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
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
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
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.