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A Reasonable Faith


Faith and reason are often viewed as opposites. In the beloved Christmas film, Miracle on 34th Street, the lawyer Fred Gailey tells Susan, “Faith is believing in something when common sense tells you not to.” While there indeed is more to faith than common sense, it is also true that faith does not ignore reason.

In his defense before Agrippa, Paul appealed to both personal experience and Scripture. His argument from experience focused on his former life as a persecutor of Christians. His view changed when the risen Jesus appeared to him and said that He had appointed Paul to be “a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me” (v. 16). Paul’s message was not based on philosophical or theological speculation. He knew it was true because he had seen and heard the living Christ.

Yet at the very heart of Paul’s defense was an appeal to Scripture. The main reason Paul changed his view was his realization that the Christian message claimed: “nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen—that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles” (vv. 22–23). No wonder Paul said that his message was “reasonable” (v. 25). Rather than being insane, as Festus asserted, the things Paul said were the sober truth. Paul had said no more than what God had already predicted in the Scriptures. Paul’s claims were also based in fact. The things he spoke about were “not done in a corner” (v. 26). They had been seen by many.

>> Reason alone will not lead someone to faith in Christ. That is why engaging in argumentation rarely produces converts. But we also know that the Christian faith is not unreasonable. The gospel message is based on facts and the sober truth of God’s Word. If you know an unbeliever, challenge them to study the Scriptures, and then believe!

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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