Lance Ralston| Calvary Chapel In Oxnard
Parts One through Three of this series tracked the development of thought leading to the view held by many that there is an immovable barrier between faith and reason. In that view, reason is based on evidence while faith is believing without evidence.
We ended last time with the Empiricist John Locke who tied reason to that which is evident to our senses and mental processes drawing conclusions from what those senses tell us. To this empirically-based reason Locke added probability, the likelihood of something due to prior encounters and previously engaged evidence. Though I’m two miles away, probability tells me The Rose Shopping Center is there because I drove by it earlier today.
Locke was followed by David Hume, who drew a border around empiricism prohibiting probability. Hume went so far as to deny cause and effect. Just because something has happened repatedly in our experience, that doesn’t mean at some time and place it would do something else. All we can know for certain, Hume claimed, is what we are at this moment experiencing. Hume’s skepticism became a corrosive ideology that began to eat away at the foundations of Rationalism itself and led eventually to the philosophical underpinings of post-modernism, which denies absolutes and objective truth. In post-modernism, truth moves from being something that corresponds with what is real to a purely subjective, self-validating affirmation of personal preference, captured by a phrase oft heard on college campuses, “That may be your truth, but it’s not mine.”
I’ve taken this route in speaking about Faith and Politics to set our context. An essay on Faith and Politics would not have been deemed necessary thoughout most of history. Until the advent of Rationalism, people didn’t set faith in opposition to reason. Tell Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle the day would come when the intellectual tools they developed would one day be used to divorce faith and reason, and they would have thought you a lunatic. Yet today, we’re told religious faith has no place in the public square. Faith must not intersect politics because, well, you know “Separation of Church and State.” If the Founders could see how that idea has shaped today’s political landscape, they’d start a Twitter-storm the likes of which has never been seen. Their worldview was profoundly shaped by both faith and reason because faith for them wasn’t an irrational “blind leap into the dark.” It was a reasonable response to the evidence their sense presented them. So they made frequent appeal to God and His ways in the Declaration of Independence. It was precisely because human beings are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, with civil government given authority by God to safeguard those rights, that moved them to sever ties with England because it had abrogated its God-ordained duty.
Following through on that understanding of rights and the transcendent basis of government, the Founders set about to apply principles of governance they gleaned from Scripture. A handful of historians have identified how the thinking of the Founders was shaped by the sermons they heard. It all combined to produce the US Constitution, a document that has been the model for dozens of other nations’ charters and has led to the greatest degree of personal liberty with the highest standard of living for the most people in the history of the world.
Like those Greek philosophers who would be appalled at how their philosophical tools have been misused to divide faith and reason, the Founders would be speechless at how antagonistic modern society has become toward, not just the presence of faith in informing politics, but its necessity in doing so. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
In our concluding article next week, we’ll see that Faith is an essential part of politics and is in truth, employed by all.
Lance Ralston Is the Founding and Lead Pastor Calvary Chapel in Oxnard. He is the author of “The Place Of Faith In Shaping Political Views” which will be published in installments every Saturday at 5:00pm. 2 Timothy 1:12