Search Results for Faith and Reason
Many people see faith and reason as two approaches to life existing at opposite ends of the cognitive spectrum. It could be argued, however, that faith and reason are not always separate and (consciously or unconsciously) work together.
An example of faith and reason unconsciously working together could be found in those who make a god out of reason. These folks still come from a faith position, but their faith is placed in reason instead of God or some divine power.
On this point or, at least, on a similar point, the philosopher David Hume offered a now famous critique of causality.
Hume’s metaphysics, in particular his critique of the belief in cause and effect, remains an important challenge to our conventional way of seeing. All we can be sure of, says Hume, is that certain events occur one after another in a given region and for a certain duration.
In billiards, for instance, the white ball appears to cause the motion of other balls when impacting them on the billiard table. But here’s the radical part. Hume says that all we can truly know is that, in the past, the first ball impacted and the other balls moved. We cannot prove that the first ball’s impact will always be followed by movement of the other balls. And for Hume, there is no rational way to demonstrate a causal connection.¹
In most world religions, faith is said to be primary to reason. In Catholic theology faith is described as a supernatural virtue whereas reason is said to be a natural power. For Catholics or, indeed, anyone, both faith and reason are concerned with truth and need not conflict.
However, it seems that many insecure individuals who have been brainwashed by a cultic or even by some silly religious or scientific teaching desperately cling to a kind of misplaced faith by believing in things that are not true or, perhaps, egregiously facile.
Similarly, we find not a few self-professed thinkers who are hooked on their own faulty logic, colored by unconscious personal biases.
In their best form, faith and reason are potentially harmonious. We can live life by testing our pet hypotheses and by keeping our beliefs and theories open to revision. For many, however, faith and reason are often imperfect and discordant.
Thinkers like the Hungarian-born Arthur Koestler (1905-83) believed that clunky linkages between our human cognitive faculties (such as faith and reason) result from conflicting evolutionary additions to the human brain, additions that happened by chance instead of through any kind of grand, intelligent design. But this approach is no more subject to empirical verification than one that accepts inconsistency and inner conflict as steps toward integration and its corollary, integrity.
- David Hume (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Are Faith and Reason Compatible? (str.typepad.com)
- Faith Vs. Reason? Or Faith in Reason… Reasonable Faith..? (ryanfaulk.wordpress.com)
- By Way of Introduction (thetwowings.wordpress.com)
- Do you or do you not support reason? (verbosestoic.wordpress.com)
- Leap of Faith or Failure of Reason? (vridar.wordpress.com)
- Vatican commission affirms scripture as ‘soul of theology’ (mumbailaity.wordpress.com)
- The Reason Obama’s Faith Is Questioned (theroot.com)
- William Lane Craig discusses faith and reason with university students (winteryknight.wordpress.com)
- Accomplished by Faith… (webmasteryates.wordpress.com)
Most world religions speak of an inextricable link between faith and morals.
In the religious sense, to have faith is to try to please God and this involves making the right moral choices. At least, this is one approach to faith. Another approach is that you can do whatever you want and God will forgive you—providing, most would add, that a sincere attempt to stop doing the bad thing is made somewhere down the line.
Any discussion of faith and morals will likely include a section on laws. In the Old Testament the Jewish people are faced with a variety of laws, said to be from God and also to preserve and enhance one’s relationship with God.
In the New Testament, Jesus really only speaks of two laws—love God and love one another.
In liberal democracies today, laws are said to be based on natural reason. However, their impetus arguably is supernatural—that is, an awareness (based on faith and informed by grace) that morality is essential to the human condition.
So the supposed separation of the “supernatural” and “legal” realms could be seen as somewhat artificial. That point aside, one could also argue that this kind of distinction is not necessarily the same as the separation of “Church” and “State,” mainly because organized religions by their very nature contain not just supernatural but also political dimensions, as does any kind of social group.
- Faith (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Faith and Action (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Ethics and Respect Thrive with an Absolute Separation of Church and State (randomreflectionz.wordpress.com)
- Rick Santorum Says Separation of Church and State Makes Him Want to Vomit: VIDEO (towleroad.com)
In secular usage “faith” [Latin fidere = trust] refers to believing in something or someone. “I have faith in the system” the man or woman on the street might say when asked about societal problems.
In a non-denominational, spiritual sense it refers to believing in a loving, supernatural power or God and that things will eventually work out. That is, it’s a view of optimism.
In the general religious sense, faith in part refers to believing in a fixed set of teachings.
The Hebrew term for faith (emunah) originally meant trust in God but in the Middle Ages it came to mean believing that God exists and that the Jewish dogmas were correct.
In Hinduism faith generally means a belief that things will eventually work out and that justice will be served – for the good and the bad – as a result of the law of karma.
In Christianity, faith generally refers to the belief and acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior—a perfectly loving and good, omnipotent, omniscient eternal Being belonging to the Holy Trinity.
In Catholicism faith is understood as both an objective truth and a subjective virtue. The Catholic Encyclopedia says:
Objectively, it [faith] stands for the sum of truths revealed by God in Scripture and tradition and which the Church…presents to us in a brief form in her creeds, subjectively, faith stands for the habit or virtue by which we assent to those truths.¹
- Faith and Action (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Galatians 3:9&14 (gracegalatians.wordpress.com)
- Fear or Faith ??? (footsoldiers4christ.wordpress.com)
- What Is A Vigorous Faith In God? (samuelatgilgal.wordpress.com)
- Accomplished by Faith… (webmasteryates.wordpress.com)
- You might be a hypocrite if…you turn Jesus’ message of faith and love into one of fear and hate. (god-still-speaks.com)
- Faith (briancoatney.com)
The relationship between faith and action raises some interesting questions, many of which are largely overlooked in contemporary society.
For starters, most religions advocate the necessity of action to keep faith alive. Action, in fact, is highly regarded in Western culture. But the meaning of the term ‘action’ is often loaded with cultural assumptions and, therefore, misunderstood.
We could say, for instance, that Trappist monks are more inwardly active than externally so. These monks, being one of the more contemplative sort, believe that their internal prayer life has positive effects on other people, just as the great saints believed that they interceded for other souls.
So if his beliefs are true, the Trappist monk is extremely active, but most of us don’t see it that way.
Faith-based action also takes a more worldly form, a form which everyone can easily understand and appreciate. Here I’m talking about charities and goodwill missions that serve the needy.
In most instances, it’s likely that a continuum exists between contemplative and worldly action. And it seems that those disposed to contemplation understand the good works of worldly folk but the converse is rarely true. This, perhaps, explains why in Hinduism the path of knowledge (jnana-yoga) is said to be more difficult than the path of action (karma-yoga). Active people often become hostile towards contemplatives. And sometimes they can even be abusive.
Along these lines, some orthodox and gnostic Christians, alike, interpret these words of Jesus Christ to his disciples as a warning to keep an eye out for vulgar materialists:
Mind you, no discussion of spirituality and abuse would be complete without calling attention to the opposite situation where charismatic gurus with an abundance of numinous powers swamp gullible disciples and, in so doing, are just as abusive toward individuals as vulgar materialists can be to potential saints. The abuse is different. But it’s still abuse.
In less extreme scenarios it seems reasonable to suggest that contemplatives and active individuals can keep each other in check, providing, or course, the rules of fair play are observed. By this I mean that some contemplatives can get smug, lazy, and authoritarian. And a good kick in the pants from an active person might, in some instances, actually help to realign them to their saintly calling (if not perhaps in the way that the active person envisioned it).
By the same token, the active person at times needs to be ‘toned down’ by the wisdom of the contemplative. For if a contemplative is truly focusing on God (and not some strange power), over time they should begin to accrue at least some wisdom that others could benefit from.
- Courageous faith in action through volunteering (northamptonjesuscentre.wordpress.com)
- Kentucky’s Trappist monks get shout-out in Food Network magazine (ashleeeats.com)
- Gandhi & faith in action (pathikpathak.wordpress.com)
Duns Scotus (1266-1308) was a Scottish Franciscan theologian, likely born in Duns Berwickshire.
Scotus challenged St. Thomas Aquinas on the relation between faith and reason. Aquinas argued that if one first believed, knowledge of God would follow. That is, reason (a form of conceptual knowledge) followed and supported faith (a set of specific beliefs). Therefore for Aquinas faith and reason were closely related.
Scotus, on the other hand, divorced faith from reason, arguing the two were irreconcilable. His quick mind earned him the title of Doctor Subtilis (the subtle doctor). Along these lines, he advocated the theological idea of something halfway between a mere concept and a reality, an idea of interest to contemporary sociologists (especially non-reductive postmoderns) and philosophers.
Like other realist philosophers of the period (such as Aquinas and Henry of Ghent) Scotus recognised the need for an intermediate distinction that was not merely conceptual, but not fully real or mind-dependent either. Scotus argued for an formal distinction (distinctio formalis a parte rei), which holds between entities which are inseparable and indistinct in reality, but whose definitions are not identical. For example, the personal properties of the Trinity are formally distinct from the Divine essence. Similarly, the distinction between the ‘thisness’ or haecceity of a thing is intermediate between a real and a conceptual distinction. There is also a formal distinction between the divine attributes and the powers of the soul.†
Scotus’ defense of the Papacy was ridiculed by Protestant reformers in the 16th century, contributing to the pun “dunce.”
- Blessed Duns Scotus: Defender of the Immaculate Conception (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- Blessed Duns Scotus, faithful disciple of Saint Francis (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- Lourdes exhibit celebrates Bible (toledoblade.com)
Bahai is a relatively recent world religion. Adherents of Bahai claim that God is progressively revealed through a sequence of teachers, including Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, and its Persian founder, Baha’u'llah (1860′s).
The religion is monotheistic, emphasizing monogamous family life, obedience to government authority, personal honesty and cleanliness. Bahai schools and media programs are flourishing.
Baha’u'llah originally went by the name Mirza Hoseyn, a Shi’ite Muslim. Hoseyn aligned himself with the Bab, head of the Babis, a Muslim sect claiming to have privileged knowledge about ultimate truth. The Bab was executed for treason by the Iranian government and Hoseyn was then exiled by orthodox Sunni Muslims.
Hoseyn went to Constantinople (Istanbul). There, in 1867, he declared himself to be the Imam Madhi (“rightly guided leader”), as foretold by the Bab.
Violence ensued and he was banished to Acre, where he developed the contemporary doctrine of Ba’hai: Universal brotherhood and the unity of all religions. Pilgrims from Iran and the USA journeyed to Acre to learn about his teachings.
- Ever Read a Book That Made You Re-think? (pukirahe.wordpress.com)
- Hanging Out With Buddha or Jesus? (pukirahe.wordpress.com)
- What Book Should I Read? (pukirahe.wordpress.com)
- OSU’s Bahá’í Campus Association (osu.uloop.com)
- First Thing You Do on Waking Up? (joyfulwayfarer.wordpress.com)
- Viewpoint: Baha’i Peace Park continues to grow in Muskegon as a place of meditation for all (mlive.com)
- Bahá’í student expelled from Iranian university ‘on grounds of religion’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Cruelty: Intolerance victims (wvgazette.com)
- Nava Na’imi, a Baha’i citizen from Esfahan arrested (zendanianesiasi.wordpress.com)
- Baha’i faithful in area hope Iranian persecution ends (vcstar.com)
The word “church” has different meanings. Architecturally it refers to a building used for public religious worship.
Church also refers to an entire body of religious believers and usually the hierarchically ordained clergy who guide and instruct that body of worshippers.
Wikipedia tells us:
The above meanings may or may not apply to Christian belief. In today’s world, “church” also applies to Buddhism and, in fact, to any government-recognized religious body of believers and their creed.
These assemblies are usually tax exempt so stringent criteria must be met before a public assembly is designated as a church. And follow-up procedures are sometimes necessary to guard against the public being scammed by fraudsters setting up a “church” for the sole purpose of tax evasion.
Most Christian and Buddhist churches have undergone serious divisions, each splinter group claiming they’ve uniquely preserved and, perhaps, elaborated on the true source of their faith.
From the perspective of conventional reasoning all of the truth claims arising from the different churches (and their many divisions) cannot be correct. But also from conventional reasoning it doesn’t follow that all of these claims are necessarily incorrect.
It’s conceivable (if improbable) that one church teaches absolute, perfect truth while others contain no or, perhaps, partial truths. It’s also conceivable that one church is truest (but not absolutely true) while others remain somewhat less true.
Other perspectives suggest that all churches and the truths they proclaim are equally valid and true. This is the “anything goes” perspective we sometimes find among New Age enthusiasts. Interestingly, this perspective is allegedly supported by interior visions and other extraordinary experiences. Most mainstream currents of belief also tend to claim some kind of supernatural authority. However, these various ‘authorities’ usually say something entirely unique. It’s a fallacy to say that all religions teach the same thing. They do not—not when each religion is taken on its own terms, at any rate.
Alternately, some maintain that all churches and the truths they proclaim are bogus.
- Dighton churches to open their doors for holiday tour (tauntongazette.com)
- Will we have church tomorrow? (riverrockchurch.com)
- The Religious Spirit and the Out-of-Church Movement (leavethechurch.me)
- Christianity (earthpages.wordpress.com)
- Erie County churches look beyond collection baskets (goerie.com)
- You: Christians exploring new ways to spread the word (japantimes.co.jp)
- Why Should I Join A Local Church? (larryfarlow.com)
- Where nature worshippers gather (heraldnet.com)
- When a Church Partners with a Public School to Raise Money for a Christian Charity, an Atheist Steps In (patheos.com)
- YOU are the Church! (worthabowedhead.wordpress.com)
The Donatists were a 4th century schismatic group in the North African Church, named after their leader, Donatus. They disputed conventional theologians like St. Augustine and also the authenticity of a certain bishop (Caecillian) whom they said had been consecrated by a traitor to the faith (The traitor apparently had handed over the Bible to Roman persecutors).
The Donatists resorted to violence in their bid to wrest Africa from Roman rule. And they survived until the Arab takeover of North Africa in the 7th and 8th centuries.¹
Theologically, the Donatists believed that a corrupt priest could not effectively administer the sacraments. So apart from their political importance, they raised a theological question which many still wrestle with today:
Can a corrupt priest effectively administer the sacraments?
Not too many contemporary critics of Catholicism are aware that the Church quickly dealt with this question—albeit, in its own way. Basically, the Church forwarded an argument that is now known as ex opere operato (Latin: by the action performed). Among believers, ex opere operato indicates that a sacrament is always effective when administered by a consecrated priest, regardless of the moral condition of his soul at the time.
Some may object by saying that dressing up a theological idea in fancy sounding Latin doesn’t necessarily make it a true idea. On the other hand, if one believes that we’re all born with the taint of original sin and remain imperfect throughout our lives, the ex opere operato argument seems not only reasonable but necessary. That is, if a priest had to be morally spotless to effectively administer the sacraments, would it ever happen?
¹ S. G. F. Brandon (ed.) Dictionary of Comparative Religion, 1971, p. 245.
- Beggars All: Ex Opere Operato baptismal regeneration is not Biblical! (godsphilosoraptor.wordpress.com)
- “The Limits of the Church” by Fr. Georges Florovsky (orthodoxyandheterodoxy.org)
- Nimrod Lives! (kairosinfinite.com)
- “I think I understand how the typical Protestant feels… (insightscoop.typepad.com)
- From the Depths of Despair to Sublime Subsistence (servusfidelis.wordpress.com)
- A Chat with St Augustine (junjunfaithbook.com)
- What should Protestants think about the Catholic sacrament of penance (confession)? (gratefultothedead.wordpress.com)
- New Model For Sacramental Preparation (catechesisinthethirdmillennium.wordpress.com)
- Life in a Sacramental World (fatherstephen.wordpress.com)
- Incarnation and Sacrament (apologus.wordpress.com)
Most religious and mythological traditions attest to the reality of demons. For the most part, demons are regarded as dark, evil spiritual beings whose sole purpose is to wreak havoc on individuals and the world.
In Hinduism, demons appear in the Puranas as Rakshakas (evil beings capable of shape-shifting) and tramp souls. Also in Hinduism the, at one time, god-like asuras of the Vedas devolve into demonic spirit beings which, the mystic Sri Aurobindo says, try to place false and harmful ideas into the minds of impressionable, vulnerable human beings.
In Tibetan Buddhism, immediately after a person dies a priest reads the Tibetan Book of the Dead aloud over the dead body, instructing the departed soul how to avoid different spiritual lights and deceptions that demonic beings use to try to trick the deceased into falling into another earthly incarnation. And Mahayana Buddhism portrays many hells, each presided over by horrific entities
In China demons are thought to be able to inhabit dead bodies and haunt various places, both inside and out.
Demons in China… are capable of animating dead bodies, haunting cemeteries, cross roads, and the homes of relatives. Some live in Hades…others inhabit the air. Many are hungry ghosts, the spirits of those who have had no proper burial or who have no decendants to feed them sacrifices.¹
Traditional Roman Catholicism doesn’t envision the demon in terms of a psychoanalytic, physiological id or Jungian shadow archetype, as is fashionable in some circles today. Instead, traditional Catholicism makes no bones about the belief in demons. The Prayer Against Satan and The Rebellious Angels, published in 1961 by order of H. H. Pope Leo XIII refers to various “spirits of wickedness,” “diabolical legions” and “infernal invaders” that are to be driven away with the help of this solemn prayer.
Contemporary Catholicism, however, is incorporating secular and psychiatric perspectives on demons, but arguably in a clunky manner that seems to conform to ancient and medieval styles of analyzing issues. This shouldn’t be surprising as certain aspects of Catholic theological discourse borrow from Aristotelian and Thomist analytical categories and modes of analysis. And as history suggests, deeply entrenched patterns of thought and practice usually take time to be positively redirected.
In secular society alleged demons are often described as nothing more than a product of the imagination, hallucinations, an arrested or disturbed personality, mutated chromosomes, or the much debated idea of chemical imbalances. Along these lines the Catholic Catechism makes a sharp distinction between “the presence of the Evil One,” on the one hand, and current understandings of mental illness on the other:
The solemn exorcism, called “a major exorcism,” can be performed only by a priest and with the permission of the bishop. The priest must proceed with prudence, strictly observing the rules established by the Church. Exorcism is directed at the expulsion of demons or to the liberation from demonic possession through the spiritual authority which Jesus entrusted to his Church. Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness.²
In contrast to the arguably underdeveloped either/or perspective outlined above, a more productive and responsible approach would intelligently consider different perspectives — physiological, psychological, cultural, transpersonal and spiritual — using as many of the analytical tools that are available to us in the 21st century.
Having said that, we should also keep in mind the very real possibility that God could permit a fundamentally good and ‘well adjusted’ person to be afflicted by evil, as we find, for instance, in the Old Testament Book of Job.
Related Posts » Aliens, Alien Possession Theory, Anathema, Angels, Avesta, Bodhi Tree, Bosch (Hieronymus), Christianity, Discernment, Fallen Angels, Hero, Jinn, Lilith, Madness, Mandala, Michael (St.), Miracles, Occam’s razor, Possession, Psychosis, Rakshakas, Shaman, Spiritual Attack, UFO, Underworld
¹ S. G. F. Brandon, A Dictionary of Comparative Religion, 1971, p. 230.
² Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1673.
- Audio of exorcism performed in Germany, 1976 (NoiseMadeMeDoIt.com)
- Woman Says ‘Exorcist’ Priest Abused Her (courthousenews.com)
- The Religious Demon Thrives Off of Your Investment (pamsheppardpublishing.com)
- Modern Possession (moinarc.wordpress.com)
- As Bad As You Thought?: The Devil Inside (houseofgeekery.com)
- They Don’t Have Enough Problems? Jewish Demonic Possession Returns (reason.com)
- Angels and Demons (probings.wordpress.com)
- Faith, not spinning heads, takes center stage in ‘Exorcist’ play – Articles (wilmingtonfavs.com)
- Clergyman Accused Of Sexually Assaulting Woman During Exorcism Rituals (dreamindemon.com)
- Teen Girl Exorcism Squad: Three Arizona Girls Claim to Cast Out Demons (purestrange.wordpress.com)
Deism is the belief, as exemplified by John Locke, in the reasonableness of Christianity. This belief arose in defense of the idea of God in the face of Newtonian physics.
Deism believes in a creator God while also accepting the importance of natural laws and dismissing the need for organized religion. Also, Deism downplays the element of the miraculous and the idea of divine intervention through grace and spiritual powers within God’s orderly creation.
The theological term “Deist” (a believer in God but not in institutionalized religion) emerged in 17th and 18th century England and France, and is also known as ‘natural religion.’ Most consider the writer Voltaire to be a Deist. And he encyclopedist Diderot characteristically said a Deist is someone who has not lived long enough to become an atheist.
- Pagan Deism: Three Views (the-pagan-perspective.com)
- Deism. Is It Just Polite Atheism? (academyhaven.com)
- The Dangerous Fallacy of Ceremonial Deism (americanhumanist.org)
- Contesting the meaning of moralistic therapeutic deism (johnmeunier.wordpress.com)
- American History–The Hidden Faith Of The Founding Fathers–Deism and Freemasonry–Video (raymondpronk.wordpress.com)
- Mala Corbin on Ceremonial Deism and the Reasonable Religious Outsider (lawprofessors.typepad.com)