Reason and Faith

Reason is the capacity for rational thought. Those persons of the ignorant variety would have you believe that since God has spoken to us in scripture, there is nothing left for us to reason. Reason is that faculty of mind that is able to judge things whether they be true or not. You cannot reason with an unreasonable person and it is unfair to have a war of wits with an unarmed person. Reason has become a prejudice for the ignorant, the worst form of prejudice because reason is the only instrument for liberation from prejudice. To believe that we are to have faith and not reason is to have a theology of ignorance. The fact is that reason and faith validate each other.

Though it is unfair to say that Christianity has always opposed full intellectual freedom, or to say that modern science has developed in spite if Christian antagonism, there remains some truth to these extreme statements. Tertullian was a great man and a great theologian but ever since Tertullian in the 3rd century, there had been Christian writers who insisted that God so transcended reason that any attempt to approach him intellectually was useless, even blasphemous. It was the mystic who knew God, not the theologian. Tertullian wrote that "we desire no curious disputation after possessing Jesus Christ, no inquisition after enjoying the gospel." He was followed in this view by such later mystics as St. Bernard who denounced Peter Abelard and Saint Francis, regarding intellectual speculation as irrelevant and perhaps even dangerous to salvation. Using your mind, speculative thought, philosophy, metaphysics, ethics, science, anything of an intellectual nature is considered superfluous to Christianity and opposed to faith. It is in this lack of knowledge that God's people are destroyed.

Descartes had felt that it was sufficient to establish the authority of reason, and to show that reason contains within itself the elemental truths of religion as well as of science. Faith, no less than reason, is required, and faith is the gift of God. Our knowledge of both the natural and the supernatural is rooted in human reason; they have a common source. Saint Thomas held that there was a sphere of natural reason and, above this, a region known by faith through revelation. Faith, however, is not opposed to reason, nor is reason opposed to faith.

Reason is not, for Aquinas, a product of the individual mind, but rather the "natural truth" which reaches our understanding through the love of wisdom. These two kinds of truth - reason and revelation - are complimentary, for they both spring from the same source, that is, from God. "The power of reason by itself is insufficient, unless it be aided from on high by the inspirations and impulses of the Holy Ghost: as it is written: 'Whosoever are led by the spirit of God, they are the sons of God.'" Isaiah relates of God, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."

According to tradition, Mohammed said "the first thing that God created was reason." Luther, however, often railed at reason, and he has been portrayed in consequence as a complete irrationalist in religion. Locke declared that revelation which accorded with reason must be accepted, however, revelation which clashed with the clear evidence of reason was to be rejected.

Christianity is of course founded on faith but it is through the reason of God that the world was created. It follows that the reason of God preceded the need for faith and to deny reason is to deny faith in God Himself. The one and true God our creator can be known through the creation only by the natural light of human reason. We are created in God's image. When David writes that the heavens declare the glory of God, it is only through reason that this declaration is understood. Hume: "But there is no view of human life or of the condition of mankind, from which.. we must discover by the eyes of faith alone... since it is impossible for us to know the attributes of or actions of such a Being, otherwise than from the experience which we have of His productions, in the usual course of nature."

It is up to reason to judge divine revelation. If faith in God is a faith in ultimate and utterly effective reason itself, then we shall be more inclined to listen to the kind of reasoning which sustains and gives rational conviction to our faith in God by discovering in God the clue to the mystery of the existence of everything that is less than God. Faith in God sustains faith in reason, and faith in reason sustains faith in God. When Paul entered the synagogue to preach to the Jews, he "reasoned with them out of the scriptures." When he gave his defense to the governor Felix, "he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come." Much of the defense of our faith must come from a divine gift of reason or we do not have the wisdom to be able to present the gospel effectively.

The most primitive of men without knowledge and wisdom has no sober moods at all, he is hopelessly and utterly immersed in a mystical frame of mind. Incapable of dispassionate and consistent observation and lacking in the power of abstraction, he is hampered by a purposeful aversion toward reasoning, he is unable to draw any benefit from experience or to construct or comprehend even the most elementary laws of nature. This is the great delusion of conservative fundamentalism that deliberately chooses ignorance over reason out of a misplaced allegiance to an outmoded religiosity that ushered in in the dark ages.
[03, 34, 41, 46, 51, 57, 65, 70, 141, 145, 153, 200, 61, 286, 399, Acts 17:2, 18:4, 19, Isaiah 1:18, Psalms 19:1]

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