Faith and reason: what is the relationship?

Recent posts have given rise to polemics from people of different persuasions. Sometimes the comments became personal and sometimes they were patronizing. The debate should get a decent airing. Faith and reason has been a battleground for centuries. It has manifested itself again in the comments on recent posts. There have been many attempts to resolve the tension between faith and reason. Different positions have been taken. The Reformers have theirs and so have the Roman Catholics. The discussion of this issue draws from theology and philosophy for insights and perspectives. Further readings in this issue may spur more discussion and enlighten readers about this issue. Wikipedia has a simplified introduction to the kind of possible positions at hand and has this to say:

Beliefs held “by faith” may be seen existing in a number of relationships to rationality:

Faith as underlying rationality: In this view, all human knowledge and reason is seen as dependent on faith: faith in our senses, faith in our reason, faith in our memories, and faith in the accounts of events we receive from others. Accordingly, faith is seen as essential to and inseparable from rationality. According to Rene Descartes, rationality is built first upon the realization of the absolute truth “I think therefore I am”, which requires no faith. All other rationalizations are built outward from this realization, and are subject to falsification at any time with the arrival of new evidence.
Faith as addressing issues beyond the scope of rationality: In this view, faith is seen as covering issues that science and rationality are inherently incapable of addressing, but that are nevertheless entirely real. Accordingly, faith is seen as complementing rationality, by providing answers to questions that would otherwise be unanswerable.
Faith as contradicting rationality: In this view, faith is seen as those views that one holds despite evidence and reason to the contrary. Accordingly, faith is seen as pernicious with respect to rationality, as it interferes with our ability to think, and inversely rationality is seen as the enemy of faith by interfering with our beliefs.
Faith and reason as essential together: This is the papal view that faith without reason leads to superstition, while reason without faith leads to nihilism and relativism.

Do read the full article on Faith and Rationality in Wikipedia. For something meatier and more philosophical go read this article from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy titled:  Faith and Reason.

What do you think is the relationship between faith and reason?

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Paul’s theology

1Michael F. Bird’s “A Bird’s -Eye View of Paul” was written for the common man to understand Paul’s theology. With just the minimum jargon, Bird gives an overview of who Paul was and what he proclaimed. Without going into technical details, he gives perspective by concisely mentioning the different views on various issues. Here is a theologian who writes for God’s people, not fellow academics. In the first chapter, he quoted Scot McKnight, a theologian whose blog I used to read:

“Paul’s theology is not systematics; instead, he is grasped best when at least the following seven Pauline principles are kept on the table as we proceed through his letters.

First, the gospel is the grace of God in revealing Jesus as Messiah and Lord for everyone who believes;

second, everyone stands behind one of the twin heads of humanity, Adam and Christ;

third, Jesus Christ is the centre stage, and it is participation in Him that transfers a person from the Adam line to the Christ line;

fourth, the church is the body of Christ on earth;

fifth, (salvation-)history does not begin with Moses but with Abraham and the promise God gave to him, and finds its crucial turning point in Jesus christ – but will run its course until the consummation in the glorious Lordship of Christ over all;

sixth, Christian behaviour is determined by the Holy Spirit, not the Torah;

seventh, Paul is an apostle and not a philosopher or systematic theologian.

These principles spring into action when Paul meets his various threats(circumcision, wisdom, gifts, works of Torah, ethnocentrism, flesh, rival leaders, and eschatological fights about the Parousia or the general resurrection)”.

(Extract from Scot McKnight in Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus, and the Atonement Theory)

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