WHY RATIONALISM IS IRRATIONAL
Some thoughts by
Gary Ray Branscome
“Beware lest any man take you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy. // The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” (Colossians 2:8, Jeremiah 17:9)<> >
Rationalism, the arrogant attempt by foolish men to make their own mind the highest authority, to set themselves in judgment over the Word of God as if they know more than Him, is the blight and curse of our present age and a cheap form of egotistic self-deification.
If the fuzzy-headed thinkers who proudly claim to be making “Reason” their highest authority, would only use their reason for one minute they would realize how ignorant they really are, and how little they actually know. If they would use their reason, they would realize that “Reason” cannot be a source of knowledge because no one reasons in a vacuum. The function of reason is to tell us which conclusions are warranted by the information we have, and which are not. For that reason, everyone who claims to be guided by reason is actually reasoning from information that they assume to be true. And, that means that they are actually reasoning from their own worldview, a worldview that was developed piecemeal during their formative years.
Because that is the case, if the people who proudly call themselves “Rationalists” would actually use their reason, they would find that most of their opinions would not be allowed as evidence in a court of law. They would not be allowed as evidence because those opinions do not consist of actual fact or firsthand knowledge, but of conclusions based upon hearsay and conjecture. And such conclusions are notoriously unreliable.
Reason tells us that our worldview consists largely of ideas and conclusions that were accepted uncritically in our youth, ideas and conclusions that are constantly changing because they are often wrong, often based on incomplete or inaccurate information and often contradictory. A view of reality that is not based on fact, or even first hand information, but on impressions, feelings and what we have been told by others.
Because reason tells us that heavy objects should fall faster than light objects that was the view taken by Aristotle. But Aristotle was wrong! He was wrong because he assumed that the weight of an object was something inherent in the object, rather than the pull of an outside force upon that object.
Two hundred years ago, doctors thought that bleeding a person was a good cure for certain diseases. George Washington died because a doctor thought that cure was reasonable.
As late as one hundred years ago, scientists denied the existence of meteors, because “reason” told them that rocks could not possibly fall from the sky because there were no rocks in the sky.
Charles Darwin believed that life originated in a warm little pond. To him that seemed perfectly reasonable. But, it was wrong! In 1859 Louis Pasteur devised an experiment that utilized several long-necked flasks containing beef broth. After the broth was boiled the necks on some of the flasks were heated and bent in an s-curve. As predicted, bacteria only infested the broth that was in flasks with straight necks. When the flasks had curved necks, the bacteria stuck to the side of the neck and could not get to the broth. Those experiments, coupled with the invention of a dust-free box at the end of the nineteenth-century, convinced the scientific community that life does not come from non-life.
Have rationalists learned anything from those experiments? Evidently not! I often see articles in “Astronomy” magazine which hold out hope that liquid water might be found on Mars, Europa, or one of the planets that circle other stars. And why water? Because they still cling to the irrational hope that where there is a “warm little pond” there will be life.
If you are one of those who think that life will spontaneously generate in a “warm little pond,” let me bring you back to reality. Just as the non-living matter in sterile beef broth will not come to life, the non-living matter in sterile water will not come to life. In fact, water breaks down bio-molecules. Those who blind themselves to these facts may call themselves “Rationalists”, but in reality they are irrational (Luke , 1Corinthians ).
GOING FROM BAD TO WORSE
Those who make “Reason” the highest authority in their life often wind up rejecting the Doctrine of the Trinity”. How, they argue, could three possibly be one? However, what they fail to realize is that their question assumes that God has the same limitations we have. And that is silly! Our reason tells us that there is design in nature. Even rationalists like Richard Dawkins recognize that fact [See “The Blind Watchmaker” first page.]. And, our reason also tells us that for every design there must also be a designer. However, it is not reasonable to believe that God is a part of His own creation. It is far more reasonable to believe that God exists outside of the universe (In a different dimension, a spiritual dimension). And, when the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heaven,” that is exactly what it is saying. In other words, in the beginning of time, God created time and space (the heaven). And, if God created time and space, then His existence transcends time and space. For that reason, it is not only perfectly reasonable to believe that He is not bound by the same limitations that bind those of us that exist inside time and space, it would be unreasonable to believe otherwise. Rationalists fail to see this because they reason from their own fallible worldview, not reality. And, that is why blind, fallible humanity needs guidance from God’s Word.
Nevertheless, only those who are willing to admit their own ignorance and limitations will be open to what the Bible says. Those who have an exalted view of their own reason may instead claim that the Bible is full of contradictions. However, that, again, is the result of reasoning from one’s own worldview, not reality. The claim of contradictions seems reasonable to them because part of education has to do with eliminating contradictions from our worldview. But, they fail to see that just because something seems contradictory to our puny finite minds does not mean that it actually is a contradiction. For example: The fact that we need iodine in our diet seems to contradict the fact that it is poison. The fact that cold water sinks to the bottom seems to contradict the fact that ice forms on the top. The fact that like charges repel seems to contradict the fact that positively charged particles bind together in the nucleus of an atom. Those facts all seem contradictory. But they only seem that way if we do not have the information necessary to resolve the seeming contradiction.
In other words, we see a contradiction because of our ignorance not because an actual contradiction exists. We see a contradiction because we do not know how the particular facts fit together. For that reason, just as it would be foolish for you to insist that two facts contradict each other just because you do not know how they can be reconciled; it would be equally foolish to insist that two statements of Scripture contradict each other just because you do not know how they can be reconciled. And, believe me, I have studied all of the alleged contradictions in Scripture, and they can all be reconciled. There is not one case where an actual contradiction exists! Instead, the people who claim to be guided by reason simply interpret passages to contradict when they could just as well interpret them to agree, and that is irrational.
Another claim made by “Rationalists” is that miracles are impossible because they are contrary to the “Laws of Nature”. However, if “Rationalists” would actually use their reason, they would realize that the Bible nowhere even implies that miracles are natural events. On the contrary, the miracles described in Scripture are always the work of an intelligent being, namely God. And, intelligent beings can easily cause matter to do what the “Laws of Nature” would never allow it to do. If you want an example, then the next time that you sit down at the table with a plate of food before you, instead of picking up your fork just wait for the “Laws of Nature” to cause bite size portions of food to rise up from the plate and enter your mouth. Don’t be impatient, wait for it to happen. If you are convinced that the “Laws of Nature” will never cause bite size portions of food to rise from the plate on their own, then every time you take a spoonful you are overriding the “Laws of Nature”, and if you can do it God can do it. In fact, it would be irrational to think otherwise!
What “Rationalists” generally fail to see is that any conclusion can seem reasonable to the fallible human mind, if the person doing the reasoning accepts premises that lead to that conclusion. That is why any idea that can be “proved” by reason, can be disproved by reason. Our reasoning is no better than our premises, and our premises are often wrong.
Therefore, rather than arrogantly regarding our own “reason” as the standard of all knowledge, we ought to honestly admit our ignorance and approach what the Bible says with an open mind (Luke 24:25). Sadly, however, it seems that “Rationalists” would rather believe that truth itself is subjective than admit that their own opinions are wrong. That sort of irrationality is what led one professor, whom I read of, to hold up a pencil and tell his class that if they really believed the pencil was a cow, then for them it would actually be a cow. Nevertheless, as one bright student put it, “Even if you all believe that it is a cow, it still will not give milk”.