Our neighbor George recently visited a church for morning worship and he noticed as he was about to enter the sanctuary a sign over the door. It read: “In this congregation you do not have to park your brain at the door. We believe reason and faith are part of the same family.”

Although often at odds with one another, both faith and reason are critically important. They need to work together if we are to fully comprehend the meaning of Holy Scripture. George went on to speak about what is often called the Wesley quadrilateral (often attributed to John Wesley) — dealing with important faith issues — 1.) What does the Bible say about it? 2.) What does the tradition of the Christian Church say about it? 3.) What does my reason (my mind) say about it? and 4.) what does my experience (my heart) say about it?


There are several faith-reason assumptions that we affirm. Here are three.

First, the scriptures were written by men who were inspired by the Spirit of God over a long period of time in their own culture with many different backgrounds, critical opinions and world views.

Second, a flat view of Scripture is a dangerous thing as it tends to promote the view that all Scripture passages are equal to one another. They do not all have the same weight. One writer has even suggested that parts of the Bible are now obsolete in light of the message of Jesus.

Third, how we come to the Bible makes all the difference. Theologian Peter Enns wrote, “the problem isn’t the Bible. The problem is coming to the Bible with expectations it’s not set up to bear. … Sweating bullets to line up the Bible with our exhausting expectations to make the Bible something it’s not meant to be, isn’t a pious act of faith, even if it looks that way on the surface. It’s actually thinly masked fear of losing control and certainty, a mirror of inner disquiet, a warning signal that deep down we do not really trust God at all.”

There are those who often say they take the Bible seriously but not literally. Let’s take a look at that statement.

The stories in Genesis, for example, of creation (two stories), Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, the great flood, and the tower of Babel are stories which were never meant to be taken literally. Theologian Peter Emms adds “most (scholars) accept that the Old Testament authors do not recount events as modern historians do but as storytellers, and so the historical accuracy of the Old Testament should not be taken at face value.” Rather they are stories of faith about people who lived several thousand years ago. Those struggles still resonate with us today because they are our struggles! The best way to destroy their true meaning is to take them literally.

Other devout believers struggle with the Nativity stories in Matthew and Luke pointing out that the earliest writers like the Apostle Paul and the Gospel according to Mark say nothing about the birth of Jesus. What is the message behind the nativity narrative in later writings like Luke (a Gentile approach) or Matthew (a Jewish approach) for our lives today? What is the message behind the story of the virgin birth, the role of Joseph and Mary, the “no room” in Bethlehem, the song of the angels, the evil Herod, or the visit of the magi?

On the other hand, George added, there is some Scripture that should be taken very literally. Like the words of the prophet Amos when he wrote “I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies … take away from me the noise of your songs … but let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing spring.” (5.21-24)

Or the words of Jesus “but I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5.44) or when he commanded us to “feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and visit those in captivity.” (Matthew 25.35)

Or the parable of the Samaritan enemy and the seriously injured Jew (Luke 10.25ff) which reminds us that we are called to tear down walls that separate and divide us and build bridges that bring us together in spite of our cherished differences.

Reason would say that the Easter account of resurrection is not possible. People just don’t come back to life after a death of three days. But the radical life change of the early followers of Jesus once they had experienced Easter morning and the continuing power of resurrection was amazing!

It was more than simply wanting to believe at all costs or seeing a ghost. God’s love has the power to ultimately transform death to life! My faith-experience tells me that the followers of Jesus experienced on that resurrection Sunday morning a Jesus “new life” event that transformed their lives. They experienced new life. They were changed from fearful people to putting their lives on the line — and it is still literally happening today. Every day to us is Easter!

We don’t need a faith that is blind to reason. At the same time we don’t need reason that is devoid of life-changing experience.

Faith and reason invite us to ask the hard questions even of Holy Scripture. As writer Fleming Rutledge puts it, “It’s a very shallow faith that does not ask. Most people have been conditioned not to ask these kinds of questions — as though they were disrespectful, intrusive or dangerous. Some worry that asking such a question is opening a door to not believing in God at all. But the people of the Bible do ask, directly and bluntly.”


Writer Philip Gulley adds: “When you believe that God is honored by a spirit of exploration, you begin to consider the possibility that God might be far more than we’ve imagined or even beyond our ability to imagine.”

With fear and trembling a spirit of exploration may well lead us into a new awareness of the Creator and how to live each day as if it was the beginning.

Let the dialogue continue. I only ask that you think on these things.