A Culture of rationalism vs. a culture of belief
This morning in my Scripture reading, I was particularly moved as I read about Moses and the Israelites at the Red Sea with the Egyptian army pursuing them though held at bay by God’s divine protection.
I thought to myself: It’s okay for us to read this story so many years later and be relatively blasé about the challenge that faced Moses at that moment. God commanded him to raise his rod so that the waters of the expanse of water in front of them would part.
Though Moses had witnessed God’s glory and might in recent months as he confronted the Pharaoh with God’s demands, he had never before been asked to do such a foolish thing as raise his rod so that the massive waters would suddenly part. At that moment, he had no idea how God would carry out His plan. All he knew was that God had commanded him to raise his rod. And he did and the miracle happened.
I then reflected about recent chats concerning the Christian faith with a couple of German gals, and their difficulty to believe the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels, i.e. anything that cannot be explained or proven scientifically. Throughout all their schooling in Germany, they have been immersed in a culture of rationalism instead of a culture of belief in God and His Word. In fact, their entire schooling has trained them to question anything in the “faith” realm.
A culture of rationalism denies and shuts out the supernatural dimension, refusing to believe anything that can’t be proven and explained by the human mind. This culture is rooted in a pride of knowledge, the belief that with our puny, finite minds we can fathom the deep, hidden mysteries of life and of the universe. How absolutely absurd and arrogant such people are. This culture is a huge stumbling block to true faith and true living.
And yet it also invades the Christian church. Though we cannot receive forgiveness without putting our faith in Jesus’ saving work on our behalf, nevertheless the culture of rationalism in which many of us have been schooled has settled upon our minds. It then blocks our growing and maturing in the Christian life, especially to doing great exploits for God.
A culture of rationalism, rooted in a faith in man, produces a hardening of the head which in turn produces a hardening of the heart towards God. Whether an unbeliever or a Christian, no one who demands proof that satisfies the human mind ahead of “believing” will ever experience and witness God’s great and miraculous deeds. Only those who take bold and courageous steps of faith, who are willing to be thought “foolish” in the eyes of their friends, will succeed with God.
When we believers live as unbelievers, slowly but surely our hearts harden towards God, frustrating His plan to show us the greatness of His power. Of course, such people will always find enough evidence to prove that they are the “reasonable” or “sensible” ones. Why? Because their unbelief shuts the door to God’s supernatural realm. Those who do not look to God for His miraculous interventions in the affairs of the nations or in their own personal lives (e.g. health, family problems, employment needs et al) will not see what many others have the great joy to witness.
One proof of this culture of rationalism in western Christianity is the assumption some scholars and Christian leaders make, that the day of miracles, signs and wonders is long since gone, that God doesn’t choose or need to work through this aspect of the supernatural dimension any longer. But who are they to decree how God should work today?
God’s Word to us challenges us to live by faith, to stir up a culture of belief in place of a culture of rationalism. We need to do this together. We all need to grow healthy in local churches where from the leadership down, the faith and courage of Moses is being demonstrated.
The church must not allow itself to slide into a culture of unbelief, i.e. to become a community of grumblers, negative thinkers, critics and cynics. If individual believers are to fight off the influences of the surrounding culture of rationalism and unbelief, then we need men and women of God who are more concerned for the name of God than for their own reputation, who will nurture us in a culture of trust and hope in God.
Graham M. Roberts
Equip & Encourage Int’l
2010 04 02