FAITH AND REASON
D. M. PANTON, B.A.
Faith is a far-sighted calculation based on a Divine utterance. Faith is opposed to sight, faith is not opposed to reason: faith is reason based on the invisible as vouched for by God. Faith sacrifices visible evil, to win invisible good: it acts on concrete realities in the unseen - just as actual, though not always so gross, as the things around us - which, if really there, change the whole world-outlook, and revolutionise life. “Faith is the ASSURANCE [R.V.] of things hoped for, the CONVICTION [Govett] of things not seen” (Heb. 11: 1). Full faith (the faith of Hebrews Eleven) loads all its goods on one raft; it lodges its entire fortune in a single bank; it stakes its all on one throw - because, in the mirror of what God has said, it sees an empty Tomb backward, and the lightnings of a descending Christ forward, and it shapes all life on these invisible, concrete, overmastering realities. Faith barters the infinitely little for the infinitely great. Faith is the highest reason functioning on actual realities which it has never seen.*
[* It is obvious that if there be no actual, tangible, reliable information from God on the unseen, no specific break in the eternal silence, faith (as the infidel has always said) is a self-created illusion which builds on a void, and ends in an abyss. “Faith cometh by hearing,” not seeing, “and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10: 17).]
Now in all the marvellous galaxy of Hebrews Eleven none more sharply defines and enforces this reasoning element in faith - this wise, deliberate, far-sighted decision - than Moses; and it opens with probably the greatest renunciation recorded in the history of the world. For renunciation is measured by the value of what a man renounces; and “by faith” - a whole-hearted decision reposing on invisible facts – “Moses refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter” (Heb. 11: 24). Moses, if not heir to the Egyptian throne - as Jewish tradition, embodied in Josephus, says that he was - stood upon its steps, the throne of the wealthiest and most powerful monarchy on the globe. He had to renounce for his children also, who lost a palace, and perhaps a throne. Why then a renunciation so vast? Because evil is transitory, and righteousness is permanent. To Pharoah, dying, the pomp of the world was a dream: to Moses, it was a dream all his life. For God is good, and goodness is the foundation of the universe, the imperishable substance of immortality: therefore the renunciation of evil is the highest reason; and therefore Moses deliberately, and as a mature calculation - his full age is therefore noted - abandons the prosperous and the wicked, and casts in his lot with the suffering and the holy. He lived for the future, for the future is sure, while the present is a vapour, a vanity, and can be a most dangerous deception.
The choice over against the refusal is also without precedent,
the scales on the other side being loaded with all from which the heart most
- deliberately selecting with wide-eyed choice – “rather
to be afflicted with the people of God” - that is, he cast in his lot
with Israel, not because they were blood-relations, but because they were God’s
people – “than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a
A volume of instruction is packed away into the next logic of
Moses' balanced judgment. “Accounting”
- judging, as the word is elsewhere translated: coming to a conclusion on
mature consideration – “the reproach of Christ greater
riches than the treasures of
So now we reach
the intensity of Moses’ forward gaze. “He looked” - gazing off into the God-revealed future –
“unto the recompense” - the exactly adjusted
compensation for all righteous suffering, which God has made a law of the
universe – “of reward.” Moses
gave up a crown for a crown; but the throne of an
Finally, the [Holy] Spirit is careful to record that Moses’ choice by faith proved the backbone, the skeleton of steel, of his life. “For he endured” - the word means strength, power, courage; he remained resolute, immovable, undaunted – “as seeing him who is invisible.” All life thus becomes a steady waiting for a certain glory. For it is not stupidity, or obstinacy, or pigheadedness, or illusion: it is a vision of God based on the Scriptures of God. It is the philosophy of all martyrdom: as, in the hand of the statue to Gaspard de Coligny, in Paris, lies an open Bible, and on the page exposed are the words- “He endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” An identical principle ruled our Lord. “I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand” - God holding me, God teaching me, God loving me, God bracing me – “I shall not be moved” (Ps. 16: 8). It is a constant Godward gaze which creates immobility of character. Moses looked through Egypt, and he saw Hell: he looked through the palace, and he saw the “crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give in that day”: he looked through the Wilderness, and he saw the Mount of Transfiguration: he looked through life and death, and he saw a Great White Throne, from which the earth and the heavens flee away. So faith can be infinite in its reach and power, for its eyes can be full of God; and thus refusing, choosing, accounting, looking, enduring, seeing, Moses alights, fifteen centuries later, on the Transfigured Mount.