Faith, reason, and apologetics

Faith, reason, and apologetics

From “The Christian in Complete Armour” by William Gurnall (1516-1587)

Reasoning must flow from faith to be of any eternal use

He that assents to this truth, that there is a God, merely upon grounds of reason and not of faith, and rests in that, does not quench the temptation [of unbelief]; for he is still an infidel and a Scripture atheist [who only assents that there is a God]. He does not believe [that] there is a God at the report of God’s Word, but at the report of his reason; and so indeed he but believes himself and not God; and in that [way, he] makes himself a god, preferring the testimony of his own reason before the testimony of God’s word.  This is dangerous.

Question. But, may some say, is there no use of reason in such principles as this which are within its sphere? May I not to make use of my reason to confirm me in this truth: that there is a God?

Answer. It is beyond all doubt that there is [use of reason in confirming that there is a God]. Wherefore else did God set up such a light [as reason] if not to guide us? But it must keep its own place, and that is to follow faith, [and reason is] not to be the ground of it, or to give law and measure to it.

  • Our faith must not depend on our reason, but our reason [must depend] on our faith.
  • I am not to believe what the Word says merely because it jumps [accords] with my reason, but [I am to] believe my reason because it is suitable [i.e., agreeable] to the Word.
  • The more perfect light is to rule the less. Now the light of the Word – which faith follows – is more clear and sure than reason is or can be; for therefore it [i.e., the Word] was written: because man’s natural light was so defective.

You read in the Word [that] there is a God, and that he made the world, [and] your “eye of reason” sees this also. But you must lay the stress of your faith on the Word, not on your reason.

And so [this is] of other truths. The carpenter lays his rule to the timber, and by his eye sees it to be right or crooked; yet it is not the eye but the rule that is the measure – without which his eye might fail him.

All that I shall say more, to such as are annoyed with atheistical injections, is this: fix your faith strongly on the Word, by which you shall be able to overcome this Goliath [of unbelief], and when you are freer and composed, and the storm is over, you will do well to back your faith, what you can, with your reason. Let the Word, like David’s stone in the sling of faith, first prostrate the temptation; and then, as he used Goliath’s sword to cut off his head, so may you, with more ease and safety, make use of your reason to complete the victory over these atheistical suggestions [that come into your mind].