“Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has.” Is that true? I saw a statement that read something like it on a church sign once, and I was able to trace it to this quote from Martin Luther.1 While Luther’s statement in context is not really about the danger of examining or thinking out one’s beliefs, it has solicited more than a chuckle from some in the atheistic world who see faith and reason as diametrically opposed. To them, the statement is unreservedly true, and faith has much to fear from reason.
Unbelievers have a long tradition of painting their position as the more reasonable, logical one and assuming that they, not believers, will stand when the dust of any conflict settles. To be fair, believers sometimes act in indefensible ways. For example, Martin Luther’s quote in context is a defense of the unbiblical practice of paedobaptism. Reason is without a doubt the enemy of any faith that does not arise from the Word of God. However, when people answer God’s plea, namely, “Come now, and let us reason together” (Is. 1:18), they stand to discover Jesus Christ, and, in Him, a faith as unassailable as the eternal God Himself (Rom. 8:31-39).
The victory that God allows mankind to share in Jesus Christ was prefigured in the second Psalm. The setting of the Psalm is one of a widespread conflict involving “nations… people… kings of the earth… and the rulers” who have “set themselves” against God and “His Anointed,” a term that frequently references a king in Israel (Ps. 2:1-2; e.g., 1 Sam. 2:10). As David wrote this Psalm (cf. Acts 4:25), this probably references one of the many times David faced opposition from the Gentile world. The Psalm seems to be an inspired response to this problem made in a faith inspired by the promises of 2 Samuel 7:12-16. However, the New Testament reveals that both those promises and this Psalm find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus (cf. Heb. 1:5). What therefore does this Psalm teach us about Jesus and His opponents?
The Psalm opens with a picture of adversaries surrounding Israel. As the apostles referenced Psalm 2:1-2 in their prayerful response to Jewish opposition to Jesus (Acts 4:25-26), it’s safe to say that this text was intended as a general picture of unbelievers. What does this picture reveal?
Their power. In terms of numbers, they are portrayed as “the nations… and the people” (Ps. 2:1); in terms of position, they hold that of “kings… rulers… [and] judges of the earth” (vs. 2, 10). Unbelievers always represent a powerful majority.
Their protest. They see service to the anointed as a form of bondage, as they speak of “chains… and… cords” (v. 3). The Internet teems with deconversion stories told by atheists who believe they have found freedom in unbelief. The militant among them won’t rest until all embrace this supposed freedom.
Their plot. Simply put, by any means necessary, they will “break… and cast away” the rule of the Anointed (v. 3). From the onset though, the Psalmist knows the plot is “a vain thing” (v. 1). In fact, Hebrew parallelism forces a comparison between the “plot” and “rage.” What unbelievers envision as a reasoned plot ending in inevitable, victorious freedom is nothing but a fruitless “uproar” (v. 1, NASB). How can the Psalmist be so sure that these powerful, protesting, plotting adversaries will be brought to nothing?
In verse 4, the scene shifts from the earth to the heavens, where an Almighty God sits and laughs. Don’t mistake the picture: rebellion is sin (1 Sam. 15:23), sin brings death (Rom. 6:23), and God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 18:23, 32; 33:11). God’s laughter is merely a poetic picture of the foolishness of anyone thinking they have a sufficient position, power, or plot to defeat God.
God doesn’t have to raise a finger to defeat His adversaries. He “speak(s)” and already they find themselves in “distress” (Ps. 2:5). This is because while they are mighty, God is Almighty: all mighty. He has all strength and is the source of all strength. So, when God declares that He has set His Anointed on His holy hill (v. 6), there is no one who can change that. Christians, realize this: Christ is seated on an eternal throne (Lk. 1:32-33; Rev. 3:21) and no force in heaven or earth will dethrone Him: not the masses mocking Christianity on social media, not Hollywood, not politicians, not militant atheists – not anyone.
Through inspiration, David made a connection which could not and did not find its fulfillment in him. God told him through Nathan, “Your seed… who will come from your body” would be someone of whom God would say, “I will be His father” (2 Sam. 7:12, 14). The Psalmist therefore wrote, “The Lord said to Me, ‘You are My Son’” (Ps. 2:7). David was a child of God as all faithful are, but the New Testament makes it abundantly clear that God has only one begotten Son (John 3:16) and that Psalm 2:7 is about Him (Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5).
What God offered the Anointed – “the nations… the ends of the earth” (v. 8) – Jesus now has (Matt. 28:18-20). To the church in Thyatira, Jesus not only claims He has this power, quoting Psalm 2:9 as evidence, but He also promises that the faithful can share in it (Rev. 2:26-27).
Faith is not the enemy of reason. In fact, there is only one reasonable response to an Almighty God and His Anointed, and one day everyone is going to make it: “At the name of Jesus every knee will bow” (Phil. 2:10, NASB). Will the kings and judges of this earth “be wise” and “be instructed” (Ps. 2:10)? “Fear” and “trembling” (v. 11) are indeed things associated with “bonds” and “cords” (v. 2), but don’t let the atheists fool you: to “serve the Lord” is to “rejoice,” and again, Hebrew parallelism forces you to see that connection.
The advice is simple: “Kiss the Son” in worship and adoration. His opponents will “perish,” but “all those who put their trust in Him” will be “blessed” (v. 12).
1Martin Luther, Table Talk, trans. William Hazlitt (London: H.G. Bohn, 1857), 164.