Jeffrey Thayne

My friend Nathan brought to my attention a pedagogically useful example that illustrates an idea I have tried to convey in the past. Consider for a moment that we are testing a missile, and have predicted the precise trajectory of the missile based upon mathematical calculations. If we were to observe the missile traveling a different trajectory than that which we predicted, our natural conclusion is that our calculations are somehow mistaken, despite how reasonable they had seemed before. Imagine how foolish it would seem to conclude that our eyes have somehow fooled us as to the trajectory of the missile, because our calculations are reliably based in reason. The conclusion I would like to draw from this thought experiment is that we rightfully trust our experience more than reason.

Reason is a valuable tool, and is necessary to make sense of our lived experience, but it is not the source of our knowledge. Our knowledge comes from personal experience. Experience consistently serves as a corrective for our reason. This is why I believe rational or natural theology and transcendental theology can be dangerous, because, unlike early Christian writers, I do not believe God and His ways are propositional entities accessible to the mind the same way mathematical ideas are. According to Wikipedia, “Natural theology is that part of the philosophy of religion dealing with attempts to prove the existence of God and other divine attributes purely philosophically, that is, without recourse to any special or supposedly supernatural revelation.”1 Transcendental theology is theology based on “a priori reasoning.”1 To make conclusions about God based upon Aristotelian logic does not seem to me to be a wise endeavor. The only conclusions I trust about God are those arrived at through personal communication with Him, either personally or recorded in the writings of ancient and modern prophets. Thus, I believed in revealed theology, which relies on divine revelation. Knowledge of God requires experience of Him, and revelation is a subset of experience.

1. Wikipedia, “Natural Theology”