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The Relationship Between Reason and Faith, Essay Example

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Faith and reason are concepts that modern Christians and non-Christians alike often have difficulty reconciling because they seem to come from opposite ends of the intellectual spectrum. However, in his book Reason, Faith, and Tradition: Explorations in Catholic Theology, Martin C. Albl argues that these two important concept, when understood together, assist us in gaining a better understanding of the relationship between human beings and God.  To this end, Christian theology assists individuals in becoming well-versed in the concrete and practical applications of a faith-based approach to reason, thus assisting in a more comprehensive awareness of the both the Universe and the world as it applies to our daily lives.

Faith is innately grounded in a belief that God both exists and underpins the world on both the small and large scale.  Faith is not exclusive to any one religion; instead, it is an approach to the transcendent that acknowledges that “different religions conceive of the transcendent realm differently:  the realm of the gods, the spirits, of the one God, of Nirvana” (Albl 12).  An individual’s faith is based on the introduction to religion that he or she received from their parents, educators, and peers, and may or may not be rooted in formal religious education.  Faith is greatly influenced by an individual’s culture and worldview.  Unlike the closed attitude found in the materialist and determinist approaches, the Christian approach to faith allows for wonder and a belief in goodness that continually questions the world and the individual’s reasons for existing.  As Albl writes, “Persons of faith allow themselves the simple wonder of a child as they look above and ask, ‘Why is the sky blue?'” (Albl 33).  This open-minded approach to curiosity and human intelligence is integral to faith and springs from the basic acceptance that “God, the ultimate source of goodness, created the universe” (Albl 34).

Rationalist and Materialist critiques of faith may appear to be rooted in a reason-based approach, however, their close-minded attitude towards Christian faith and tradition limits their ability to truly try to understand faith from a variety of different perspectives.  This viewpoint often argues that “the concept of a transcendent God who created the universe is meaningless” (Albl 24).  Adherents to these approaches, such as Richard Dawkins, limit the individual’s quest to understand the universe by stating that “all things in the universe can be explained by material causes” (Albl 24).  However, reason can bring much more than this to our understanding of Christian theology as both reason and faith “are grounded in the belief that God–understood as the ultimate source of all rationality and order–created both humans and the universe” (Albl 31).

Although scepticism and the ability to question the world around us are part and parcel of a healthy relationship with faith, G.K. Chesterton has stated that there is a negative strand of modern skepticism that represents the “suicide of thought” (Albl 31) because of its total inability to accept that which cannot be wholly explained.

The relationship between faith and reason is one that can help individuals to form deep and profound connections with God. Although sceptics and the uniformed often believe that religion holds no room for reason, and vice versa, “reason is itself a matter of faith.  It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all” (Albl 31).  Christian theology requires reason so that it might come to better understand the “truths about the universe and about humans” (Albl 1), but without the doctrines of faith, our conception of these truths have little impact and become meaningless.  Regardless of the ways in which an individual’s faith might manifest itself, the ability to blend faith and reason allows for us to develop a framework in which we can understand our place in the world and the role that God plays in our lives.

Works Cited

Albl, Martin C. Reason, Faith, and Tradition: Explorations in Catholic Theology. Winona, MN: Saint Mary’s Press, 2009.

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