We have already established that there is an interrelation between faith and reason. Now the question is: How do they relate to each other? This, the second post on this subject, will seek to answer that question. There are three major categories in which faith and reason can relate. These are (1) faith only; (2) reason only; and (3) faith and reason.
Fideism (Faith Only) The “faith only” perspective says that reason plays no part in matters of religion. As Tertullian said, “I believe because it is absurd!” This view asserts that the only valid way to know anything about God is solely through faith. Famous faith-only Christians include individuals such as Tertullian (160?-230?), Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Karl Barth (1886-1968), and to a slightly lesser degree, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662).
The driving force behind Fideism is the separation of man from God. The finitude of human beings (specifically in regard to the intellect), and the transcendent nature of God keeps us from being able to effectively reason on spiritual matters. On the one hand there is the fallen state of man which has left his mind and intellect in opposition to God; while on the other, there is the infinite greatness of God’s power and wisdom, which is totally foreign to human reason and can only present paradoxes to mankind.
Soren Kierkegaard One of the most influential proponents of the “faith only” movement was the Danish philosopher and theologian, Soren Kierkegaard. Among his many written works, his book, Fear and Trembling, especially sets forth his case.
The theme of Fear and Trembling is the well-known story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Kierkegaard’s literary skill is superb as he captures the poignant emotions that Abraham must have felt as he traveled with his son to the mountain of sacrifice. According to Kierkegaard, Abraham – unable to ascertain a rational motive explaining God’s command – had to make a “leap of faith” and obey God instead of his own reason.
This “leap of faith” stands at the core of Kierkegaard’s conception of faith and reason. In essence he taught that the only way to understand God was to let go of reason and venture out on faith alone, that rational proofs of God’s existence were pointless and an affront to his nature, and that (contrary to Romans 1) there was no such thing as natural revelation. Frederick Copleston, in his History of Philosophy, describes Kierkegaard’s philosophy:
God is not man, and man is not God. And the gulf between them cannot be bridged by dialectical thinking. It can be bridged only by a leap of faith, by a voluntary act by which man relates himself to God and freely appropriates, as it were, his relation as creature to the Creator, as a finite individual to the transcendent Absolute.[i]
Evaluation Although the “faith only” viewpoint does indeed contribute some important teaching concerning God, faith, and reason, it has made a serious error in attempting to disregard reason altogether. God created man a rational being and expects him to use his reason even in matters of faith. If reason is denied then we have no basis of certainty for Scripture and faith.
Rationalism (Reason Only) Whereas Fideism advocates that we should disregard reason for faith; the “reason only” view holds to just the opposite. According to Rationalism, anything that cannot be apprehended or explained by reason must be rejected. Famous rationalists include such individuals as Rene Descartes (1596-1650), Benedict Spinoza (1632-1677), and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804).
Although there are various degrees within the “reason only” perspective, the basic idea that is held in common is the belief that all truth can be discovered by unaided human reason. Therefore the reason of man becomes the measure of all things. Even Scripture must acquiesce to reason as it must pass the test of rational inquiry before it is accepted.
This ideology is the basis for higher criticism and theological liberalism. Spirituality and religion are measured only by man’s ability to comprehend them. Immanuel Kant succinctly summed up the “reason only” movement with the title of his book, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone.
Evaluation On a positive note, the “reason only” movement has been successful in dampening some of the influence of the more extreme versions of anti-intellectualism, although in the final analysis, this system of thought has consistently demonstrated itself to be bankrupt of any legitimate insight into the nature of God and Scripture. While it is correct in assuming that God intends for us to use the reasoning powers of our minds, it errs in placing the mind of man above God and denying the role of faith in the Christian experience.
Interrelation (Faith and Reason) The final view that will be stated here represents a synthesis of faith and reason. This view asserts that faith and reason are interrelational, that is to say, that they both play a part in understanding God and Scripture. This view was set forth in particular by two of Christendom’s greatest thinkers: St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) and St. Thomas Aquinas (1225?-1274).
This perspective can best be described by the phrase, “faith seeking understanding”. In Augustine’s opinion, faith was necessary to reason correctly about God. We all have to place our faith in some authority as the basis for how we think; Augustine said that the authority of the Christian faith is Scripture. However we should not be satisfied with simply resting on an authority, but we should seek to understand the authority in which we have placed our faith. In other words, we should not just believe, but we should seek to understand why and what we believe
Aquinas’ position was very similar. He believed that man could come to a basic knowledge of God based on reason but that Scripture was necessary for understanding many things within the realm of the Divine. As he said in Theology, Faith, and Reason:
There are some intelligible truths to which the efficacy of [reason] extends, such as the principles which a man naturally knows and the things which are deduced from them, and for knowledge of these no new intelligible light is required, but the naturally inborn light suffices. But there are things to which these principles do not extend, such as what pertains to faith and exceeds the capacity of reason…The human mind cannot know these unless it is illumined by a new light superadded to the natural.[ii]
Thomas was basically saying that there are things about God that the human mind can deduce from creation itself, but there are other things which can only be understood through the revelation of Scripture. Based on this premise, Thomas believed that it was possible to prove the existence of God from reasoning about creation, which he set forth in his famous “Five Ways” in the Summa Theologica.
Evaluation It has been said before that Satan does not care whether you or going Upstream or Downstream just so long as you are Extreme. The “faith only” and “reason only” viewpoints represent the extremes of our subject. The Christian life is one of perpetual balance and this extends to the realm of faith and reason. It is important that we see that there is an interrelationship between faith and reason, and that we do jump to the fringe on either side. Blind faith and cold reason are both dangerous guides. The balanced Christian seeks to have the body of reason animated by the fire of faith.
[i] Copleston, Frederick. A History of Philosophy: Vol. II. (New York: Image Books, 1994), p. 336[ii] Aquinas, Thomas. Theology, Faith, and Reason: On Boethius’ “On the Trinity”.
Is Fantasy Escapism?:Is fantasy literature (LOTR, Narnia, etc.) an attempt to escape reality, or does it communicate reality better than any other genre?
Three-Way Tie for Tenth: We actually have three posts which tied for the tenth spot. The Economics of Art is a rejoinder to post 1 that takes a different approach to the idea of “Christian” art and the concept of ‘art’ altogether. Rebutting Ancient Skepticism: provides an analysis and rebuttal of ancient Pyrrhonian skepticism. And Handling Money God’s Way is a practical post that gives Scripturally based principles and tips on how to manage your money.
Many people associate Christian faith with a “blind leap into the dark”. In their opinion, Christians are required to throw away reason in order to embrace a fantastic story that helps them worry less and sleep more soundly. Modern culture often ignores the voice of Christianity, because it is assumed that faith has no bearing upon reason.
But is this true? Are faith and reason mutually exclusive? Can there be reconciliation between the two? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. One does not have to check his brain at the door when entering the realm of faith. On the contrary, we have an injunction from the Almighty not only to love Him with all of our heart and soul, but with our mind as well.
What is Faith? Many of the misunderstandings concerning faith and reason stem from a misconception of what faith really is. Many consider faith to be some mystical feeling in the pit of their stomach; a magical intuition that guides them to deeper truth. To others, faith is a thoughtless adherence to creeds and dogma without any concern or attention to the facts that under gird them. Neither of these is the Biblical definition of faith, nor are they the traditional concept of faith that the church has held for centuries.
Faith According to Scripture Nearly every time the word “faith” is used in the New Testament, it is translated from a form of the Greek word pistis. The primary definition of pistis is a “a conviction of the truth of something that leads to belief“. We see, therefore, that the New Testament conception of faith is not a belief in an irrational fantasy, but rather a confidence in what one knows to be true. As one theologian has said, “The heart cannot delight in what the mind rejects as false.”[ii]
The most comprehensive treatment on the subject of faith found in Scripture is found in Hebrews 11. Often regarded as the “faith hall of fame”, this chapter sets forth a concise definition of faith in its first verse: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
A closer look at the attributes given to faith found in this verse will greatly increase our understanding of what faith really is. The word “substance” is translated from the Greek word hupostatis. This word, which is translated as “confidence” in 3:14, means “the strongest possible form of confidence that something is true“. The word “evidence”, found within this verse and translated from elegchos, literally means “a strong conviction“. The verse, literally translated, would read, “Now faith is the confidence of things hoped for and the conviction (or assurance) of things not seen.”
By looking carefully at this and other portions of Scripture, we can ascertain that the Biblical concept of faith is not an irrational leap into the dark, but a reasonable step into the light. Although our faith rests in things which cannot be seen, it does so after being previously convinced that those things, though unseen, are real nonetheless.
Faith According to Theology When we examine much of the traditional theology of the church, we find no conception of an irrational or blind faith. The theology of saving faith was carefully systemized by the theologians of the past. These men divided true, saving faith into three components: Notitia, Assensus, and Fiducia.
Notitia This word means “the idea” and deals with the recognition of facts and data. Faith cannot exist without some form of knowledge of what one is to believe. In regard to saving faith, there must be an exposure to the data or facts of the gospel before one will ever be able to have faith in what it says. Romans 10:14-17 states:
How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Thus we see that faith must begin with a conscious recognition of fact, and cannot exist within a mental vacuum.
Assensus Assensus means “to give intellectual agreement to the validity or truth of a statement”. This means that one not only knows (notitia) the message of the Gospel, but that they have agreed that its message is true (assensus).
Although notitia and assensus are necessary to saving faith they are not sufficient in and of themselves. This insufficient type of faith is known as fideshistorica, or mere historical faith, as opposed to fides salvifica (saving faith).
It is important to note, however, that assensus is necessary to salvation. There must be an agreement with the facts before someone can exercise faith. This, in itself, demonstrates Christianity to be reasonable faith; because there is no disregard of fact or evidence. It does not mean that the person coming to faith understands all of the facts presented, but that he has agreed that they are true in light of the evidence. To quote Charles Hodge,
“God requires nothing irrational of his creatures. He does not require faith without evidence. Christianity is equally opposed to superstition and Rationalism. The one is faith without appropriate evidence, the other refuses to believe what it does not understand, in spite of evidence which should command belief.”[iv]
Fiducia This term literally means “trust”. It is the third and final necessary component of faith. It involves an appropriation and reliance on what one knows to be true. In the case of the gospel, it is a complete surrender to, and total trust in the promises made by God through Christ.
It is also important to note that fiducia involves trust in a person and not just agreement with fact (assensus). Our faith is not is not based on evidence or facts about Christ (though it may be supported by it), but in Christ Himself.
We exercise these three aspects of faith every day. Here is a simple but cogent illustration. Our first reaction upon walking into a dark room is to search for the light switch. Upon locating the switch we use it to turn on the light. All of the three components that have been previously mentioned are involved in this simple act of faith.
1. Notitia– We realize that the room is dark and we discover the location of the light switch.
2. Assensus– We intellectually assent that the switch will turn on the lights based upon on the evidence (i.e. switches found in similar locations have always turned on the lights before).
3. Fiducia– By actually flipping the switch we have placed our trust in the fact that it will perform the task we have already mentally agreed that it would do.
Although these three divisions of faith may occur almost simultaneously, each one is necessary for true faith to occur. Therefore a study of the very nature of faith demonstrates that the idea that it is “blind” or somehow separate from reason is absurd. While reason is not faith, it is necessary for faith.
[ii] Pinnock, Clark, Set Forth Your Case (The Craig Press, 1967), p. 3
.[iv] Hodge, Charles, Systematic Theology, Taken from Introduction to Chapter 3, “Rationalism”
There can be no doubt that modern Western thought owes an incredible debt to the work of the French philosopher, Rene Descartes. His Meditations on First Philosophy revolutionized the method and scope of rational inquiry and has had lasting repercussions into the present day. Within the Meditations Descartes employs a strict axiomatic method in search of a secure foundation for knowledge; a foundation which he eventually discovers in his famous statement, cogito ergo sum: “I think therefore I am”. An interesting byproduct of this discovery is Descartes’ consequent assertion that it is easier to know that one has a mind then that one has a body. Indeed, the title of the second Meditation is, “Of the Nature of the Mind; And That It Is More Easily Known than the Body”. But is this statement implied by Descartes’ cogito? I believe that it is not and that Descartes’ reasoning is fallacious in regards to his epistemological distinction between the mind and the body.
Before investigating the above claim, it is important to review the process of reasoning that led to its assertion. Descartes begins the Meditations with radical doubt. Indeed his stated purpose is to “apply [him]self earnestly and freely to the general overthrow of all [his] former opinions.” His criterion for knowledge is strict foundationalism: he will only accept propositions that cannot be doubted or propositions that are built upon other indubitable propositions. He is quite literally seeking to demolish the structure of his beliefs so that he can reconstruct them upon a certain foundation. The epistemological wrecking balls that he employs are various arguments that can be traced back to the ancient skeptics. At the end of the day – after meditating upon insanity, dreams, and evil demons – Descartes has effectively stripped himself of certainty concerning his former beliefs.
A new day provides the second Meditation and the famous discovery of the cogito.
So that it must, in fine, be maintained, all things being maturely and carefully considered, that this proposition I am, I exist, is necessarily true each time it is expressed by me, or conceived in my mind.
There has been much debate over what Descartes was exactly trying to communicate by this statement. Some have insisted that Descartes is presenting an argument here, while others believe that he is simply stating a self-evident truth which he has discovered. While this debate is both interesting and important, it really makes no difference in regards to this post. Suffice it to say that Descartes (whether in formal argument or not) is asserting that it is a necessary truth that whenever he thinks, he exists. This is an impressive feat of reasoning to be sure, but his assumption that the mind is more easily known than the body does not follow from it.
Descartes’ claim can be expressed in the following argument:
1. I cannot doubt the existence of my mind.
2. I can doubt the existence of my body.
3. Therefore, the mind is more easily known than the body.
The first premise follows from the cogito. Descartes states that he cannot doubt his own existence because, necessarily, whenever he doubts he is thinking, and whenever he is thinking he exists. Therefore he exists as a mind, or a “thinking thing”. In the first Meditation, however, he has already established that he cannot be certain of the existence of his body. Therefore the knowledge of his mind is more certain than the knowledge of his body.
It is important to point out a major assumption that Descartes is making here: he assumes that the mind and body are distinct substances. It appears that he bases this distinction upon a principle that was later articulated by the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz. This principle, known as Leibniz’s Law of the Indiscernibility of Identicals can be stated thus:
Necessarily, for any X and Y, if X is identical with Y, then for any property, P, X has P iff Y has P.
It follows then from the above principle that, if the mind and body possess different properties, they must be distinct substances. Descartes appears to hold to something like the following argument:
1. My body possesses the property of being doubted by me.
2. My mind does not possess the property of being doubted by me.
3. Therefore, according to the Indiscernibility of Identicals, my body is distinct from my mind.
It is only after he assumes the distinction above that Descartes can then go on to argue that the mind is more easily known than the body. However, this argument is based upon the fallacious idea that dubitability implies distinction.
Consider the following argument:
1. Samuel Clemens possesses the property of being doubted by me that he is the author of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
2. Mark Twain does not possess the property of being doubted by me that he is the author of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
3. Therefore, according to the Indiscernibility of Identicals, Samuel Clemens is not the same person as Mark Twain.
Of course this argument is clearly absurd since we know that the names “Samuel Clemens” and “Mark Twain” do indeed refer to the same person. It is this same reasoning, however, that Descartes employs in distinguishing the body from the mind. Just because he doubts the existence of his body and is certain of the existence of his mind, it does not follow that they are two different substances.
It appears, therefore, that Descartes was wrong in asserting that the mind is more easily known than the body based upon the cogito. What he was perceiving as his “body” and as his “mind” may well have been the same substance with two different names. This is not to imply that the body and mind are the same, however, just that one cannot make this distinction based upon Descartes’ assumption. And if the mind and body are indeed the same substance, then it makes no sense to say that one is more easily perceived than the other.
Australia’s Daily Telegraph recently published this story about a lawsuit brought against an IVF clinic by Aussie parents because doctors failed to identify a “cancer gene” in a procedure known as “preimplantation genetic diagnosis”.
According to the Telegraph:
Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, or PGD, was pioneered by Victorian scientists, and the controversial gene screening has been embraced by fertility clinics around Australia and the world. It is billed as a way of reducing the incidence of deadly genetic diseases, including more than 30 inherited cancers, cystic fibrosis, deafness and blindness. Dozens of Australian children have been born using the controversial technique, which has triggered ethical and legal debate over whether scientists should be allowed to “play God'”. The tests are carried out on an IVF embryo when it has eight cells. A single cell is removed and DNA tested for gene mutations. The mother who is suing produced eight IVF embryos for genetic testing. Of the embryos tested, only two were given the all-clear for implantation. The others were discarded.
Doctors reportedly assured the parents that their child would not have a hereditary, cancer-causing genetic mutation. The doctors were wrong, and now the child has a high probability of developing cancer at some point in his life.
Stories like this shine a clear spotlight upon the ethical minefield of modern genetics. Since the successful mapping of the human genome in 2003, scientists have been working feverishly to identify genetic predispositions to diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. As further discoveries are made and technology continues to develop, a host of ethical problems will arise. It’s hard to imagine, that in the not-too-distant future, human beings will be “genetically designed” not to develop cancer. Perhaps we will never discover a cure for cancer because there will be no need: people will simply be immune to it.
But why stop at cancer? Why not “turn off” the gene that gives rise to obesity as well? And while we’re at it, let’s make sure that the genes are arranged to produce intelligence and a balanced personality. Then maybe we can tweak the genes that will determine personal appearance – because after all – who wants to have an unattractive child when they could have otherwise?
So how about it? Would you allow your child to be “genetically vaccinated” against cancer or other diseases?
What about obesity?
Below (or even average) intelligence?
An introverted personality?
I’m quite sure that I could go along with number one. I’m not so sure about two. The rest of this list gets progressively more scary. What do you guys thing about it?
Reality Television is King since the writer’s strike has deprived us of our fix of sit-coms and drama this season. All the reality shows; such as: Smarter than a 5th Grader, Deal or No-deal, Dancing with the Stars, American Idol and a host of others; have flooded the cable and airwaves in a rush to fill the void.
As I sat there this week watching the Biggest Loser I began to think about what I was ingesting, no, I don’t mean foodstuffs, but thoughts and ideas. What are the bait, hook and tackle?
One only has to look around at the average waistline and you can see how our lives of ease and/or materialism-induced-stress have weighed on us.Daily you can find articles, self-help programs and a mountain of books trying to get their collective arms around the problem of obesity.In fact we have spent so much time gathering this information that we have had little time for anything else, especially such trivial things as exercise, play, and the like.At some point one has to conclude it is time to stop thinking about it and do something about it. (I haven’t reached this radical point, yet.)
So here is the positive premise, if we see people engaged and succeeding in the attempt it will motivate others to get up off their lazy keesters and do likewise.So… someone put it on television for the masses to see and hopefully emulate.This is a good thing.
The negative premise is that now that it is on television our voyeuristic natures kick in and we watch others play the game instead of engaging in it ourselves.We’ll just sit here and watch how it’s done.This is not so good.
Always hidden in the bait is a hook and this is no different.The hook is the game, who will go who will stay.How do they accomplish this?Ah, here is where psychology sets the hook, “challenges and temptations!”It would truly be a boring show if all it was, was watching rollie-pollies sweat and work out (no matter how much the trainers rant and rave).One can stand to watch only so much flabby jiggling and man boobs.Therefore, there has to be some other angle, the hook is: game-play during temptations and challenges.
The manipulations, the deceptions, the intrigue; and that’s just the commercials.Raw human nature is front and center in the reality show.Wrath, envy, greed, gluttony, sloth, lust, and pride are the stars, with the players as supporting cast.Being the voyeurs we are, we enjoy watching it in others as they stumble and fall below the yellow line. (Yes, it is a cynical view but I believe an accurate one.It’s like NASCAR, the reason a huge percentage watch is to see a wreck.)In short it’s addictive
All this leaves us with the final two ingredients, the weigh-in and the elimination room.Who will be the biggest loser this week?Which team will have the greatest percentage weight loss?Who will be exempt, who will go home?Ooooo, I get tingly just thinking about it.Here is the payoff for watching the sweating and the puking and the jiggling: someone is going home.Who will it be?
In summary I have to say that I find these reality shows entertaining on the surface but since my mind is warped and wired differently I find these same shows somewhat disturbing.I realize it is a game, but it seems to reinforce the idea of situational ethics.The, “I am going to do what it takes to make sure I come out the winner,” the Zen of (Donald) Trump if you will.That may be understood to be the “American Way” but it is far from the Biblical Way.
These shows are the very antithesis of Biblical Christianity.They promote greed, the Bible says to give; they bank on covetousness, the Bible condemns it; they manipulate and lie to get to the next level, the Scriptures tell us to sacrifice self and put others ahead of ourselves.Even the Golden Rule has changed from, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” to “do unto others before they do unto you.”Each week millions tune in to get their weeks fix of existentialistic materialism and we never see that it is not only our waists that are getting thicker.Think about it.
19 Votes and counting… Click here or in the sidebar if you would like to join in. Feel free to comment as well.
If you need definitions for the terms below then check out this previous post.
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Dispensational Premillenial 11% (2 votes)
One of the ‘other’ votes is basically an ‘undecided’ between the first three choices, the other ‘other’ vote is for Hope/Kingdom eschatology which I think [if the voter is referring to the popular notion of ‘Hope” theology] would be a kind of Marxist postmillenialism.
Well I know you’ve been waiting for it! Here’s more Christian kitsch!
Disclaimer:To any who might be offended by visual representations of the rapture: We are not making fun of the doctrine of the rapture…we are making fun of PICTURES of the docrine of the rapture.