mind: logic and creation, Journal of Creation 12(2):142–151 August 1998.
  11. 1 Peter 3:15
  12. Robert R. Reilly, 2011, p.129.
  13. Tom Gilson and Carson Weitnauer (eds.), True Reason, Patheos Press, Fri. 9th March, 2012Fri. March 9th, 2012, ISBN B007J71S62.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Tom Gilson, Atheists don’t own reason, The Washington Post, Wed. 21st March, 2012Wed. March 21st, 2012.
  15. Todd, S.C., correspondence to Nature 401(6752):423, 30 Sept. 1999, quoted in A designer is unscientific—even if all the evidence supports one!.
  16. Russell Grigg, Fraud rediscovered, Creation 20(2):49–51, March 1998.
  17. See John W. Loftus
  18. Loftus, John W., Faith and Reason are Mutually Exclusive Opposites, Debunking Christianity, Thu. 8th March, 2012Thu. March 8th, 2012.
  19. Andrew Lamb, Was Dawkins Stumped? Frog to a Prince critics refuted again, Sat. 12th April, 2008Sat. April 12th, 2008.
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