This is a Guest Post from my friend Tim Page.
Near where I work there is a building named “Rationalist House”.
The name got me wondering about what defined Rationalism, so a quick trip to Wikipedia furnished a definition:
“a methodology or a theory in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive”.
As far as I define the definition, rationalism is an unwillingness to accept any concept that cannot be fully understood by human reason.
As an unashamed person of faith, I found this to flawed for two main reasons:
Firstly, there is much in the world that I cannot understand. I use computers, but I don’t really know how they work. I am surrounded by life, but really don’t have much understanding of physiology and anatomy, and the medical professionals I know will readily admit that there is so much about the human body that has yet to be understood.
This leads to my second observation about rationalism: I need God to be more than I can understand. I need God to be bigger, more complex and greater than me. If He isn’t, then He doesn’t really deserve my allegiance. For me to fully understand God would be to reduce Him to my own level. In fact it would reduce Him to less than me, because there is so much about myself that I don’t understand. And if God is less than me, why would I consider Him worthy of worship?
Why would I appeal to a lesser being in times of trouble? Why would I give thanks to an inferior entity in times of abundance?
When I started theological study, I felt quite confident in my Bible knowledge and my understanding of the nature of God. After the first year, I had to re-evaluate my stance. My eyes had been opened to a plethora of knowledge and concepts previously unknown.
I have found that the more I learn, the less I know. The more I learn, the more I find there is to learn.
I fully accept that there is no end to the knowledge of God – I will never understand Him entirely. I intend to learn as much as I can throughout this life’s journey, but I know I will never reach a state where I have exhausted all there is to learn.
In the grand scheme of things, rationalism seems irrational even arrogant to me, as it seeks to elevate human understanding to a status it is unworthy of. If human understanding is the pinnacle of wisdom and knowledge in the universe, then I say – quite literally – God help us, because we haven’t done such a great job of running our lives and our planet to date.
Much as I seek to understand as much of God as I can, I also need there to be an element of mystery that enables God to be more than I am. To be more than human wisdom. To be One worthy of my allegiance. To, in fact, be God.
In response to rationalism, I did what I often do when I gain some new insight: I wrote a song about it. It’s called Mystery:
Don’t deny the mystery
Don’t take that away from me
There has to be more than what I see
Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly
There is so much that I have for you to see
It remains to be seen
At the end of all things
Which of us will be the beneficiary
Over land and sea you travel
In pursuit of listening ears
With the message of your ideaology
Those receptive are transformed
Into a greater son of hell
Than the one who purports to set them free
I’m not looking for answers
As much as I am
Seeking something far bigger than me
I’m convinced, I believe,
But I’m hoping that there is
So much more than merely what I see
For the world in my view
Is tainted and flawed
And beset by pandemic misery
Yet you say this is the product
Of all that has been
The highest order of humanity
I believe that you have erred
In the message you have brought
That the highest order is humanity
I’m not looking to be lord
Of all that I survey
I’m searching for a sense of mystery
If I prove to be the pinnacle
Of all that yet has been
The highest order of humanity
I don’t believe I qualify
For such a state
Forever silencing the search for mystery
Bio: Tim Page is a singer/songwriter from Auckland New Zealand, who has a passion for deep conversations, acoustic instruments, kayaking, coffee and a good book. Tim holds a Bachelor of Theology degree from the University of Auckland, and this study is reflected in his songs which seek to explore life at a deep, honest level, while also seeking to retain musical integrity. Playing most of the instruments on his recordings himself, Tim finds this works best for his trial-and-error style of creative experimentation. He utlises largely acoustic instuments, favouring their natural timbre over excessive processing. Having spent most of his working life in the commercial television industry, Tim now works for the University of Auckland as a digital media specialist. He has been married to Sue – a Clinical Psychologist – since 1990, and they have 2 fantastic children.
Bonus! Watch Tim play Periphery