Sense, Reason, and Faith
1 Corinthians 1:21
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God…

Here we have three kinds of evidence referred to — the sign looked for by the Jews; the philosophy sought after by the Greeks; and the wisdom and power of God. This leads to observations on —

I. THE DOMAIN OF SENSE. The present age is one in which sense knowledge is unduly exalted. This arises partly from the vast advancement of physical science, and partly from the development of commerce which leaves small time or inclination for the study of spiritual things.

1. But sense knowledge is —

(1) Exceedingly limited. We know very little indeed from direct experience; information for the most part is based upon testimony. Even in science the great mass have neither time, means, nor capacity to conduct experiments, and thus to verify the theories they so boldly advocate. We must always believe much more than we can know.

(2) Often deceptive. The state of our minds always gives colouring to eternal things. We see in nature just what we bring to nature the capacity for seeing. The same scenery produces very different effects upon different minds, and upon the same mind at different times.

(3) Never extends beyond the surface of things. Behind the domain of our experience there lies a whole world of things which we can never cognize with any organ of sense.

2. Christianity is based upon as much sense knowledge as will suffice to prove its truth. Christ's resurrection is the greatest fact in history; and at the first its appeal was made directly to the senses. To us it is a matter of testimony; but the testimony is irresistible. If, like the Jew, therefore, we would demand a sign, it is forthcoming.


1. This province is also very limited. A correct process of ratiocination by no means ensures the accuracy of the conclusion arrived at, for the premises may be incorrect. Butler has well remarked, that "the unsatisfactory nature of the evidence, with which we are obliged to take up in the daily course of life, is scarcely to be expressed." Reason, of herself, is incompetent to inform man of some of the most important facts which appear to lie completely in her own domain. She cannot describe the essence either of matter or of mind. The freedom of the will she has proved herself utterly incompetent to deal with. Reason is by no means perfect in her own domain, for —

(1) The knowledge on which the process is based is often too limited.

(2) The instruments that are employed are very defective.

2. Man is not left to the guidance of reason alone. Impulse, enthusiasm, feeling, passion, love, and faith are independent of reason, and often lead to higher results.

3. Christianity is supported by reason as far as their powers coincide. The evidences of the Divine authority of Christ's religion are conclusive if judged of by reason. Those, therefore, who seek after philosophy, like the Greeks, can find it here.

4. Many Christian truths are higher than reason, but not opposed to it. Christianity leads into a region where reason cannot follow. There are mysteries in religion, as there are also in nature. Man is surrounded by mystery, and is himself the greatest mystery of all. And mystery deepens as knowledge increases.

III. THE REGION OF FAITH. This belongs peculiarly to religion. Here we can discuss the conscience, the soul, and man's relation to God. Reason might discover the existence of Deity, but it could never tell us of His relationship, to man. Modern science puts God, when it admits Him, at the end of the universe. Revelation places Him at the beginning. Scientific men do not hesitate again to proclaim the unknown God, thus taking us back two thousand years in history. There is a tendency in this age to decry faith, yet society could not exist a week without it. Christ is described as —

1. The wisdom of God. Everything seen in His light is clear. By Him we read the riddle of the universe. The purpose of God in creation is seen in Him, and nowhere else.

2. The power of God. His influence on the ages is greater than that of all other systems combined. And He alone can save the soul.

3. Christ is the "wisdom of God and the power of God" only to those who believe. They become one with Him, and receive out of the fulness of His grace.

(G. Sexton, LL. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

WEB: For seeing that in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom didn't know God, it was God's good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save those who believe.

Philosophy and the Gospel
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