When I was on staff at my first church, I got word that one of our Sunday School teachers was going to do the book of Revelation. I did some poking and figured out she was planning to do the whole Rapture/Antichrist/Left Behind approach – one that is a profoundly bad reading of the book of Revelation. I made her aware of my concerns and we met to discuss them. We ended up reaching a compromise – she taught her perspective, and I came in as a guest teacher for a couple of weeks to offer an alternative perspective.
But during our meeting, she asked a question I’ve heard on several occasions in my pastoral career. As I was walking her through the historic context of the Revelation, the symbolic language that feels opaque to us but was a fascinating artistic puzzle for the original audience, she stopped me and say,
“Do you ever wonder if your education has made it harder for you to know God?”
That reaction is what theologians call anti-intellectualism, and it’s particularly prominent in Evangelical denominations like ours. In many Christian circles, education and reason are seen as enemies of faith. Whether it’s distrusting a pastor who talks about things like historical context and biblical genre or treating science as an enemy – denying climate change, evolution or the efficacy of modern medicine, Evangelicals like us are more than twice as likely as the general public to say that faith and reason are at war, and that we’re on the side of faith.
This tension is a false one: Faith and reason were not designed to be enemies.
Quite the opposite – God created us as rational beings, and God expects us to use our reason as a way for our relationship with him to grow.
In other words, I want to say to you what I said to my friend: reason is not the enemy of faith. The more I learn about God, the more I’ve learned to know God. Reason enhances our faith. God created us that way!