Where is the Gospel? My Thoughts on President Patterson and Supporters and Critics

While it is frustrating to read defenders of President Paige Patterson label critics social justice warriors, they are right to a degree. Outrage on social media concerning a spate of recently revealed indiscretions by him have not really mobilized into a clear Gospel response by his critics. But neither have supporters of President Patterson offered one. Southwestern’s own Statement on Abuse, approved by President Patterson, does not offer Gospel counsel for women who have been abused. Gospel is mentioned only in relationship to the abuser in the statement’s third point. Further, given the severity of some of the recent claims made against President Patterson, the support for him from women who are within his circle of influence, and who are defending his character as bulletproof, may be forgivably thought disingenuous, perhaps, or, at least, exaggerated — though it was heartbreaking to read his granddaughter’s hurt over the harsh criticisms, and should serve as a reminder to all of us, that real people are involved. To President Patterson’s granddaughter, each of us owe Gospel character. And to the church we owe a Gospel resolution.

But supporters were not alone in neglecting the Gospel. Critics have as well, particularly Dr. Ed Stetzer, who, in an impressive(ly un-biblical) record-of-wrongs Christianity Today piece, also neglects the Gospel out of concern for the harm being done to the public image of Southern Baptists. Gospel marriages are not abusive marriages. Pure and simple. Neither is this the same answer as: “We are concerned Southern Baptist women who affirm the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, including its statements on the roles of men and women in the family and in the church.” In fact, nowhere in that particular Letter to SWBTS’ Board of Trustees do the authors mention the Gospel.

But the issue is at heart an attack on women and therefore an attack on God and the Gospel. Woman is a particular treasure of God, reflective of the imago Dei in a way and manner unique from man, since it is the two taken together that reflect God’s image. And not because women are beautiful, though they are the fair sex, but because they uniquely demonstrate grace, mercy, love, and sacrifice in a way that we as husbands are constantly humbled by. They are the gender of many significant aspects of God’s revelation as well, particularly Lady Wisdom. They are seen as the superiors of the Apostles at the end of the Gospels, demonstrating, to all the readers of the Evangelists, their notable faith and compassion for Jesus, while the Twelve, by contrast, are nowhere to be found.

Christian women are not ever the seductress that seminary students are cautioned about. That is another type of woman. And we need to find a manner of relating to Christian women that does not cause them to feel alienated, or as second-class kingdom citizens, but instead as rightful co-heirs of the Gospel in the Church whose charge and commission it is to proclaim Christ just as men. This is not an egalitarian ethic, but the rightful extrapolation of biblical complementarianism.


Review: James D. G. Dunn. The Oral Gospel Tradition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013.

James D. G. Dunn. The Oral Gospel Tradition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013. x + 390 pp. $45.00.

This excellent book is a collection of fifteen essays previously published by Dunn mostly in the wake of Jesus Remembered (vii-viii), although three do predate that volume: “Prophetic ‘I’-Sayings and the Jesus Tradition” (1978); “John and the Oral Gospel Tradition” (1991); and “Matthew’s Awareness of Markan Redaction” (1992). Overall, the collection is historically stimulating and Dunn’s appreciation for the liveliness of oral traditioning is on display throughout (pp. 41-79; 138-63; 193-5; 237-47; 267-89; and 314-44). He frequently emphasizes both communal (pp. 54-5, 58, 75, 277-82, 316-20, and 340) and performative (pp. 53-4, 56-7, 74-9, 86-90, 94, 123-4, 211, 244-7, 250, 264, and 278-82) aspects of oral traditioning, and includes an essay on “Social Memory and the Oral Jesus Tradition” (pp. 230-47).

The book is divided into three parts thematically arranged, with Part I (pp. 13-195) mostly comprised of essays on Gospel pre-history or the Gospels themselves (including two essays on John’s Gospel, pp. 138-63 and 164-95). Part II (pp. 199-264) is a busy section focusing on present research related to Dunn’s oral emphasis, and engages Dunn’s interlocutors, including Bengt Holmberg and Samuel Byrskog (pp. 199-212), Birger Gerhardsson and Richard Bauckham (pp. 213-29), and Theodore Weeden’s firm critique of Kenneth Bailey whose model Dunn relies heavily upon (pp. 248-64). Part III’s essays (pp. 267-380) involve more syntheses of Dunn’s overall contributions and are excellent resources, specifically “The History of the Tradition (New Testament)” (pp. 313-63), which is the clearest and briefest though comprehensive treatment of Dunn’s thinking on oral tradition available.

Fundamental for Dunn is his concern to alter “the default setting” of Gospel criticism (“Altering the Default Setting,” pp. 41-79), from the stratified and composition-laden “literary paradigm,” i.e., form criticism’s continued and undue influence (pp. 44-9), to one more welcoming and appreciative of the oral culture surrounding the development of the Gospel tradition (pp. 49-59), and the tradition’s own lively character (p. 79; Dunn does not, however, dismiss the two-document hypothesis, p. 61). Although he does not dispense with Q, the oral traditioning model, according to Dunn, has better explanatory power than the literary paradigm in accounting for the same-yet-different character of the Jesus tradition (p. 59). On the heels of this essay Dunn presents “Q1 as Oral Tradition” (pp. 80-108). Here Dunn ably demonstrates the varied character of the six clusters of wisdom sayings (seventeen examples) identified as Q1 by John S. Kloppenborg with telling insight for his oral thesis of the tradition, concluding, against Kloppenborg, that the evidence for “a discrete compositional unit or stratum is weak” (p. 107).

Dunn has long been intrigued with Bailey’s thesis of informally controlled tradition, and this collection of essays reprints his rebuttal of Weeden (pp. 248-64). Dunn’s preference for Bailey over Gerhardsson’s better attested “model of rabbinic traditioning,” though admittedly “closer and works to a substantial extent,” is due to the rabbinic model’s “formal and even regimented process” (p. 249), something Dunn feels cannot account for attested variation. Neither does Dunn find much value in folkloristics (p. 249), in contrast to his student, Terence C. Mournet, who is more appreciative. Dunn’s response to Weeden’s critique of the haflat samar leaves much to be desired, since Weeden firmly showed that the practice was akin to evening entertainment (see pp. 251-2 n.9). When Dunn explains that Rena Hogg’s book, which was used by Bailey to demonstrate the stability of traditioning, is not actually traditioning material (pp. 251-2, 253), he is on firmer ground. Both Bailey and Weeden make the mistake of casting Rena Hogg as a tradent, since both presuppose that her book provides a crystallization of the same traditioning process that was accessible to Bailey. Her account, however, was not a representation of village tradition, but a memoir about her father. Dunn’s response may have fared better in emphasizing this rather than suggesting contextual differences in hafalat samar traditioning.

In his discussion with Bauckham (pp. 213-229, esp. 222-9), Dunn reveals that he and Bauckham have different understandings of Gospel pre-history, though they can and should be taken as complementary (as I. Howard Marshall notes, “A New Consensus on Oral Tradition? A Review of Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses,” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 6 [2008]: 190). If, as Dunn writes, Bauckham “wants the eyewitnesses themselves to bridge the gap between initial formulation and transcription in written Gospels, he may be pressing his case beyond the evidence as it has come down to us” (227). But this ignores the significance of Luke’s prologue and eyewitness tradents (see Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006], 34 n.71; also noted by Marshall), who are just one link in the chain of transmission removed from Luke’s account. Dunn’s rich and lively historiography needs more of the complementary project of eyewitness traditioning to assist in offering stability in the similar-yet-dissimilar character of the tradition.
In closing, Dunn’s work on orality is remarkable in the greatest sense of the word. It brings a richness to the text that is seldom accentuated so expertly. Gospel history and liturgy are illuminated in new and rich ways that open up imaginative historical vistas. Dunn’s work deserves appreciation and thankfulness from any student interested in Gospel pre-history.

Michael Metts
The University of Aberdeen
Aberdeen, Scotland

The Last Supper and Markan Christology 1


Mark’s carefully layered plot gradually elaborates the mystery surrounding the identity of Jesus. In the early moments of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is a powerful wonder-working figure who seems comparable to Elijah or one of the prophets of old (e.g., Mark 6:15). At other points in the tale, his words and actions seem to correspond typologically to the words and actions of Moses or Joshua or Jeremiah. As the plot moves toward its climax in Jerusalem, there are abundant hints that Jesus is the bearer of David’s legacy as king of Israel. Each of these images of Jesus illumines some facet of his mission and identity, yet the images all remain tentative, partial, and inadequate. Jesus remains elusive and avoids direct speech about the secret of his own personhood, except in his cryptic declarations about the Son of Man.[1]

Whatever else may be true of Mark’s Gospel and its Christology, it is certain that Mark intends to present Jesus as the Messianic Son of God (see Mark 8:30–31, 14:61–62, and 15:39). Following Jesus’s Last Supper and his betrayal by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus stands before the Jewish leadership (Mark includes the chief priests, elders, scribes, and the Sanhedrin) and boldly declares, in answer to the high priest’s question Σὺ εἶ ὁ χριστὸς ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ εὐλογητοῦ (“Are you the Christ, the son of the Blessed One?”), ἐγώ εἰμι, καὶ ὄψεσθε τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκ δεξιῶν καθήμενον τῆς δυνάμεως καὶ ἐρχόμενον μετὰ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ  (“I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the power and coming with the clouds of heaven”).[2]

For N. T. Wright, the response of the high priest ––“Blasphemy!” (Mark 14:63) –– was due, not just to Jesus’s claim of Messiahship, or to his remarks against the temple. It was the both together which “pointed towards an enthronement in which the Messiah, or the ‘son of man’, would share the very throne of Israel’s [G]od…”[3] The response prompted an exclamatory “Blasphemy!” because Jesus identified himself as sharing in the divine prerogatives included in both Psalm 110 and Daniel 7’s Son of Man. This is complementary to Bock’s understanding of the blasphemy exclamation, since Mark likely intends the allusion to Psalm 110 and Daniel 7, where the latter

describes the vindicating judgment authority of a figure who shares end-time judicial power received from God. Jesus applies this role to himself. In other words, Jesus ironically claims that rather than the council being his judge, he is the judge of the final judgment. The authority that Jesus possesses, he has received from God directly, like the ‘son of man’ image in Daniel. Implicit here is a claim to be able to go directly into God’s presence and work at his side, a claim that he is really their judge.[4]

Commenting on this passage, Bauckham provides an entire section under the heading: “The revelation of Jesus’ divine identity in Mark.” He explains,

Throughout the narrative, Mark provides indications for his readers that Jesus does not merely act on God’s behalf [i.e. agency], as the messianic king might be expected to do, but actually belongs to the divine identity. It is doubtful whether anyone within the narrative, other than the demons, really perceives this, and so, after the prologue, Mark does not state it outright but implies it for readers as the true implications of what Jesus or others say. The culmination of these indications comes in Jesus’ words to the high priest (14:62), where Jesus’ claim to be seated beside God on the cosmic throne from which God rules all things can only be, from a Jewish theological perspective, a claim to share in the unique divine identity of the God who alone rules over all things.[5]

Hays picks up on the importance of the blasphemy exclamation where he notes that,

If Jesus is identified, through Mark’s references to Daniel 7, as the eschatological Son of Man enthroned in heavenly glory, the question inevitably arises of how to understand his relation to the ‘Ancient One,’ the God of Israel. (…). Unlike the Gospel of John, which explicitly declares that Jesus is the Logos who is one with the Father, Mark shies away from overt ontological declarations. Nonetheless, Mark’s Gospel suggests that Jesus is, in some way that defies comprehension, the embodiment of God’s presence. Mark never quite dares to articulate this claim explicitly; it is too scandalous for direct speech. (…). For Mark, the character of God’s presence in Jesus is a mystery that can be approached only by indirection, through riddle-like allusions to the Old Testament, as several passages prior to the passion narrative indicate.[6]

The point in examining the trial is to see a larger context of Markan Christology, and to lend support to Mark’s portrayal of Jesus’s deity. The Supper, betrayal, and trial of Jesus form a connected unit that historical Jesus scholars all understand as operating as a whole from very early on (the pre-Markan passion unit). So it is difficult to think that what Mark intends to illustrate in one part, namely the trial, is not informative of the earlier part, since they are a whole.

[1]Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, 61.

[2]Compare Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi in Mark 8:30: “σὺ εἶ ὁ χριστός.” Son of the Blessed one is a circumlocution for Son of God and is, interestingly, used in 1 Enoch 77:2; see Bock and Simpson, Jesus According to Scripture, 2nd ed., 478. Bock and Simpson note that the high priest is probably thinking of Son of God in messianic terms, as in Psalm 2 or 2 Samuel 7 (478). Wright also cautions that we do not know how much the high priest knew of Second Temple literature, including 1 Enoch (or, I would add, if it was even available in Palestine at this time; see Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 642).

[3]Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 642.

[4]Bock and Simpson, Jesus According to Scripture, 2nd ed., 479.

[5]Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, 265.

[6]Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, 62.

DEBATE and Some Announcements

Dear Readers of Jesus and Paul blog,

We have a few updates for you.

Robert and I are going to debate a point on Markan Christology publicly through our blog. This began over a year ago when I noted the manner of Jesus’s covenanting with his disciples at the Last Supper.

I found it striking then, and still do, that Jesus directly covenants with twelve disciples who are indicative of a restored Israel in Jesus’s kingdom eschatology. Jesus was not mediating a covenant like Moses. He was covenanting between himself and the disciples. I understand this as another subtle Markan portrait of implicit deity.

Robert and I wrangled on Facebook about this over a year ago, fruitfully creating more light on the discussion than heat. And we recently discussed it anew. Robert understands, with most Gospel scholars (such as Brant Pitre), that Jesus’s covenanting action is a portrait of the New Moses motif. I had the thought that we should do this in a more public forum for interested readers. Now a few points about the debate/discussion.

First, a point on Christology. To  be clear, Robert and I do not disagree with one another’s Christology. Robert identifies many instances of implicit claims to deity in Mark and has shared these with me. The challenge is, as most know, that Mark’s Christology is a mosaic (pun not intended) of portraits: Jesus as the Suffering Servant; Jesus as Messiah; Jesus as Son of God; Jesus as the apocalyptic Son of Man; Jesus as the suffering Son of Man; etc. Understanding which is being put forward by Mark or may be intended by Mark is often difficult.

Jesus himself used Son of Man of himself to express both his humble suffering (e.g. in Mark 8:31 the Son of Man must suffer and be killed and rise after three days), and his exaltation (e.g. in Mark 14:62 Jesus portrays himself as at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven in judgment).

So, we intend to debate and discuss Jesus’s covenanting action during the Last Supper in Mark to determine which Christology or Christologies are intended.

Second, a point on debate.

The impetus for blogging this was to demonstrate specifically Christian dialogue. I had the idea that debating this publicly would be edifying for readers since Robert and I often have heated disagreements on points but always with fruitful understanding.

We are careful to take the time to narrow the differences and find the deciding points of where we disagree. These points are often hair-splitting but have important implications.

Robert and I have argued just about everything (e.g. Paul’s use of “all Israel” in Romans 11, which Robert still fails to see as including Gentiles, and in agreement with the whole of Paul’s argument in Romans!).

As an aside, the first time I met Robert, in 2008, he picked up on a Christology discussion a friend and I were having at Starbucks, and we debated even then a little. I have seen Robert grow and mature in his ability to communicate an effective argument and seen him grow in his care for doing so with integrity, and in his care for understanding truth rather than putting down his opponent or winning a debate. I hope he has seen the same maturity in me these past years. I appreciate his sharp intellect, and I often defer to him personally on the problem of God and evil. Robert has been a faithful witness to Scripture, constantly pointing me back to the text and what the text says. He knows Scripture and he lives it out in how he guides his family and in how he leads in the Church.

A third and fourth point on the debate, and then announcements.

There will be a winner. One of us will decide on the evidence from Scripture and from the arguments presented and make a decision based on these. It may be a grudging admission, but there will be one.

(I feel this may be on my part, although I do feel strongly about Jesus’s covenanting action and how unique it is when compared with Moses.) Fourthly, we will delimit the discussion as necessary and include any relevant points to support our views, but they must be related to Markan Christology and our arguments on the whole.

Now for a few announcements. I (Michael) am wrapping up some publications. One is a forthcoming book review that was granted 7,000 words in the Review of Biblical Literature. It is on a recent three volume publication on the Eucharist by Mohr Siebeck in the WUNT series. A second publication is a comparative religions essay arguing that Gospel prehistory research can learn something from Quran prehistory research. In the latter, philological study of the Quran has precipitated a revisionist approach that situates the teachings of the Quran in Syro-Palestine on account of its many Aramaisms and Syriacisms. By contrast, Gospel prehistory, particularly with reference to the Last Supper, continues to search for Greco-Roman contexts despite the many (and they are many) semitisms, which are Hebrew, the lingua sacra, or Aramaic. In fact, Gospel scholars speak of instances where Matthew and Luke have Graecized the semitisms in Mark. The conclusion, then, is rather obvious…

There are a couple of other publications, but these are the two I am most busy with.  (I’m sure my PhD supervisor would rather I busy myself with my dissertation!)

A Recent and Notable Dissertation on Memory and Jesus Research

Tuomas Havukainen, “The Quest for the Memory of Jesus: A Viable Path or a Dead End?” (Ph.D. diss., Åbo Akademi University, 2018) 319 pp.

It is available at the following link for download: http://www.doria.fi/handle/10024/149211

From “The Purpose of the Dissertation,” pp. 14-15:

The main purpose of this dissertation is to investigate whether the memory approach constitutes a methodologically coherent school of thought in historical Jesus research. In other words, this dissertation explores how the basic tenets of the memory approach differ from earlier scholarship and whether one may speak of a new beginning in the field of historical Jesus research. The focus of the dissertation is on research-historical developments. In order to meaningfully approach the question of the methodological school of thought in historical Jesus research, the research-historical discussion is focused on the debate on the nature and the processes of the transmission of the Jesus traditions in early Christianity, which is a central topic to both earlier historical Jesus research and the methodological formation of the memory approach. Rather than attempting to discuss the whole history of historical Jesus research, in other words, all the ‘Quests’ for the historical Jesus with regard to this debate, the scope of this research is limited to a few significant viewpoints from approximately the last one hundred years, as this period is specifically relevant for the rise and development of the memory approach.


Karl Barth’s Adultery

Six years ago, I [Michael] was knee deep into Barthian studies. I found Barth’s work, though somewhat heterodox for my more conservative preference, a source of theological inspiration. Barth was doing TIS before it was cool. He had a Christocentric theological method. A novel and exciting view of theology as faith in Christ, and that theology was only done right when aligned with Christ in faith. He had a brilliantly novel take on several doctrines, including election, predestination, and revelation. His ability to engage the voices of past theological giants as though they were living voices, and his passionate presentation of doctrinal antinomies held in a careful and Christologically patterned dialectic of God and man — it was all that I was missing.

Barth had a way with words and doxological theological expression. It’s hard not to love the man I encountered and read in Church Dogmatics. But then, as is so often the case with our hagiographical impressions, I heard about some scandals concerning the man behind the legend. It not only stirred up feelings of disappointment, but on a couple of occasions, tears. I wanted a perfect Barth. But his cryptic entanglement with a younger woman at great expense to his family helped me learn an important lesson. Barth was just a man. A man used by God for sure, but a man.

Afterward, I had mixed thoughts about his theology not unlike the recent Christianity Today article. At first, it called into question his teaching, specifically his doctrine of salvation with its difficult equivocations on the antimony between the divine no and the response of the divine yes. His six-million word dogmatics also made me concerned that rather than passion for Christ driving his incredible literary feats, was it perhaps his stimulating time with a mistress? I heard he wrote, she typed and proofed, and that they frequently worked this way in a study room together. It’s conjecture. I don’t know anymore than Wikipedia on Barth’s dreadful failure here.

I have long turned to Carl F. H. Henry, whose equally impressive God, Revelation, and Authority, sharpened my understanding of divine revelation to a razor edge with his skillfully developed theses. Henry was a rigorously sharp evangelical who was equally Christocentric, although in a different manner from Barth’s neo-orthodoxy. Henry was sweet to my mind in a way Barth had captivated the theological wonder of my heart for the Word made flesh.

I still reference Barth. And my year or so studying his Church Dogmatics made me a better theologian for it. But the trust is gone. The inspiration has dwindled some, though he still amazes.

We would do well to hold Christ alone to the hagiographical sentiments that we too often give to men. Not because they can fail like Barth did, but because we can too. And because Christ alone should receive all the glory from theologians.

Faith and Reason


The discussion of faith and reason within the disciplined study of theology necessarily presupposes numerous truths. The first is God himself. The second is creation, specifically the creation of man, and man as made in God’s own image. Thirdly, man’s sinfulness and fall from divine favor. And lastly, but not nearly least in importance, God’s revelation of himself to man.

The anthropological constitution of created man is unitary. His will, intellect, and emotions are one, and should not be seen as distinct faculties within him. They are rather indivisible parts of his whole person. As a unitary individual, man’s giftedness to trust and reason cannot be neatly separated. When created man does one, he does so with all that it means for him to be a divinely created man, i.e., with his whole being inclusive of the will, the intellect, and the emotions, all together. This does not mean that trusting and knowing are the same acts, only that, within his unitary constitution, man cannot do one without necessarily involving the other. Already on the grounds of anthropology it becomes apparent that a contrast or antithesis between faith and reason will certainly lead to conflict, since a man may not trust in something he thinks not true.

Faith and Reason

Within evangelical theology, the approach to understanding truth has always been one of faith seeking understanding, which necessarily observes a complementary view of faith and reason. Faith seeking understanding was how Anselm began his Proslogion, forming a significant doxological context for his famous ontological argument, a point that natural theologies often neglect in their hurried treatment of the work’s treasured proof. Augustine, Calvin, and Luther also upheld the evangelical view of faith and reason together. Calvin held to a natural sense of the divine within every man, i.e., his sensus divinitatis, and saw no need to separate faith and reason in order to discover the truths of God as his scholastic predecessors had done. God implants the truth of himself within the conscience of every man.

The New Testament teaches that faith is the evidence of things not seen (Heb 11:1). Faith is trusting in God’s promises. A person can be cognitively assured of God’s dependability to make good on his promises (i.e., reason) but this is not the same as having faith until the volition or will of the person is exercised by placing faith in God. That man can in fact place faith in God would obviously require knowledge of Him. So there is no dichotomy between faith and reason in the evangelical view.

While faith and reason are complementary, they are not entirely identical, and the question of how much of reason overlaps with faith is a difficult one to answer. Faith should always welcome the use of reason, since this is none other than being a good person by functioning according to God’s design and purpose.

Reason without Faith

Natural theology, as presented by Descartes and Locke, would be a form of (a) reason without faith. The problem with natural theology is it’s grounding of reason’s foundations in man’s own independent cognitive faculties. This exchange in foundations, however, fails to account for the truth that man is already made in God’s image, and while the image has been marred as a result of sin, it has not been lost, since the very essence of what it means to be made in God’s image includes both reason and volition. During the modern era, the rationalism of Descartes and Locke[2] became paradigmatic for thinkers championing reason over faith and dispensing with divine revelation. Descartes and Locke both, though in different ways, established a method of rationalism entirely dependent upon man’s own innate ability to think, and from this innatist position proceeded to ground faith upon the natural arguments of their predecessors, the famed proofs of the medieval ages. This displaced theology entirely from the realm of divine revelation and made it answerable to the innatist rationalism of man’s own mind. The Enlightenment was largely an anthropocentric turn as the realities of God and revelation were jettisoned. Alexander Pope crystallized man’s coming of age during the Enlightenment quite well with his words “Know then thyself, presume God not to scan The proper study of Mankind is man.” Much of the purpose for establishing this rationalistic foundation, at least for Locke was the desire to arbitrate between competing truth claims, specifically religious opinions, as Locke referred to them. Kant (who forms the subjective pivot in the history of philosophy), Hegel, and others could also be placed within the reason without faith category.

Faith without Reason

Tertullian (“what has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”), Lessing’s ditch, as well as much of Protestant Liberalism (e.g., the religious feeling/consciousness of Schleiermacher; the existentialism of Bultmann, who followed Kierkegaard’s incipient existentialism in the form of his great leap of faith theology; and, to a degree, neoorthdox theologians such as Barth, though Barth surprisingly speaks of rationalism often in his Church Dogmatics), these would each be good examples of faith without reason. Among these thinkers, except for Tertullian and Lessing, theology becomes a kind of existential encounter, though not one deserving of the pejorative label of mysticism. Their work at a holistic level clearly betrays a faith without reason approach. God is not to be known cognitively but encountered. God is known only in faith, and faith must be expressed in the form of a leap across a big ditch or comparable means exclusive of reason.


From this brief taxonomy it can be seen that not only is reason without faith capable of placing the truths of Christian faith within an escapist realm which is secure from the canons of modern, anti-supernatural criticisms (e.g., the religious moralism of Kant), but faith without reason can do the same as well (e.g., the religious consciousness of Schleiermacher). Only the evangelical view of faith and reason together accounts for a faith that is at once trusting but also capable of expressing itself rationally in the form of creeds, such as the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Chalcedonian Creed. Christianity is an intellectual faith. Its beauty is unparalleled as captured by its teachings on atonement and faith, and its reason outmatched, as demonstrated by a rich, evangelical tradition of creeds.


Clark, Gordon Haddon. The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark. Edited by John W. Robbins. Volume 4 of Christian Philosophy. Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2004.


[1]The reader will recognize the author’s indebtedness to the philosophy of Gordon Haddon Clark concerning the relationship between faith and reason. See Clark, The Works of Gordon Haddon Clark, ed. by John W. Robbins, vol. 4 of Christian Philosophy (Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2004), see esp. the section on “Faith and Reason,” pp. 126-81. This collection of Clark’s work includes the book by Clark, Religion, Reason, and Revelation (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1961; reprint 1995).

[2]Though Locke is primarily an empiricist, he is also a rationalist.