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Faith and Reason - An Interdependency

Gordon Clark in a Discussion of Anselm

"Adopting from Augustine the motto Credo ut intelligam, (Anselm) accepted the essential identity of religion and philosophy and the competence of reason to rationalize faith.  Faith supplies the propositions with which one must start, propositions relating to the existence of god, the Trinity, the Atonement and so forth; reason is able to elaborate rational proofs of these doctrines.  In one sense the work of reason is superior to faith and in another it is not.  It is superior in that a developed understanding is an advance, a growth in grace, a goal for which faith is designed.  On the other hand, understanding of the doctrines is not to lead to their repudiation or reinterpretation into something else; if that were the case, it would not be the doctrines of faith that had been proved and understood.  No, the content of faiths inviolable and cannot  be made more certain through ratiocination. 

"In religion, faith plays the part which experience has in science.  As a blind man cannot see and hence cannot understand light and color, similarly an unbeliever does not perceive, does not have the experience (Ed - regeneration), and hence cannot understand the doctrine."  (Thales to Dewey, pages 252-253)

Merold Westphal on Faith and Reason

I think (that the relationship of philosophy and Scripture are) an aspect of the problem of faith and reason. I sometimes use the term ‘faith’ in any even broader sense ... and say that all philosophy is faith seeking understanding (Ed: Augustine and Anselm). On the one hand that involves my rejection of classical foundationalism, and the idea that you can always give a kind of, certain, final grounding for the criteria or principles on which you are working. I think we’re always caught up in a hermeneutical circle. I think of the people who are trying to work out the theory of eliminative materialism, for example, as in the mode of faith seeking understanding—it’s obviously not a religious faith, but faith in the sense that it doesn’t have the kind of validation from some sort of neutral reason, some view from nowhere that philosophers have often hoped for.

The more usual conversation about faith and reason has to do with that sort of hermeneutical circle when it’s specifically religious, when it belongs to some particular religious tradition or is grounded in some particular religious scripture. One of the reasons why that is an appropriate way to speak is that when one appeals to scripture in any normative sense, one is automatically talking about what is understood as not available to the unaided powers of human thought, human reason. The term ‘reason’ has been sort of co-opted by this notion of unaided human power. So yes, I think that the question of scripture and philosophy is an aspect of a larger question of faith and reason. (Journal of Philosophy and Scripture, Volume 4, Issue 1, page 26-27)

Ed Payne: Faith and Reason Are Intimately Interdependent February 2010

One of the fascinating things about continual study of the same issues is how they continue to develop over one's lifetime.  For example, I have studied "faith" for about 20 years and month by month I see new nuances within the whole.  In fact, I would say that if such concepts do not grow in one's mind, then one is either not really continuing to read and think on a particular issue or has closed his mind on the subject.

As to faith and reason, recently I have been gaining insight into the complexity of words and language.  A word is made up of symbols, that is, letters of the alphabet.  Through customary usage, they form words with some general, but not absolute rules.  For example, almost all words in English have vowels, and they are arranged among consonants.  There are few (no?) words that are all vowels or all consonants.  And, there are general rules for arranging the letters, as "'i' before 'e' except after c," and all the exceptions thereof.  Then, the words themselves are symbols of what they represent.  A "cat" is a certain thing.  The "universe" is a certain thing (even if it is not well understood).  Etc., etc.  Then, the words have to be arranged in a sentence, again, according to custom or "rules."  And, different languages have different rules.  In English, generally the verb is in the middle of the sentence; in German the verb is at the end of the sentence.  In English, adjectives are mostly separate from nouns.  In German adjectives are often added to the words themselves.  Etc., etc. 

The above paragraph is a simple representation of a highly complex process.  (One can see more of this process in Augustine's De Magistro, a discussion between father and son about words as symbols.)  But, my point here is that whatever proposition is chosen one's basic position of faith has already gone through a highly complex process of reasoning just to be stated as it is!  We all make statements so easily that the complexity is overlooked.  So, we can say that reason precedes faith.  But that won't work either because we assume, that is, "believe" that we have put the symbols together in a coherent way.  So, faith and reason work together just to make the statement, "I believe in _________ (whatever).

Once the statement is made, it becomes a position of faith.  But then reason takes over to determine whether a system can be built upon that statement, whether it corresponds to reality, and whether is internally consistent.  So, the dichotomy of faith and reason is entirely nonexistent!  They are intimately interdependent.  How in the name of all that has pretended to be "reason" has this dichotomy developed?  And, it has existed for centuries, prominently since Thomas Aquinas.

I think the divorce between faith and reason developed because "faith" came to be associated with Christianity, and then other "religious" faiths.  "Faith" is perhaps the most common label for the truths of the Bible in the text itself.  Thus, faith was thought to be linked to Christian belief and any other kinds of thought were something else.  That "something else" came to be known as "reason."  I have developed on this website the idea of "generic faith," that is, faith as a common, everyday necessary concept without which life would be impossible.  (See Glossary on "faith.")

Faith and reason need to be re-united.  Everyone has a "religious" faith to explain who, what, how, and why we humans exist on planet earth.   "Religion" is simply the explanation that an individual has for these questions.  When we overcome this dichotomy of faith and reason and come to see that everyone functions by faith, then the issues may not be resolved, but at least they will be identified more concretely than they now are.  Perhaps, that situation is beginning to change with this example.

Peter Leithart

For centuries, Christians have posed the dilemma of Christian theology as a problem of faith v. reason. That's a non-starter, a concession of defeat, for it assumes that there can be such a thing as a faith-free rationality. But there cannot be. What we have is not a conflict of faith and reason, but a conflict of various faith-reasons or reason-faiths.

 

 


 

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