Faith… and reason?

I remember sitting on the top bunk with Danielle on the Mexico mission trip discussing our faith and how to make sense of it. Surrounded by a “charismatic” community, we both couldn’t help but feel conflicted: yes, it’s true that God is supernatural, so there are things that we won’t understand, but should that mean we completely give up on trying to figure things out?

“I’m reading this book about how believing in God trumps believing in all other religions,” she said. “And it’s making sense to me. But here, at DCF and in Mexico, everyone’s telling me to let the Spirit be my filter to perceiving the world around me instead of using my mind. So I don’t know, does that mean I shouldn’t even finish this book? Should I even try finding answers?”

I didn’t know how to answer her.

That night, when we were all praying by the campfire, Danielle had a crazy encounter with the Holy Spirit.

“I just got smacked by the Holy Spirit,” she told me afterwards, “and I told myself, ‘Forget this book!’ It would never be able to explain what I experienced in that moment.”

I didn’t know what to say to her.

Growing up in a Chinese Baptist church, we focused on reading the Word and how to apply it in our lives. Never in my time there have I heard the phrases “speaking in tongues” or “baptized in the Holy Spirit.” I knew I had the Holy Spirit living within me, but I had no idea what that truly meant. My eyes were opened in college, and I didn’t know what to think, because everything contrasted with the way I grew up in the church. Healing in Jesus’s name? Prophetic words? Are those even biblical and rooted in the Word?

As I still wrestle with these questions, I find that it has been much more difficult articulating my faith now that I have seen and experienced the supernatural. I’m reminded of my best friend who is probably the strongest atheist I know. How would she respond if I told her about the guy who got a prophetic word, was told to jump, and had his ankle healed right on the spot? How would she respond if I told her about my friends who spoke in tongues but could not understand a word they were saying? If she already bore such a huge aversion towards Christianity, would explaining my experience with the supernatural freak her out and create in her even more abhorrence for the faith?

Matthew 22:37
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

Granted, “mind” is the last one in that verse, but it’s still there. It doesn’t make sense to me to simply love God with my heart and soul, spurring in me a great passion, but without an unwavering certainty of His existence and articulate words to explain my love for Him. I would have to understand my love for Him with my mind as well, not just with my heart and soul. Using my mind, I would be able to articulate why I believe what I believe. Through my words, I’m able to effectively and coherently explain my faith in a way that makes sense to me as well as to those around me. I want to continually wrestle with the words in Scripture and find the truth for myself, rather than simply relying on feelings and experiences to guide my faith. There must be a fine balance between the heart, soul, and mind, and it only makes sense to love God with the fullness of my entire being, my mind included.

Proverbs 31:26
She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

I’ll never know all the right answers to everything. I’ll never know everything about the supernatural or the natural world. But what I can make sense of, I will make an effort to make sense of it. Especially in a world that relies on scientific proof and reasoning, I will need to use this methodology of the world to reach the world. Rather than succumb to the ways of this world, I would simply be using it as a channel to reach others who are familiar with this way of understanding the world around them.

I don’t want to be a blind follower. And I don’t want to seem ignorant to the ways of this world.

Although Jesus used miracles and healings to reveal His identity to the people, He also used words (parables and relevant stories) familiar to the people of the world. If I want to follow Him and reach out to the world in the same way, I would need to use reasoning to reach people who rely on reasoning. But, I don’t want to completely rely on reasoning either, because God moves our hearts and our souls as well. However, I don’t want to neglect the power of the mind and the importance of articulate words to understand who God is and share Him with the world.

I don’t think I’ll be truly satisfied until I know who God is with my mind as well as my heart and soul. And I don’t think I’ll ever know God fully with my human capacity. But I’m not going to throw away the part of my mind that questions and grapples with difficult questions, because when I discover the truth for myself, I can only be even more in awe of who God is, strengthening my faith and bringing me closer to Him.

Romans 12:2
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.

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