Yesterday Fetter Lane considered what the power of reason can do by examining a part of his Sermons, # 70, "The Case of Reason Impartially Considered". It is hard to appreciate the brilliance of the mind and its ability to reason; God created a masterpiece of neurons and synapses. However, thought alone can't provide for us everything we need to know. The colorful mosaic of our lives has to be built with more than reason.
Today we will begin to examine what reason cannot do because it has its limitations. Wesley expounds:
"First, reason cannot produce faith. Although it is always consistent with reason, yet reason cannot produce faith, in the scriptural sense of the word. Faith, according to Scripture, is 'an evidence,' or conviction, 'of things not seen.' It is a divine evidence, bringing a full conviction of an invisible eternal world. It is true, there was a kind of shadowy persuasion of this, even among the wiser Heathens; probably from tradition, or from some gleams of light reflected from the Israelites."
You'll never be able to reason yourself to a belief in God and a life beyond the grave without God's help. In other words, atheistic materialism is all we would have if we had reason alone.
No, God must reveal his existence to us. We know there is a God and there is an invisible world of spirits because God has been pleased to disturb our souls with thoughts of a higher, nobler place.
This is not to say that we can not or should not write apologia; we are enriched by Justin Martyr's First Apology or Lewis' Mere Christianity. However, unless a person is aided by revelatory grace all arguments for God will come to naught.
"Secondly. Reason alone cannot produce hope in any child of man: I mean scriptural hope, whereby we 'rejoice in hope of the glory of God:' That hope which St. Paul in one place terms, 'tasting the powers of the world to come;' in another, the 'sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:' That which enables us to say, 'Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath begotten us again unto a lively hope; -- to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away; which is reserved in heaven for us.' This hope can only spring from Christian faith: Therefore, where there is not faith, there is not hope. Consequently, reason, being unable to produce faith, must be equally unable to produce hope. Experience confirms this likewise. How often have I laboured, and that with my might, to beget this hope in myself! But it was lost labour: I could no more acquire this hope of heaven, than I could touch heaven with my hand. And whoever of you makes the same attempt will find it attended with the same success. I do not deny, that a self-deceiving enthusiast may work in himself a kind of hope: He may work himself up into a lively imagination; into a sort of pleasing dream: He may 'compass himself about', as the Prophet speaks, 'with sparks of his own kindling:' But this cannot be of long continuance; in a little while the bubble will surely break. And what will follow? 'This shall ye have at my hand, saith the Lord, ye shall lie down in sorrow.'"
The witness of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8.16) is not accomplished by reason alone. If the Holy Spirit doesn't do his part, we will not know of our salvation by faith. While this doesn't exclude intellectual arguments this isn't solved by intellectual arguments alone. The Spirit reveals our acceptance in the Beloved.
We will look further at the limitations of reason in tomorrow's blog; for now, realize that thinking has its limits; reason must be aided by revelation.