I am looking through one of the books I took from Dad’s library when he downsized, Keeping the Spirit of Christmas, written by a Presbyterian minister, Handel Brown in the 1960s.
In the prologue the author says “the nature of Christmas thrusts upon us questions which, at other times, we successfully evade.” One of those questions he addresses is “How can we know whether Christmas is real or spurious?” Brown:
Christianity is not a subject you can study in College. It is not like logic, geometry or physics. You can learn about it, but the strangest paradox of the Gospel is just this: if you want to know whether it is true or not, you have to accept it first. This sounds like putting the cart before the horse, but unless you accept Jesus Himself as your Lord and Savior, the answer is not there. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14). Only those who “taste and see” know that “the Lord is good.” This is one field in which experience must precede knowledge. The qualified judge of religious truth is not the critic but the saint. Christian doctrine did not produce Christian experience. It was the other way around. “That…which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, the Word of life….that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you” (1 John 1:1f.).
The meaning and the goal of our existence are discerned in Jesus. Not in what he says so much as in what He is, and in what He becomes to those who love Him. We have to know Him before we can know the answers.
This is not a denial of the place of reason in religion. It is the assertion that reason, by itself, is inadequate. I repeat what I said earlier: we must use the minds God has given us, to think in a serious manner. But until we think as Christians, the answer will evade us.