Review: Faith and Reason: Three Views

Faith and ReasonThe question of the relation of faith and reason is a live question for any Christian seeking to live an integrated life in the world of higher education, where rigorous thought is a necessary part of the pursuit of truth in every discipline. It is also a vital question with regard to the proclamation of the Christian message. Is there a role for reason and apologetics as part of the process of sharing the Christian message with the hope of a person coming to saving faith? Or, is the knowledge of truth in Christianity something which may only be apprehended by grace through faith?

Christians through history have differed on these matters and this book, part of InterVarsity Press’s Spectrum Multiview Book series presents the three major approaches to this question in dialogue with each other. The format for the book is that each of the three approaches is presented in turn with a response by the representatives of the other two approaches.

The three views presented are:

1. Faith and Philosophy in Tension, presented by Carl A. Raschke. This view in brief minimizes the role reason and philosophy have in matters of faith, for which God’s revelation of Himself in his Son and recorded in scripture and believed by faith is sufficient. Pascal, Kierkegaard, some post-modern theologians and those from Lutheran and Anabaptist traditions tend to hold these views.

2. Faith Seeking Understanding, presented by Alan G. Padgett. This view holds that reason is insufficient to lead one to faith but that faith under the illumining work of God can “redeem reason”. Faith does not depend upon nor determine other disciplinary learning but may bring illumination of the ways such things may be pursued to the glory of God. Augustine, Anselm and Calvin would be representatives of this group.

3. The Synthesis of Reason and Faith, presented by Craig A. Boyd. This view considers reason to be an endowment of God not obliterated by the fall which may lead us to truth but by itself, apart from faith cannot save us. This approach is most closely identified with Thomas Aquinas, but also Richard Hooker, John Henry Newman and John Wesley.

The editor, Steve Wilkins provides a helpful overview of the three views and a conclusion that considers the Christian way in which these scholars engage, affirm, and disagree. And this is perhaps the books greatest value. Wilkins points out that all three agree on three important points:

1. They all reject the autonomy of reason, reason unaided by faith,
2. All recognize intellectual capacities as a gift of God, and
3. All affirm that faith has epistemic value, that faith leads to a kind of knowledge inaccessible to reason alone.

I found this discussion most helpful in coming to the realization that these three areas of agreement represent an “orthodox” position on faith and reason. The testimony of the differing positions seem, to me, to serve as healthy correctives to one another that save one another from unhealthy syncretism or excessive emphases on either faith or reason. The arguments and the interchange serve as an important witness and example of faith and reason in practice, and of the ability to disagree agreeably.

We could use more of that!

2 thoughts on “Review: Faith and Reason: Three Views

  1. Pingback: The Month in Reviews: January 2015 « Bob on Books

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