THE NATURE AND ROLES OF FAITH AND REASON IN THE LIFE OF A CHRISTIAN

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CHAPTER ONE

There are many problems that weigh on the life of man and very often man goes in search of the truth that lies behind these problems. Traditionally, faith and reason have been considered to be sources of justification for religious belief. Because both purportedly serve this same epistemic function, it has been a matter of much interest to philosophers and theologians how the two are related and thus how the rational agent should treat claims derived from either source. Some have held that there can be no conflict between the two- that reason properly employed and faith properly understood will never produce competing claims, where others have maintained that faith and reason can (or even must) be in genuine contention over certain propositions or methodologies. Those who have taken the latter view disagree as to whether faith or reason ought to prevail when the two are in conflict. Kierkegaard for instance, prioritizes faith even to the point that it becomes positively irrational, while Locke emphasizes the reasonableness of faith to such an extent that a religious doctrine’s irrationality- conflict with itself or with known facts- is a sign that it is unsound. Other thinkers have theorized that faith and reason can govern their own separate domains, such that cases of apparent conflict are resolved on the side of faith when the claim in question is, say, a religious or theological claim, but resolved on the side of reason when the disputed claim is, for example, empirical or logical. Some relatively recent philosophers, most notably the logical positivists, have denied that there is a domain of thought or human existence rightly governed by faith, asserting instead that all meaningful statements and ideas are accessible to thorough rational examination. This has presented a challenge to religious thinkers to explain how an admittedly non-rational or translational form of language can hold meaningful cognitive content. It is based on these that the philosophy of Saint Augustine of Hippo has become a veritable ground to attempt to quench this controversy and problem of faith and reason. Faith and reason are like two wings on which the spirit rises to the contemplation of truth. There is no incompatibility between the two, but rather an ultimate harmony. Faith is not opposed to reason; rather it requires the full development of reason. And reason itself requires faith in order to strengthen and guide it.

THE NATURE AND ROLES OF FAITH AND REASON IN THE LIFE OF A CHRISTIAN