In this blog, I seek to explore the relationship between Faith and Reason. The religion in mind is Christianity and in particular Catholicism. Even if you are not a Catholic Christian, you will still benefit greatly from this blog. And if you are not a Christian at all, I think that you will be fascinated by what you will learn.
The philosophy that I will discuss is ancient Greek philosophy. I begin with some posts on the life of Socrates because I consider him to be the father of reason or philosophy, even thought there were philosophers years before him. If you read the posts on him, you will understand why. I then go on to a series of posts on Abraham, because he is considered the father of faith by the Jews, Christians, and Muslims. After that, go back to philosophy again as I discuss the Presocratic philosophers. Eventually, I will make my way to Plato, Aristotle, and the rest. I will demonstrate how these two tributaries of faith and reason eventually merged to make the New Testament Church.
Jewish Faith and Greek Philosophy Joined
Greek philosophy provided the tools and the philosophical language that made it possible to understand and express Christian theology in a deep and coherent fashion. The Greeks also asked the questions, for which they had no answers, that were eventually answered by the Christianity. Without the Greek’s philosophical ideas, the Christians would have been hard pressed to articulate their faith. And without the revealed truths of Christianity, many of the profound philosophical questions of the Greeks would have gone unanswered. But they weren’t just Greek questions, they were really the types of questions that all cultures throughout the world ask in their particular way. The Greeks asked universal questions, but in their own uniquely Geek manner and in ways often more profound than other cultures.
We reason because we are made in the image of God. In fact, our rationality is our primary characteristic being his image bearers. But our reasoning can only take us so far. Without revealed religion, our knowledge of ourselves and the universe that we inhabit would remain woefully inadequate. We inherited this faith from our Jewish ancestors. With this blog, I aim to show that faith and reason are not in opposition, but are made to be unified while remaining distinct. In this way we are coworkers with God in furthering his kingdom to use an allusion from St. Paul.
Faith and Reason Divorced
The chief characteristic of the modern age that we live in is that we have divorced faith and reason. And like many divorces, children reap the damaging repercussions from the fractured relationship. We moderns are the children of divorced parents – faith and reason. And we are living with the consequences today of the broken home that we call Western Civilization. The only solution is to reunite what never should have been separated in the first place. It is my hope that this blog will enlighten you to what we have lost and to hopefully inspire to reunite faith and reason in your own particular sphere of influence.
My target audience is anyone who is interested in the relationship between faith and reason, but I particularly have in mind younger people like older high school and college. This group, if they have been raised in the public school system, knows nothing about the history of Western Civilization and the Christian foundation that made it great.
If there is going a change for the better in our present dismal situation, then we must raise up leaders from among the younger people who can be educated in such matters so that they can take leadership roles in society to effect change. In this way, this blog can be incorporated into a classical education curriculum.
The first series of posts on Socrates have an easier comprehension level on purpose. This is to introduce people to the topic, especially younger people. As the blog progresses, then the content, especially the philosophical writings, becomes increasingly more difficult and challenging. If you have any questions or feel that something is not clear, please contact me. I always seek to improve.
Rather than dry or technical philosophical writing, I seek to portray this interplay between faith and reason as a grand narrative spanning several millennia. More often than not, what we get today in regards to philosophy and even theology, is compartmentalized and disjointed. I seek to attempt to show the grand unity of how everything connects. For example, what does Socrates have to do with Kant, Derrida, or the even the Reformation?
Also, I prefer a narrative, and even a dramatic at times, style verses a technical one which is probably why I resonate with Plato more than Aristotle. I am immediately drawn into Plato’s dialogues and stories. I am in awe of how he fleshes deep philosophical ideas out in the midst of say, a drinking party, for example. Having said that, there are a lot of technical sections in my blog fashioned more in the style of Aristotle than Plato.
Why am a writing such a blog in the midst of a world that appears to be coming apart at the seams? Is this like trying to compose a musical score on a piano in a house that is on fire? I would say not. We live in a time where emotions govern and reason has been cast aside. No matter how we try to fix our problems, if we are not using reason governed by faith, the it will all be for naught. We can’t build or rebuild a society based on emotions. St. Thomas Aquinas said that reason should govern the emotions and not vice versa.
The only way out of this mess is to rediscover and implement the very things that made our once great civilization great – our heritage of faith and reason. But what if the West does indeed collapse into heap of rubble and we descend into a period of darkness and chaos (which has happened several times before in our history)? Well, it would be my hope, that information like this will last and that one day it would play a very small part in the rebuilding of a great Christian civilization once again. The Gospel is essential to save individual souls. But information like this is essential to building a civilization characterized by great music, art, architecture, philosophy, medicine, technology, and literature, etc. You get my point.
As Christians, we should seek the Kingdom of God on both a micro and a macro level. The Evangelical Christian says the saving souls is the only think that matters since the world is irredeemable. The materialist humanist says the building a civilization is the only thing that matters since there is no afterlife. The Catholic view is that both are important.
The Beauty of Faith and Reason
When the grand river of the Catholic Church was formed from the smaller rivers of Jewish faith and Greek philosophy, a grand civilization arose. This civilization made great strides, not only in intellectual and religious pursuits, but in art and architecture as well. Think about beautiful artwork such as da Vinci’s Last Supper to Botticelli’s Primavera. Behold the great Gothic Cathedrals. It is no accident that beauty arises from truth and goodness.
This is why I include, when appropriate, examples of this beauty, not just so you can enjoy it, but so that you can be reminded about what is possible when a culture is properly oriented toward God. We live in an age characterized by ugliness and fear. It is my hope that one day we can witness a recovery in the West of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness, the three great transcendentals on which the West was built.
“At this point, as far as the understanding of God and thus the concrete practice of religion is concerned, we are faced with an unavoidable dilemma. Is the conviction that acting unreasonably contradicts God’s nature merely a Greek idea, or is it always and intrinsically true? I believe that here we can see the profound harmony between what is Greek in the best sense of the word and the biblical understanding of faith in God. Modifying the first verse of the Book of Genesis, the first verse of the whole Bible, John began the prologue of his Gospel with the words: “In the beginning was the λόγος”. This is the very word used by the emperor: God acts, σὺν λόγω, with logos. Logos means both reason and word – a reason which is creative and capable of self-communication, precisely as reason. John thus spoke the final word on the biblical concept of God, and in this word all the often toilsome and tortuous threads of biblical faith find their culmination and synthesis. In the beginning was the logos, and the logos is God, says the Evangelist. The encounter between the Biblical message and Greek thought did not happen by chance. The vision of Saint Paul, who saw the roads to Asia barred and in a dream saw a Macedonian man plead with him: “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” (cf. Acts 16:6-10) – this vision can be interpreted as a “distillation” of the intrinsic necessity of a rapprochement between Biblical faith and Greek inquiry.“
–Pope Benedict XVI at his Regensburg address, 2006