Why Reason Isn’t Enough

If you can’t pay your mortgage, don’t feel bad about defaulting and walking away. After all, it was the greedy mortgage brokers and banks who induced you into a mortgage you couldn’t afford. They made their money, now they should take their medicine.

No, wait. You had a choice. Nobody put a gun to your head and said, “Buy this house or else.” Besides, if you default, it’s not just the bank who pays but the rest of the society through more taxes for bailouts and higher interest rates.

Which argument appeals to you? Take your pick. Both are based on reason. You could choose either one and sound reasonable.

I heard this debate on television a few weeks ago, and it was like watching a dog chasing its tail. Both sides sounded reasonable, which illustrates why reason is not enough. As Benjamin Franklin said,  “So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.”

Reason is helpful for justifying a conclusion you have already reached; it’s not so great a tool for finding the right conclusion. Reason is a good support but it is not a good scout. It is too easily led astray.

I’m not suggesting Christians shouldn’t use reason. The key is knowing when to use it. Sometimes it’s all one has to rely upon in solving a problem or making a decision, but when there are established Biblical principles, prohibitions or commandments, that’s where we should start.

The Bible usually starts at the point of personal responsibility. Take the mortgage crises. Psalm 15:4 says “[A righteous man] swears to his own hurt and does not change.” The Apostle Paul said, “Pay your debts . . .” (Romans 13:8). This should be the starting point for a discussion about the mortgage crises.

The Bible also speaks against greed and therefore has something to say to banks and mortgage brokers who placed profit above principle.

Bottom line: Both sides should take responsibility and neither should blame the other for the current crises.

Reason, untethered to principle, only provides a means to any conclusion that exonerates. Principle, served by reason, provides a conclusion that assigns responsibility and therefore empowers. GS