“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life…” 1 John 1:1
The opening of John’s epistle is a reflection on both his gospel and the Bible as a whole—in the beginning—first things first.
Perhaps you’ve been in a discussion and had someone say to you, “Well, to start with…” These words usually mark an unpleasant turn in the conversation where you are going to hear about why you are wrong. However, this is not the case here.
The world, especially our post-modern world, abounds with philosophies. They are as varied as the people you meet, but all of them are concerned with how we know things and what it is we know. The latest and greatest will tell you we don’t know anything, that we are all subject of our own fictions which we label truth.
Christianity comes under special attack because, as our philosophical friends tell us, it is not based on reason, but faith. I disagree with their assessment. I will touch on that indirectly and save most of that for another time.
I will posit that Christianity springs from neither reason nor faith. Reason and faith are twin appendages of the Christian life. They are simply not the wellspring.
Christianity, as John describes it, is born of experience. God cannot be proved—the Bible and followers of Jesus make no attempt to do so. Their certainty of the Divine rests ultimately on their experience of God rather than a rational argument or creed.
I’ve had people I trust fail me. They told me or wrote me that they would be there for me. Yet, when I needed them, they were nowhere to be found. Now, that shook my confidence in their prowess. It did not cause me to doubt their existence. Why? Because I had experienced their presence and fellowship. The same is true of God, and the foundation of Christianity.
That foundation must be built upon. Occasionally, some of the original structures must be pulled down, renovated, and shored up. New construction must take place as the building grows. Through it all, the cornerstone remains unmoved. That sure foundation is what moves believers to say, “though he slay me, yet will I trust him.” (Job 13:15) much to the chagrin of those who think they possess superior facilities of reason.
Reason and faith have nothing to do with it except by reason of having an experience and faith that it occurred. Without this experience, one cannot see the kingdom of God, it makes no sense.
Even with the experience, there are circumstances when our faith and reason fail the best of us. Abraham when told that he and Sarah were about to have a son, be made into a populous nation, and bless all the families of the Earth, fell down laughing at the impossibility of it.
However, because the foundational experience was undeniable, Abraham believed God. God credited that laugh-that-became-belief to him as righteousness, and the impossible happened.
Of course, there are those philosophers who tell us that experience is not real and our senses deceitful—that we live in the world of the Matrix powered by an evil genius and deceived. If they are right, what does it matter which deceit we experience? Why behave morally? Feed whatever carnal appetites you have— eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.
But it does matter, doesn’t it? You know right and wrong, whether done to you or done by you. It cannot be gotten rid of only reasoned and rationalized into personal insignificance. That is part of the human experience, the part that opens the door to the Divine.