Some of us aren’t afraid to question or challenge the Bible – but most Christians usually are. God says He wants us to “reason” with Him, Is 1:18, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” But what does “reasoning” really mean, and why is it so important?
Merriam-Webster defines reasoning as: “The process of thinking about something in a logical way to form a conclusion or judgment; the ability of the mind to think and understand things in a logical way.”
Faith, of course, is important, Heb 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” But faith isn’t the only thing that matters, Jam 2:14-17, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.”
So, clearly faith alone isn’t enough. When our faith produces works, our works become the evidence that our faith is real. Combining our faith with reasoning takes our relationship with God to a deeper level and removes any remaining doubt. Faith and works aren’t mutually exclusive, neither are faith and reasoning; they complement each other. As Christians, we need to have faith and works; but we also need to think critically and question all things, including the Bible, 1 Thes 5:21, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”
In other words, we aren’t being disobedient or ungodly when our instincts tell us to question or challenge the Bible. Our reasoning doesn’t change the meaning of the Bible, only our understanding of it. It is an important element in overcoming doubt and it is the key to answering skeptics. How can we possibly minister to someone or share the gospel without reasoning with them? Simply reciting scripture isn’t effective. Remember, God created us to think and question. Doing so isn’t a spiritual shortcoming, if we’re humble and respectful in the process; it is our spiritual calling.
We can look to a good relationship between a child and a parent to better understand this concept. The ideal relationship should be one where the child obeys the parent and questions anything they do not understand. There comes a time when the child is ready to ask why the parent is directing them to do or not do something, because that child is ready to hear and reason with the answer. This gives the parent a teaching moment, a chance to discuss the repercussions of the actions the child is about to take or avoid. This is how we learn to have the judgment necessary to keep us away from evil and harm. Of course, when the child is young, there are more “whys” than the parent would like, however, in time, the child learns to limit the “whys” to the more important unanswered questions. When children ask the same question many times, it is because they still have doubts about the answers they have been given, and so, more reasoning is required. This questioning is an important element in the process of becoming the people we were created capable of becoming. It is no different in our relationship with God and His Word; we are children learning to understand when to ask questions, as we learn to better understand our Father’s Word.
Following blindly isn’t godly; it is the opposite of what God is telling us to do. Saying “the right things” and going with the flow might look good on the surface and fool some people, but it’s like a house built on sand, Matt 7:24-27 “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”
Now, we might be wondering, why has the lack of critical thinking and questioning become such a problem in the Christian community today? It has become a problem because those of us who have studied the Bible believe our audience is not interested in, or patient enough, to understand the Bible; we give them what we think they want, someone to tell them what God is saying. This is the same problem we see in the desert when Aaron gives the people what he thinks they want, or in Jerusalem when the Pharisees gave the people what they thought they wanted. But, we are all children of God and want to truly understand God; it is the cry of our hearts. So, we need to go to our minister, pastor, or priest and tell them we want to go deeper. We want to truly understand how much God loves us.
As churchgoers and believers, we often avoid critical thinking, questioning, and reasoning. We are afraid of seeming foolish or uninformed, it is easier go along and it helps us avoid difficult discussions and conflicts. But, again, that doesn’t make it right. We simply cannot be complete Christians without reasoning. So, we need to come together to discuss our ideas with open minds and a willingness to listen, instead of just wanting to change everyone else’s minds. True reasoning only occurs when we allow our minds to receive and process new information and perspectives. When that happens, everyone involved gets closer to the truth.
God doesn’t want us to just memorize the Bible without thinking and He surely doesn’t want us to accept anyone’s biblical propaganda. He calls us to reason. God wants each of us to think about what He is telling us, so that we might come to the truth that He is love and He loves us. Reasoning is a lifetime journey of becoming the person He created us capable of becoming.
The message of the Bible, or God’s “love letter” to us, is God loves us and desires our love, 1 Jn 4:7-8, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” Reasoning with His Word allows us to discover who He is and the depth of His love for us. We then come to the realization that an awesome God, capable of doing all things, has created us to become members of His eternal family. This is how we learn to love Him, 1 Jn 4:19, “We love him, because he first loved us.”, to love ourselves, to love our neighbors and eventually to love our enemies. We begin to understand this life and all the disparate things we see happening in this world.
Reasoning with God makes our path clearer, as we move nearer to our true selves. The challenge we face on this journey is to understand that it is not about us, it is about God creating His eternal family. When we finally understand we are part of something bigger, we are better able to understand the message of the cross and can begin to take our reasoning to others. Our current thinking is not perfect, neither is theirs, however, together all get closer to perfection.
This is why today’s Christian denominations and sects need to get together regularly to really listen and reason with God, and each other. Only when everyone comes together to share their current thinking with a willingness to adjust their own beliefs to the truth of His word, can we find a united way to becoming God’s church. This is possible because God is present when we come together in His name, Matt 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
God created us, He knows the answers to all of our questions and He gave us His word to reason with, in honesty without ulterior motives; so that we might find the truth, 2 Cor 1:12, “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.” When all churches come together regularly to discuss the conflicts in the messages they are preaching, the conflicts will be resolved.
Having conflicts is not the problem; the fact that churches are not reasoning together regularly to resolve them is a problem. God loves all churches that preach Christ, however, He wants them to preach the message Jesus brought to us when He walked the earth, Phil 1:18, “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” and 1 Cor 1:10, “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”
The purpose of the second reformation is to encourage each of us to honestly reason with God and each other, not just for our own benefit, but, also, to promote a more perfect common understanding of God’s way for all of His church. Ultimately, there can be no conflicts in our understanding of God’s word, for there are no conflicts in God’s word. We are one body in Christ, 1 Cor 12:25, 31, “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another…But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.” Not many different excellent ways, one more excellent way.
The message of the cross is unity, calling all who have chosen faith over fear to put on the whole armor of God, Eph 6:11, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”, lest we be guilty of scattering, Matt 12:30, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” Imagine how our differing ideas confuse those who might otherwise come to know God. Who can they believe if we all represent God’s truth differently?
Five hundred years ago, on October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his “Ninety-Five Theses” to the door of his church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther called the only church there was to get back to the Word of God. This was the beginning of the first reformation. His protest has echoed through the past five centuries. Now there are many churches preaching slightly different versions of the truth Christ brought us. The time has come for us to surrender our differences to the truth of God’s Word alone! This is the beginning of the second reformation!