Jason Lisle: Faith vs. Reason

They must be running out of things to say at Answers in Genesis (AIG), the online creationist ministry of Ken Ham (ol’ Hambo). They’re re-posting an oldie by Jason Lisle, who moved last year from AIG to the Institute for Creation Research. Apparently, AIG kept the rights to Jason’s old material, so they’re using it again.

This one is from September, 2010, but somehow we missed it the first time around. We’ve posted several times about Jason’s other writings, for example: Jason Lisle’s “Instant Starlight” Paper, and also Jason Lisle Tells Us How To Think.

Jason’s article is titled Faith vs. Reason. There’s nothing new in it, really, but it’s a good reminder of how the creationist mind functions — if you can call Jason’s article an example of a mind functioning. It’s rather long, so we’ll give you only a few excerpts, with bold font added by us and scripture references omitted. Jason begins with what seems to be a dilemma:

Many Christians perceive a conflict between reason and faith. On the one hand, God tells us to reason. We are to have a good reason for what we believe, and we are to be always ready to share that reason with other people. So we attempt to show unbelievers that our belief in the Scriptures is reasonable, justified, and logically defensible.

On the other hand, we are supposed to have faith. We are supposed to trust God and not lean on our own understanding. The Bible tells us that the “just shall live by faith.” It seems that we are supposed to trust God regardless of whether His words make sense to our understanding.

So, which is it? Are we to live by reason or by faith? Are we supposed to rely upon our intellect, drawing rational conclusions, rejecting those things that don’t make sense? Or are we to accept the teachings of Scripture without regard to logic and reason, even if it does not make any sense?

Most of you think you know the answer — especially since the relevant definition of faith is belief that is not based on proof or verifiable evidence. So how does Jason handle this conflict? Just watch him — but be warned, this one is a brain bender:

This apparent conflict troubles many people. But it stems from a critical misconception about the meaning of both faith and reason. When both terms are properly defined in their biblical context, any apparent conflict disappears. Yes, we are to have good reasons for what we believe, and we are also to have faith. In fact, without the latter, we could not have the former.

Did you get that? According to Jason, you can’t reason without faith. Let’s read on:

[Some people] say that Christianity cannot be proven, that reason leads us most of the way to God and then we must make a “leap of faith” in order to say that Jesus is Lord. This is a very common view among Christians. But this is not what God’s Word teaches about faith.

The Bible itself tells us what faith is. Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. So biblical faith is not blind but is strongly warranted confidence. The phrase “hoped for” does not imply a mere wishful thinking as in “I sure hope the weather is nice next week.” Rather, the Greek word (ελπιζω) indicates a confident expectation: the kind of confidence we have when we have a good reason to believe something.

Ah, so faith is confidence based on a good reason. Okay. We continue:

Biblically, faith is having confidence in something you have not experienced with your senses. Biblical faith is not “blind”; it’s not the act of “believing without a reason.” Just the opposite; biblical faith is the act of believing in something unseen for which we do have a good reason. For example, when we believe that God will keep a promise, this constitutes faith because we cannot “see” it and yet we have a good reason for it: God has demonstrated that He keeps His promises.

Makes perfect sense, right? Here’s more:

As many people have misunderstandings of faith, they also have misunderstandings of reason. Reason is a tool that God has given us that allows us to draw conclusions and inferences from other information, such as the information He has given us in His Word. Reason is an essential part of Christianity … .

In fact, I could not know that I am saved apart from using reason. … I have genuinely acknowledged that Jesus is Lord, and I believe that God raised Him from the dead. Therefore, I am saved. I must use logical reasoning to draw this conclusion.

The logic is undeniable. Moving along:

We are never to attempt to reason in opposition to the Word of God. That is to say we are not to treat God’s Word as a mere hypothesis that is subject to our fallible understanding of the universe.

[…]

We are never to “reason” in such an absurd, sinful way. Instead, we are supposed to reason from God’s Word, taking it as our ultimate unquestionable starting point. Any alternative is arbitrary and self-refuting. Reason is not a substitute for God; rather, it is a gift from God.

Yes, that makes perfect sense. If we start our reasoning from God’s word, then everything falls into place — including creationism. Another excerpt:

Biblical faith and biblical reasoning actually work very well together. In fact, faith is a prerequisite for reason. In order to reason about anything we must have faith that there are laws of logic which correctly prescribe the correct chain of reasoning. Since laws of logic cannot be observed with the senses, our confidence in them is a type of faith.

Aaaargh!! Actually, the laws of logic are an axiom, without which reason is impossible. Were one to attempt thinking without logic as an axiom, then literally anything could be an acceptable concept. Logic is an essential axiom, which must be posited (without proof) in order to proceed with any argument. There is no faith involved in this. If the laws of logic are rejected as an axiom, they nevertheless would be accepted, because only logic rules out contradictions. Well, creationists have a way out of that. When observable reality conflicts with their faith, they ignore the contradiction (and reality), brushing it all aside as a test of their faith.

But let’s get back to Jason:

Since reason would be impossible without laws of logic, which stem from the Christian faith, we have a very good reason for our faith: without our faith we could not reason.

The laws of logic stem from Christianity? How very odd. The laws of logic were first formulated by Aristotle, and we strongly suspect that he wasn’t influenced by Christianity. It would be very odd if he were, considering that he died in 322 BC. Here’s the end of the article:

Even unbelievers (inconsistently) rely upon Christian principles, such as logic, whenever they reason about anything. So the Christian has a good reason for his or her faith. In fact, the Christian faith system makes reason possible.

Your mind is whirling, isn’t it? But please, dear reader, put your mind at ease. Just accept what Jason says and then you’ll never have to worry about such things again.

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10 responses to “Jason Lisle: Faith vs. Reason

  1. Hey, I think my neurons were fried by David Barton on Thomas Jefferson so I don’t think I can deal with the “logic” of Christian faith. I think I have figured out what the purpose of all these creationists is. Their purpose is to write and sound so insane that they drive any logical and reasonable person to insanity. Does anybody know were you can get a straitjacket and rubber room cheap?

  2. “Logic is an essential axiom, which must be posited (without proof) in order to proceed with any argument. There is no faith involved in this.”

    I think they’re straining at gnats and swallowing camels here. Apologists like Lisle quite often define one version of “faith” as the acceptance of essential axioms. No real surprise there.

  3. docbill1351

    A company always owns the stuff their employees create. Standard stuff.

    It always comes down to money. Jason probably hit the glass ceiling at AIG and needed someplace where he could grow his weediness. At least at ICR he could teach classes and earn some brass that way. I also suspect that old Hambo would be hell to work for, so to speak.

    If Lisle could shed some of his dripping YECness he would be a good candidate for the Disco Tute, seeing as he’s already a professional liar. Just a bit too Jesus-freaky for the Tooters who prefer their liars to be from the political animal kingdom.

  4. Is there an expert on New Testament Greek in the house? In Modern Greek ελπίζω means ‘hope’ and carries no connotation of confident expectation. It’s exactly what you’d say re next week’s weather. Was this chucked in to impress the innocent as well?

  5. @DocBill: That’s no “glass ceiling”, that’s a “heavenly hardtop”.
    I guess Creationists are no longer satisfied with redefining science, they have to refined logic too.

  6. Lisle bothers me because I keep thinking he’s too smart to believe the stuff he writes, thus he must be deliberately lying.

    He argues as though logic were some sort of natural force, unobservable but still tangible, created by God – or, very weirdly, by the Christian faith. It’s almost as if he is about to postulate the existence of undetectible supernatural logic particles, which carry a logic force. (Maybe there are also corresponding anti-logic particles, to preserve symmetry.) Christians say the same thing about emotions – for example, we’ve all heard them say “you can’t see or touch Love, but we know it exists, therefore God…).

    I have an argument of equal merit to Lisle’s…. In my garden lives a Leprechaun. This Leprechaun can only be seen by me, but in past eons he was seen by others as well, as attested by the many Leprechaun records in our literature, and by the many over the centuries who have also believed in him. The Leprechaun created the world we live in and the universe in which it exists, all of the laws of nature, and most especially the laws of logic, by which we comprehend the world. If you do not believe this, you may argue with me – but beware, if you use logic, you are agreeing that the Leprechaun exists, because without the Leprechaun, logic would not exist.

  7. Was this written before or after Jason earned his doctorate in (Meta)Astrophysics?

  8. Mark Joseph

    @Steve:
    Not an expert, but good enough to have gotten along when I was a religious teacher. “Elpizo” (don’t know how to put the Greek into the post) is just the normal verb for “hope.” To press it further is to engage in theobabble. Which Lisle seems to be very good at.

    A quick peek into Liddell and Scott shows the same range of usage in classical Greek as it has in the New Testament–hope, hope for, hope in (someone or something), fear or expect (something to happen).

    I just thumbed through my Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich lexicon, and both the verb and the corresponding noun “elpis” are used in general of hoping. Lisle is misled into thinking it has more force than that, simply because in the New Testament (surprise!) it is usually used in a religious context.

    I hope Jason Lisle will stop babbling about reason and faith, but I fear that he will not, nor do I confidently expect him to.

  9. Thanks Mark. Do you have the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by Gerhard Kittel et al.? I always find it funny when they cite that (example here) because Kittel was a big Nazi. When we see German names on theological works from the 30’s to the 70’s, it’s a good idea to check out the author’s background.

  10. techreseller

    Jason,

    Here is a simple graph answer to your questions:

    http://www.csua.berkeley.edu/~ranga/humor/science_v_faith.html