Rational Christianity?

In Worshipping the Irrational Jesus in the Huffington Post, Prof Mark Osler offers three approaches to those aspects of christianity we find uncomfortable or difficult to understand or accept.

  1. Decide we will trust our reason and therefore stop following Jesus.
  2. Decide we will keep following Jesus even if it goes against what we are inclined to think.
  3. Try to make what Jesus says fit with what we think.

He thinks the first two approaches are honest, and chooses the second. He thinks the third approach is dishonest, and gives as an example the teaching by some christian pastors and televangelists that because God loves us, he will bless us with riches and the things we want – despite Jesus teaching the exact opposite.

I think he is right, but perhaps overstates the case for irrationality. It seems to me there are two different situations.

  1. When we are first deciding to believe in Jesus or not, or when we are recommending the faith to someone else, we must surely be thinking of what is most likely to be true according to the evidence we have – whether that evidence is objective and external (like the argument that only God could have caused the universe, or the historical facts of the life of Jesus), or internal and personal (like an experience of God). To choose irrationality here could lead to a silly or even dangerous choice.
  2. However once we believe Jesus is the truth and we choose to follow him, we can expect that some things he calls us to do and to believe will be beyond our rational understanding, and require trust on our part. This is the situation Osler is considering, and he gives some useful examples.

It’s worth a read.

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