Often people think of Reason as being self-contradictory. I’ve seen it often with atheists who define faith as believe something in spite of reason. I’ve talked with Mormons (Latter-Day Saints) who are convinced that if we start having reason for our faith then we no longer have faith, so finding evidence for what we believe is against God. I’ve even talked with countless Christians who believe that faith is believing something despite evidence and that it wouldn’t be faith if we had evidence of it. They think reason and faith can’t coexist and we can’t have evidence or reasons for our faith.
Leslie Stephen illustrates this view well in saying “the division of faith and reason is a half-measure, till it is admitted that faith has to do with fiction and reason with fact”
This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what faith and reason are, and especially a misunderstanding of how faith is defined Biblically (perhaps I’ll write on that next). In my current seminary classes my professor, Dr. Richard Howe defines faith and reason in the following ways:
Reason: is believing something on the basis of demonstration
Faith: is believing something on the basis of authority
I think this best explains what Christians mean, or should mean, when they say they have faith. We believe God created the heavens and the earth based upon the authority of God himself or the authors of the books that told us so. The atheist objects that such a notion is absurd, but is this so odd?
When we think of our belief in the most accepted but complicated issues of science do we believe those things based on reason or faith? Surely most of us must admit that those intricate areas of knowledge are not something we know because they have been demonstrated to us and we understand them personally but because we know there is a reliable authority we can trust on the issue. That being understood we believe those things on faith not on reason.
Furthermore, this means that our faith in something can be based upon reason. I trust the scientists views on areas which they are experts because reason tells me someone who got a PhD in an area knows more than I do about it. I trust doctors that vaccines work not because it’s been demonstrated to me but because reason dictates to me that they are a reliable authority and I have faith in that authority.
In the end our Christian faith then is no different than this. I believe what is written in scripture because of the authority of the one who inspired it. It isn’t in contradiction to reason in fact it is arguably in connection to it.