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If I am a person of faith, must I reject reason? If I am a person of reason, must I reject faith? Or, is it possible that I, or anyone else, can be both a person of faith and reason?
From mid-2006 to mid-2017 it was my honor and great joy to serve as the pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Radford in Radford. Within that congregation were several medical doctors, nurses, college professors of various sciences, and folks who worked in various “tech” oriented industries. Each and every one of those good people were persons of both faith and reason. Each one lived life as both a disciple of Jesus Christ and as a faithful student of the sciences. Their faithful integration of both faith and reason into how they navigated through life each and every day reassured me of what I had learned years before from the best math professor that I have ever had. As a Ph.D in and teacher of mathematics, he was (and is) a mind and voice for reason. As an elder in the Presbyterian Church, he was (and is) the faithful follower of the “bare-foot man from Galilee”. It was his example that demonstrated to me that one could be a person of both faith and reason.
St. Anselm (1033-1109 A.D.) taught the church long ago that all truth is of God. Therefore, we do not need to be afraid of the truth. Rather we should seek the truth, whether it be the truth revealed through God’s Creation or through God’s Son.
In this age of the coronavirus pandemic, and of considerable economic downturns and social upheavals, it seems to me that now, in our time, it is especially incumbent upon us to be persons of both faith and reason, to live out our calling to love both God and neighbor (faith), and to live out our calling to pursue a right understanding of the world in which we live (reason).
In the New Testament, Jesus said to a gathering of religious leaders: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”, (John 8:31-32). Here, Jesus calls us to pursue the truth revealed through faith in Him as Son of God, who is filled with grace and truth (John 1:14). This truth will be a “saving truth” and will guide us as we live out our lives of love for both God and neighbor.
Michael Faraday (1791-1867) was both a devoted Christian and an English scientist who explored the properties of light and electromagnetism. He wrote: “The book of nature, which we have to read, is written by the finger of God.” He also wrote: “…unraveling the mysteries of nature was to discover the manifestations of God.” This truth, truth of the scientist, can help us to better understand and better live in this world of God’s making.
As a person who is on his own pilgrimage and journey both to believe and to understand, and to practice both faith and reason, I would encourage you to do the same. I am convinced that both faith and reason are needed to navigate safely these times in which we all must live. May the Peace of Christ that passes all understanding be yours.
Fincastle Presbyterian Church.