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Author Topic: Concerning Faith and Reason  (Read 826 times) Average Rating: 0
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Justin Kissel
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« on: May 09, 2010, 07:11:09 AM »

I know in Orthodoxy that faith is not seen as being opposed to reason. Faith might be said to be the completion or fulfillment of reason, or perhaps a higher  understanding than reason. However, I sometimes come across quotes in the Church Fathers that seem to me to be just downright anti-intellectual. It's hard to know where  the goodness of reason ends and the badness of reason begins. What do you all think? Here are a few quotes from St. John Chrysostom on the subject...

Quote
"Faith is all. If that establishes [it], the heart stands in security. It follows that Faith establishes: consequently reasonings shake. For Faith is contrary to  reasoning." - (Homily 33 on Hebrews)

"There is nothing worse than that man should measure and judge of divine things by human reasonings." - (Homily 2 on Second Timothy)

"Do you see how when one commits spiritual things to his own reasonings, he speaks ridiculously, seems to be trifling, or to be drunken, when he pries into what has been  said beyond what seems good to God, and admits not the submission of faith? ...Let us then, knowing this, not enquire into things relating to God by reasoning, nor bring  heavenly matters under the rule of earthly consequences, nor subject them to the necessity of nature... For nothing causes such dizziness as human reasoning, all whose  words are of earth, and which cannot endure to be enlightened from above. Earthly reasonings are full of mud, and therefore need we streams from heaven, that when the mud  has settled, the clearer portion may rise and mingle with the heavenly lessons; and this comes to pass, when we present an honest soul and an upright life." - (Homily 24  on John)

"Yet even thus Nicodemus did not understand. Nothing is worse than to commit spiritual things to argument; it was this that would not suffer him to suppose anything  sublime and great. This is why we are called faithful, that having left the weakness of human reasonings below, we may ascend to the height of faith, and commit most of  our blessings to her teaching" - (Homily 25 on John)

"when God doeth anything, reasonings are of no use" - (Homily 66 on John)

"Faith is a shield; but wherever there are quibbles, and reasonings, and scrutinizings, then is it no longer a shield, but it impedes us." - (Homily 24 on Ephesians)

"But this is the peculiar work of love; for those who were by themselves, when it has closely cemented and knit them together, it renders solid. And faith, again, does  the same thing; when it allows not reasonings to intrude themselves. For as reasonings divide, and shake loose, so faith causes solidity and compactness. For seeing God  has bestowed upon us benefits surpassing man's reasoning, suitably enough He has brought in faith. It is not possible to be steadfast, when demanding reasons. For behold  all our lofty doctrines, how destitute they are of reasonings, and dependent upon faith alone. God is not anywhere, and is everywhere. What has less reason in it than  this? Each by itself is full of difficulty. For, indeed, He is not in place; nor is there any place in which He is. He was not made, He made not Himself, He never began  to be. What reasoning will receive this, if there be not faith? Does it not seem to be utterly ridiculous, and more endless than a riddle?" - (Homily 5 on Colossians)

"For if the resurrection of Christ, who was according to the flesh, is known by faith, how can the generation of the Word of God be comprehended by reasoning? For the  resurrection is less than the generation. Why? Because of that there have been many examples, but of this none ever; for many dead arose before Christ, though after their  resurrection they died, but no one was ever born of a virgin. If then we must comprehend by faith that which is inferior to the generation according to the flesh, how can  that which is far greater, immeasurably and incomparably greater, be comprehended by reason?" - (Homily 11 on Philippians)

"Mark how he disapproves of questioning. For where faith exists, there is no need of question. Where there is no room for curiosity, questions are superfluous.  Questioning is the subversion of faith. For he that seeks has not yet found. He who questions cannot believe. Therefore it is his advice that we should not be occupied  with questions, since if we question, it is not faith; for faith sets reasoning at rest." - (Homily 1 on First Timothy)

"Thus it is blasphemy to search into divine things by our own reasonings. For what have human reasonings in common with them?" - (Homily 5 on First Timothy)

"For when the soul is fevered with reasonings, and stormy, then it questions, but when it is in a sound state, it does not question, but receives the faith. But from  questionings and strifes of words nothing can be discovered. For when the things which faith only promises are received by an inquisitive spirit, it neither demonstrates  them, nor suffers us to understand them. If one should close his eyes, he would not be able to find anything he sought: or if, again with his eyes open, he should bury  himself, and exclude the sun, he would be unable to find anything, thus seeking. So without faith nothing can be discerned, but contentions must needs arise." - (Homily  17 on First Timothy)

"For where there is not faith, there is not knowledge; when anything springs from our reasonings, it is not knowledge." - Homily 18 on First Timothy

"Why then have these things been said by us? Not idly, but that we may believe also in the Resurrection, and that, when we again wish to apprehend something by our  reasonings, but do not find it, we may not be angry and take offense, but discreetly withdrawing and checking our reasoning, we may take refuge in the power and  skillfulness of God. Knowing these things therefore, let us put a curb upon our reasonings. Let us not transgress our bounds, nor the measures that have been assigned to  our knowledge." - (Homily 7 on First Thessalonians)

"Be then in nothing over-curious, nor demand reasonings. Our [religion] needs faith." - (Homily 19 on Hebrews)

So, I put these questions to you: are all things that are "of faith" beyond the domain of reason? Does this then mean that we cannot use reason to know that there is a God, which God we should worship, etc.?

(Just a note, I put this in Religious Topics rather than Faith Issues in the hopes that our Roman Catholic posters would feel more comfortable putting their two cents in here.)
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« Reply #1 on: May 09, 2010, 01:28:41 PM »

Instead of asking "What is Truth?", I'll ask "What is reason?"
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« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2010, 03:46:14 PM »

Great question. I would say it is similiar to entering God's Kingdom. There is absolutely nothing we can do to earn our way in. We are completely dependent on Christ. Yet we still have an obligation to do whatever we can. We're to receive the sacraments, live holy lives, etc.

I liken the role of reason to our efforts. Human reason, though a gift from God, has absolutely no ability to comprehend God, yet we must use the reason we have to understand God as well as we can. So reason is beyond pale in comparison to faith, but serves a purpose even if only to get us reaching for the impossible.
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« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2010, 09:43:21 PM »

Great question. I would say it is similiar to entering God's Kingdom. There is absolutely nothing we can do to earn our way in. We are completely dependent on Christ. Yet we still have an obligation to do whatever we can. We're to receive the sacraments, live holy lives, etc.

I liken the role of reason to our efforts. Human reason, though a gift from God, has absolutely no ability to comprehend God, yet we must use the reason we have to understand God as well as we can. So reason is beyond pale in comparison to faith, but serves a purpose even if only to get us reaching for the impossible.

Very interesting perspective on reason: reason as a human act, a human work, that helps us in our every-day life, but has no power in itself to save us.
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If you will, you can become all flame.
Extra caritatem nulla salus.
In order to become whole, take the "I" out of "holiness".
सर्वभूतहित
Ἄνω σχῶμεν τὰς καρδίας
"Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is." -- Mohandas Gandhi
Y dduw bo'r diolch.
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« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2010, 11:43:10 PM »

Great question. I would say it is similiar to entering God's Kingdom. There is absolutely nothing we can do to earn our way in. We are completely dependent on Christ. Yet we still have an obligation to do whatever we can. We're to receive the sacraments, live holy lives, etc.

I liken the role of reason to our efforts. Human reason, though a gift from God, has absolutely no ability to comprehend God, yet we must use the reason we have to understand God as well as we can. So reason is beyond pale in comparison to faith, but serves a purpose even if only to get us reaching for the impossible.

Very interesting perspective on reason: reason as a human act, a human work, that helps us in our every-day life, but has no power in itself to save us.


Reason is only good up until it denies what obviously is.
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