Sunday, November 27, 2011

Logic and Faith: A Convert's Testimony and Some Pushback

Last week, I was reading through the blogs of some currently serving online LDS missionaries, and I came across the written testimony of a recent convert named Rachel. There were some statements there that struck me oddly:
I have a small testimony, but a strong one. Speaking to the missionaries and studying religion and the Scriptures left me with three main questions.
  1. What is God?
  2. Why does the Holy Spirit lead different people to different things?
  3. And is the Holy Spirit leading me to join this church?
And I in my arrogance and foolishness felt that I could figure out the answers to these questions logically. This led to months of confusion. Then about a week before Easter, I felt that I had figured it out. I had the answers to all but a small question on where the Holy Spirit was leading me that I was sure I could figure out. I gave my answers to the missionaries who told me that I was being too logical and that I needed to be much more prayerful. This turned out to be very true. [...] I began my journey trying to understand everything logically. Finally I came to the point where I ceased relying on my own mind for the truth and relied on faith and prayer. [...] Logic brings with it a feeling of safety, but there is a deep beauty that can only be found in faith.
Notice the strong contrast between 'logic' and 'faith' here - the same antithesis that has for such a long time been endorsed by detractors of all religion as well as by many believers who wanted to protect their beliefs from challenge or themselves from mental effort. (I'm not accusing Rachel of that, of course.) I don't think Rachel is right about this. I am not at all convinced that there is such a thing as "being too logical". No, not at all. There is such a thing as being insufficiently prayerful. There is such a thing as being insufficiently attentive to the non-rational dimensions of the human experience. There is such a thing as failing to trust God's actual promises, or failing to value God as God. But to say there is such a thing as "being too logical", as the missionaries said to Rachel, seems to me to be saying that it's possible to love God with all your mind too much. I don't think I can buy that.

God wants us to be logical, he rejoices in our ardent and faithful use of the precious gift of reason that he gave as a crown of glory to the human creature. 'Logical' is not the only thing God wants us to be, that's true, but nor does he want us to shrink back from pursuing logical rigor and consistency in our beliefs or from putting all things to rightful tests. Rationality can and ought to be pursued in the full with respect to its proper domain - which includes coming to an awareness of the truth and scrutinizing claims of truth and falsehood. That doesn't mean that nothing but abstract reason has any rightful or realistic bearing on that task, of course; by all means, prayer for God's enlightenment ought to be a critical element in the quest for religious truth. But let us abandon any fear of being "too logical" - for God wants us to approach him with study and faith (or, perhaps here I might paraphrase, logic and faith) held in both hands clasped together.

1 comment:

  1. I will have to disagree with you on this in only 1 aspect. I think there IS a way to be way "to Logical" about things. Take me for an example. When I take a Nursing exam test, if I become way to logical I end up missing the question and the point of the question because I thought about it and over thought the question- confusing myself at the answer that was right in front of me to begin with. I would discount the true answer because I could not believe it was 1) to simple 2) not simple enough so I beat it in the ground until I changed my mind on the answer because I talked myself out of it.

    That why they say for tests always pick what your first answer "gut" is and stick with it. I see that with finding out any answer to any questions. Listening to the spirit, "your gut" is so important. I do understand what she meant by the missionaries comment about being "to logical". She meant that she was questioning every little piece of evidence, every thought instead of relying on faith and prayer to guard her decision. The world is logical, religion and God's teachings sometimes don't seem logical because ideas change around us so often. This is why faith and prayer is so important in determining right path to follow.
    Man's idea of what scriptures teach have been a struggle. Prayer and faith balances out man's idea of what is correct.

    I do agree that we need to find that knowledge but sometimes I feel that someone who is overly questioning and becoming way to logical about things don't "really" want to know in their hearts if it is true or not. They are so willing to disprove something that it clouds the answer.
    I absolutely agree that we need to study. Our Heavenly Father wants us to obtain and have knowledge. Studying without using the spirit, prayer and faith is blind. You need these later 3 to determine if what being studied is true or not.
    anyways my thoughts. I didnt proofread so will probably be some errors in what I said lol.