Rationalism is a manner of thinking which only attributes value to reason, to logical thought. In its broadest sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" (Lacey). In more technical terms it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive" (Bourke). Different degrees of emphasis on this method or theory lead to a range of rationalist standpoints, from the moderate position "that reason has precedence over other ways of acquiring knowledge" to the radical position that reason is "the unique path to knowledge" (Audi).
Within the Western philosophical tradition, rationalism begins with the Greek philosophers, such as Pythagoras and Plato and contrasts with empiricism according to which all ideas come to us through experience, either through the five external senses or through such inner sensations as pain and pleasure. Both in rationalism and in empiricism what is sought is the fundamental source of human knowledge, and the proper techniques for verifying what we think we know.
Rationalism does not admit Biblical truths (or dogmas and teachings of other religions) which are not based on reason, and denies any foundation to simple faith. In its more radical position, rationalism is opposed to Christianity, for legitimate Christianity has as its basis and foundation faith in God, faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, and faith in His Word, the Bible. It is simple faith based on the trustworthiness of God, and not conditioned to reason.
The apostle Paul exclaimed: "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counsellor? Or who has first given to Him and it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen." (Romans 11:33-36 - NKJV)".
No man can compare his own rational stature with that of his Creator. God is infinitely superior and, although man was made in His image, his intellectual capacity is limited to what he learns and to his experience in his life. Wise is he who admits his limitations and places his faith and trust in God, and fool he who says in his heart "there is no God". "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." (Hebrews 11:6).
Nevertheless, there has been no shortage of those who try to mix rationalist philosophy with Christian faith. Right at the beginning of the Church we see the battle the apostle Paul was engaged in with those who did this, with false teachers who turned up in Corinth and Colossus. .
In the first fifteen verses of the second chapter of his letter to the Colossians, the apostle declares that Christ is the answer to philosophy: the two don't walk together! He says: "great conflict I have for you… that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words." (Colossians 2:2-4 - NKJV).
We must be on the watch to avoid being deceived by "philosophies and persuasive words". None of the widely read philosophers have a high view of the inspiration of the Word of God.
They are supposed to be seekers after truth, looking for answers to the problems of life, but truth is not found in human wisdom. It has been said that false philosophy is like a blind man looking in a dark room for a black cat that isn't there. Christ is the only answer, He personalises Truth itself, and was made wisdom for us by God.
The Lord Jesus condemned the religious leaders in His time because they taught the tradition of men instead of the Word of God. It is important for us to study all the Word of God. Our foundation is not philosophy or a worldly system, but Christ.
"Christian Rationalism", which is not, let it be said to start with, neither Rationalism nor Christian, continued to threat the purity of the Gospel in the churches of God throughout the times. More recently , some two centuries ago, its attack against the Word of God intensified, with what became known as the "criticism", in two stages: "low-criticism" and "high-criticism".
The researchers of "low-criticism", taking advantage of the fact that none of the books of the New Testament survived to our days, only copies made throughout the centuries, and that some copies have errors of transcription, try to identify which of them are more authentic.
Following them, those of "high-criticism" went on to compare the results of "lower-criticism" with the writings of other authors, and to find out if the author was a personal witness of the Lord Jesus, if he based his work on direct or secondary sources, and if he wrote from a personal motive or point of view.
Note that, in all this, the researchers do not give any credit to the authorship of the Holy Spirit, both for the original of the Word of God and for its preservation throughout the centuries by means of the faithful copies which we have in our hands. Lamentably, this criticism was effective in diminishing the trust of many churches in the literal truth of the Biblical text, and so brought victory to our enemy.
Let us always remember that "we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." 2 Peter 1:19-21 (NKJV)
In our days, an institution appeared in Rio de Janeiro-RJ calling itself Christian Rationalism, proposing in its website to answer questions like: "Where did we come from? What are we doing here on Earth? Where are we going after the end of our earthly life? Why is there so much suffering martyring humanity?"
They declare that they teach "a philosophic doctrine of essentially spiritualist character, based on true Christianity", and that "this is the way indicated to people who, like you, want enlightenment, and not to renounce your right to be independent to think, to reason and to reach your own conclusions".
They emphasise their "psychic cleaning" sessions which consists of "irradiations, which are mental vibrations emanated by the human being, through which the rapture of spirits occurs from the inferior astral to outside the atmosphere of Earth."
This institution obviously has nothing of Christian, but much of the demonic doctrines of spiritism, whose roots are found in ancient Babylon. It belongs to the enemy of our souls, the Father of lies, "they exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever." (Romans 1:25).
As to us, we have this assurance: "Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us: eternal life. These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him." (1 John 2:24-27 - NKJV)
R David Jones