Book Plunge: Faith and Reason, Three Views

What is to be the relationship between faith and reason in Christianity? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

What has Jerusalem to do with Athens? So was the question of Tertullian around 1800 years ago. Today, we are still asking that same question. What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens? How is it that faith and reason work together? Should we live in suspicion of reason? Should we welcome reason when it is used as tool for our faith, or are reason and faith remarkably similar both before and after conversion?

This is the question asked in this book edited by Steve Wilkens. 

Faithandreason

The book has there different views on it. One view is that faith and reason are in tension with one another. The other is that faith comes and then it seeks understanding. The next is that faith and reason are working together. Those who are familiar with me will know I naturally fall into the last camp where I see faith and reason as allies.

An aspect that made it all difficult however was the lack of a rigorous definition of faith. Too many times we talk about faith and we don’t define what the term means. Some writers did attempt to define it, but I wish there had been some set definition right at the start that all the writers would have agreed on prior to the writing.

The faith against reason approach I find the most problematic. It is more of a camp that I would think leans heavily on a presuppositional approach with what fallen man can and can’t do. It is a dichotomy that I really do not see in Scripture in that for all the talk about fallen man, it looks like Jesus appealed to these fallen men often in their reasoning capacity and asked them to believe the message that He brought.

In fact, the first sentence struck me as problematic when Carl A. Raschke in this section said “Christian faith and philosophy have for the most part been in tension for most of the last two thousand years.”

This is quite a difficult view to accept. Are we to say that truths discovered through reason have been in tension with Christianity for so long? I immediately found myself stunned at this sentence. In fact, it seemed quite dangerously close to the double-theory of truth. I am sure Raschke does not hold to that, but that is where my mind went immediately. If Christianity is the true faith and philosophy is seeking to give us true knowledge, won’t they work together?

Raschke when he gets to Aquinas just says that Aquinas accepted Aristotle carte blanche in order to argue vigorously for Christianity over the Muslims. This really ignores much of the impact of what was going on with Aristotle and gives the impression Aquinas just went along for the ride. Aquinas showed how it was compatible with Christianity, but even he jettisoned a number of aspects of Aristotle’s system.

So overall, I found this idea unimpressive and in fact problematic. If philosophy presents something true and Christianity does, there can be no tension.

The next essay was by Alan Padgett and it’s on Faith Seeking Understanding. There was much more of this to agree with and in fact, I was wondering what was so different about it and the last view that I do accept. The main difference is that in this view, reason really takes over once the faith has already done its work.

So let’s go to Craig Boyd’s view on a synthesis between faith and reason and why it is that I accept this.

My reasoning is simple. All truth is God’s truth. If something is true in the sphere of philosophy, or any other sphere for that matter, it will be true in the area of Christianity. Boyd points out that Christ and the apostles regularly point to the reasoning of their audience and why it is that they should accept the claims given.

Boyd also offers I think the most rigorous arguments going step by step about what faith is and what reason is and how different people view reason. He deals with misconceptions of reason and I think quite well points out that for the proponents of the first view who say that there is tension between the two, that essentially, the only thing people of that view can say to those who are outside is simply “Believe!”

For those interested in the faith and reason debate, this will be a valuable read and one that will benefit your study of it. It comes with my recommendation. My thanks to IVP for their generous gift to me of a copy for review purposes.

In Christ,

Nick Peters

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