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Is Faith in Reason Reasonable?

WorldMag Blog, in an article entitled Religion is for Religious People, illustrates once again nuttyprofessor.jpgwhy education and brains are not synonomous. Psychology prof Steven Pinker, in response to Harvard’s new “Report of the Committee on General Education,” expresses concerns about the report’s suggestion for a new “Reason and Faith” requirement at Harvard:

[T]he juxtaposition of the two words makes it sound like “faith” and “reason” are parallel and equivalent ways of knowing, and we have to help students navigate between them. But universities are about reason, pure and simple. Faith — believing something without good reasons to do so — has no place in anything but a religious institution, and our society has no shortage of these.

Here we go again. Why is it that the intelligentsia inevitably pits Faith against Reason? It seems relatively clear that some faith is reasonable and some reason requires faith. 

In a way, Faith and Reason are inseparably wedded. Without a rational, objective basis for belief, any belief is acceptable. So if someone chooses to believe the world is flat, that’s their prerogative. Of course, they won’t win many arguments or converts with their irrationalflat-earth-society.jpg assumptions. Christian apologists, on the other hand, build from the conviction that their religion is reasonable and can be reasonably defended. Genuine faith requires a factual foundation.

This is where the good professor errs. He regurgitates academia’s party line by defining faith as “believing something without good reasons to do so.” Aside from bolstering the already inflated notion of “higher education,” this mantra serves as a smackdown to religious ignoramuses like myself. Damn, I’ve gotta stop believing in something without good reason to do so. (Maybe this is why I’m a Dodger fan.)

What the Harvard brainiac misses is the role of faith in HIS OWN assumptions. Peter Kreeft, in his Handbook of Christian Apologetics, writes:

No human being ever existed without some faith. We all know most of what we know by faith; that is, by belief in what others — parents, teachers, friends, writers, society — tell us. Outside religion as well as inside it, faith and reason are roads to truth.

Pascal suggested that trusting in reason is itself an act of faith. At some point along the way, a doctor, scientist or psychologist must trust the research and conclusions of those that have gone before them. In fact, science requires an inherent trust in its methods and assumptions, even though its methods and assumptions are constantly being tweaked. Thus there is a built-in dilemma for those who trust, unequivocally, in human reason. For if the mind of man is nothing more than a byproduct of evolutionary plato.jpgaccidents and mutations, is it reasonable to trust its machinations? Ultimately, relying on reason requires faith that faith in reason is reasonable.

In this way, it is quite wrong to portray secularists as faithless and the faithful as intellectually bankrupt.  Kreeft notes a prepondance of evidence for the “reasonableness” of faith:

If Christianity is so irrational, why have so many brilliant minds accepted it? The assortment of [opponents] is easily overcome by Paul, John, Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Boneventura, Scotus, Luther, Calvin, Descartes, Pascal, Leibniz, Berkeley, Galileo, Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, Newman, Lincoln, Pasteur, Kierkegaard, Shakespeare, Dante, Chesterton, Lewis, Solzehenitsyn, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Tolkien, da Vinci, Michelangelo, T.S. Eliot, Dickens, Milton, Spenser and Bach, not to mention a certain Jesus of Nazareth.

The fact that so many “brilliant minds” are christian does not validate Christianity. Nevertheless, it does call into question the notion that faith is unreasonable. But an equally valid question would be, Is faith in reason reasonable? 


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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • janet November 28, 2006, 4:10 AM

    Following Jesus is one of the few REASONABLE things I’ve ever done!

  • Trish & Jon November 28, 2006, 6:29 AM

    Well said Mikey! Good Article! See ya later!

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