I recieved this very good question from a student today and thought I would share:

The Christian faith goes beyond reason but never contradictory to reason…or rationality.The Question: 

Michael, I am viewing the courses online . . .  and I hear you say this in defense of the need or validity of reason as a source for truth: The Christian faith goes beyond reason but never contradictory to reason (or rationality). I do not wish to waste your time . . .  but even as defined by the text of Hebrews 11:1, “faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen,” and as such does it not only sometimes run opposed to reason, but sometimes openly defy reason? Is not the object of our faith, Jesus Christ as both God and Man, so far above reason that He is only able to be truly grasped by a mind that has had to be enlightened supernaturally? I am thinking of Creation, Grace and Mercy, the Virgin Birth, Substitutionary Atonement, Resurrection, and the Second Coming of Christ as subjects of the Christian faith which defy Logic as an agent of reason, and thereby usher in the truth of the statement found in Scripture that w/o faith it is impossible to please God. Again I do not mean to pose questions for the sake of argument, and I love the course thus far, but if you have a moment I would love to hear your thoughts on this question in my understanding of your comment.

My response: 

Thanks so much for taking the time to write and for the thoughtfulness of your question. I agree with you that there are things that go beyond the human capacity to understand like creation ex nihilo (creation out of nothing) and the Trinity. The point that I was making in class is that while truth many times goes beyond reason, it does not and cannot contradict it by definition. In other words, simply because we do not understand the concept of creation out of nothing or the doctrine of the Trinity, this does not mean that it is beyond the understanding of God. God knows perfectly well how it all works. But what we cannot say is that it is a contradiction since a contradiction is by definition impossible. It would be like us saying that God cannot make a square circle. This does not mean that there is some power that God lacks, but as C.S. Lewis put it, “nonsense is still nonsense, even when it comes to God.”

God created reason and logic to be trustworthy guides. If truth could violate the law of contradiction, then we could safely (and fearfully) say that even though God has promised one thing, He could do something else since He can violate the law of non-contradiction. The law of non-contradiction essentially says A cannot equal non-A at the same time and the same relationship. If God has promised A, it would be both a failure and a lie if God decided upon non-A. The entire basis for our trust in Him is the fact that reason and logic are not simply ideas that He utilizes from time to time with us humans, but that they are an essential part of His character. I would go so far as to say that it is safe to say that reason or rationality is an attribute of God.Again, this does not mean that you and I always use reason properly or that we are unlimited as to our understanding of it. We have limits to our understanding where God has none. But we must understand its violation in the same way we understand the violation of righteousness. God cannot act unrighteous nor can he violate reason, even if the human understanding of both has its limits.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry