On Faith and Reason

On Faith and Reason December 29, 2017

It’s a fascinating topic, one touching on both ontology and epistemology. What is the nature of mathematical, philosophical, scientific, and theological truth? And what are their specific epistemologies or methods of truth seeking?

Growing up Catholic, natural theology was part of the picture, even if a subtle theme in the background. For both believers and non-believers, the intersection of faith and reason can occupy two specific themes: intimate connection or total disconnection. Fideism is the view that reason and faith are disconnected (at least to some degree), natural theology the view that knowledge of God (to some finite degree) is not only possible, but highly reasonable.

I particularly enjoyed MLK Jr’s perspective on the relationship between science and religion, as it touches upon the larger topic of truth-seeking – that there exist a number of domains of knowledge (for example, scientific and philosophical) – which nicely sets up the discussion on methodological and metaphysical naturalism, and how to avoid some crude philosophical errors.

Two, in particular:

  1. Religionists who proudly (or at least implicitly) embrace fideism – embrace my theology because my text says so (and by the way, any scientific facts that push on my interpretation of my sacred text are wrong).
  2. Irreligionists who proudly proclaim that any “faith” position is simple fideism as there is no “evidence”

The first group (whatever the religion), is quite easy to dismiss, specifically if that involves being a scientific hold-out. Just as crude and question-begging is the second group, where science is, (to play on words), given theological status.

The truth seeker realizes that “my theology is true because it is (and science is wrong)” and that “my atheology is true because science tells me so” are both nonsensical. For the theistic truth seeker, much like the lifelong decision to marry, the faith decision is one only made from a rational foundation (metaphysical proofs for God’s existence). Though the entirety of theism (and Christianity) go beyond reason (much like a lifelong commitment to a spouse), the trust is given only from the bedrock of reason.

In my previously cited post, I gave the example of two truth seekers, both scientists, one religious, the other not so. Both look under the same microscope and agree on the same physical picture, but differ in terms of the metaphysical and ultimate nature of reality. The sophisticated atheologian, and her friendly theistic interlocutor, are well aware that battleground on the question of God’s existence is philosophical. These two friends would never be so crude to suggest otherwise. Asserting scientific facts are the only meaningful ones (made by many skeptics) or asserting faith amounts to rejecting science (made by many theists) are both philosophical positions, and crude ones for that matter, for they ultimately amount of question begging.

But for the truth seeking a/theologians, philosophical theism and metaphysical naturalism – now that’s where the faith/reason discussion get’s interesting! For after the question of God’s existence, come the other big questions like why anything exists at all, morality, free-will, and consciousness – and how, in light of their respective world views – they arrive at coherence.

Certainly, the battle rages on for those that are content to be question-begging. But for the truth seeking a/theologians out there, those that embrace the question for truth in the scientific and philosophical domains, the question of God’s existence is just the beginning…

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