Sunday, January 07, 2007

Apologetics and reason

Some look at apologetics with mistrust as they are under the impression that depravity includes reason. I hold to the position that man's reason has remained intact after the fall, although its functioning has been hampered by the sinful nature of man. Here are a couple of reason why I believe reason still functions properly:

I do hold to the utter depravity of man. However to say that reason has become imperfect as a result of the fall is not the same as saying that reason is dominated by sinful nature. Reason functions well, but put in a corner the sinful nature will try to escape, mock, deny or do whatever in order to suppress what reason tells it. This is what I think Paul teaches in Romans 1. Fallen mankind has knowledge of the eternal God, but it is suppressed.

There is I think an interesting analogy with the will. What does the gospel message say? It says: repent and believe, for the Kingdom of God is at hand. Now, if the human will is so fallen that it doesn't function anymore, why preach and call to repentance? Yet, the call is there including the human responsibility to act upon that call. If the evangelist calls on the fallen human will cannot the apologist in the same way call on the mind? In fact the latter makes more sense as I believe that the will is the very center of man's rebellion toward God whereas the capacity to reason is merely a function of being human and thus subject to the sinful nature. The will is fallen, reason is merely subject to fallenness.

In addition there are a few biblical examples of reason being used in order to persuade men toward God. (A) In the OT God says to his people: Let us reason together. God does reason through the mouth of the prophet with propositions and showing the logical falacies of idolatry. (B) Jesus used logic on his adversaries (his argument on the Messiash being the son of David and named Lord by the same / his argument of paying taxes to Ceasar, etc.). (C) Look at Paul's use of logic, i.e. apologetics in the various settings where he confronted men with the gospel, esp. Mars Hill.

If you look at Eastern Orthodoxy you will find they have a interesting take on the creation of man. They hold that man made in the image of God is not the same as man made in God's likeness. One of my relatives wrote to me this on it: 'Orthodox affirm that Adam was perfect not so much in an actual but in a potential sense. Made in the image (icon) of God means that he possessed rationality, freedom, moral responsibility, etc: everything that marked him out as different from the animals, and he had these from the moment of his creation. Made according to the likeness of God, on the other hand, means that he had the potential to be assimilated to God through virtue, by which, if he had made proper use of this facility for communion with God, he could have become like God, deified.' When Adam sinned the likeness was affected not the image. If that is true it gives us yet another argument in favor of my position on reason.



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