Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 25, 1957

Reason, Faith And The Issues

Wm. E. Wallace, Owensboro, Kentucky

"Till it be resolved how far we are to be guided by reason, and how far by faith, we shall in vain dispute and endeavor to convince one another in matters of religion." — John Locke The quotation above is taken from a discussion involving a different realm than that in which I am now interested. I adapt it and apply it however to the matter of walking by faith and the problem of following human reasoning regarding issues confronting the church today.

What is included in the meaning of the phrase "walking by faith"? That our faith is dependent on the hearing of God's word is a principle early grasped by converts, and freely discussed by maturing Christians. Paul said, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." (Galatians 5:25.) This clearly signifies proceeding in line, moving in step with the Spirit of God. "Walk" is quite frequently used metaphorically in the Bible to describe the course of man's conduct. In Jeremiah 6:16 the Lord called for reflection and consideration on the part of his people, demanding that they seek for the old paths and the good way and "walk therein".

In Galatians 2:14 Paul describes his rebuke of Peter and Barnabas, picturing their error as walking "not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel." Some walk disorderly. (II Thessalonians 3:11.) Some walk in darkness. (I John 1:16.) Some walk in wisdom, "circumspectly" (Ephesians 5:15), and some in light. (I John 1:17.) Perhaps the classic passage on walking by faith is II Corinthians 5:17: "For we walk by faith, not by sight." The Christian walks in a truthful, trustful and obedient faith in the Creator. Paul is teaching in the context that "Residence in the body is exile from the true home, for while the believer is in the body, the region, element or atmosphere through which he walks is one in which the heavenly things gazed upon are not seen in their actual substance, but only realized, as far as that is possible, by the spiritual discernment of faith. (Hebrews 11:1.)

So a Christian walks, proceeds. He must proceed on course. He must walk by faith. Faith comes by hearing. He who truly believes, has heard the message. A Christian hears the voice of God, he is taught, he walks accordingly. Can we not walk by faith in this 20th century? When we walk by faith, current promotions which gender strife will fail by the side of the road.

Reason is a God given ability. Reason is a quality designed to develop discretion, understanding, and skillfulness. Man reasons and becomes discreet in conduct and in speech. Man reasons and arrives at truth. Man reasons and becomes skilful in the performance of tasks. In the secular affairs of life, in the course of human events man learns through visible forms and reasons from the sense perceptions. He "walks by sight."

In religion man must walk as God reveals the way, for principles of religion belong to the realm or region of deity. Fallible man can penetrate into the realm only through the channel of revelation. Thus he must walk by faith in the divine revealer — he must hear the divine message and he must believe it. He cannot change that which he hears. He must not distort it, he best not pervert it.

In the secular life minds are left free to roam the meadows of broadening interests. In the religious realm, even the finest minds must walk by the revealed Word. They are not permitted to concoct or manufacture their own scheme of things. This restraint becomes a problem to many who wish to walk according to human reason in the religious realm as well as in the secular. The demands of God's revelation are narrow. Jesus said so. (Matthew 7:14.) His demands are narrow from the standpoint of human reason, but to the man of faith God's revelation is broad as eternity, for it leads him there. He walks according to God's revelation, and walks right into infinite blessings.

The problem of every generation, on one hand, is that of contrasting the faith and reason factors, and, manifesting in various ways the necessity of walking according to God's pattern. On the other hand, there is the necessity of exposing the non-conformists — those whose love for the ideals and philosophies of men lead them into religious wisdom that "descendeth not from above." (James 3:15.) I believe that some of the finest minds in every generation, come to disbelieve in the principles they represent, yet they continue to expound those principles because the circumstances in which they find themselves seem to compel them to do so. Their subsistence, their families, prestige, honor, reputation and glory are factors which may tie a man to a cause he has come to disbelieve in.

In the church of the Lord a man like that will make havoc as he subtly seeks outlets and opportunities to attach his "reasonable" conclusions to God's truths. Better that this man openly renounce his affiliation with the Lord's body!

How frequent has the church of Christ been in danger of perversion by men who would "lead it out of the woods" into the drift of "modern" interests and activity! 'Tis honest to leave that which you disbelieve in — 'tis corrupt to serve under the flag of a cause you have no love for, or confidence in.