Reason and the Reasons of Faith

Reason and the Reasons of Faith
edited by Paul J. Griffiths and Reinhold Hütter

Probably the most famous line from Blaise Pascal’s Pensées claims that “the heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of.” Taken in isolation, this remark can make Pascal sound like a romantic at best, an irrationalist at worst. Actually, his position is much more nuanced, perhaps best expressed in his observation: “If we submit everything to reason, our religion will be left with nothing mysterious or supernatural. If we offend the principles of reason, our religion will be absurd and ridiculous.”

Pascal is mentioned only in passing in this book, but the latter quotation could easily serve as the epigraph to this rich volume of quite remarkable and supremely intelligent essays. The theme of faith and reason may at first seem recondite; but everything depends on it. On the one hand, if God did truly raise Jesus from the dead, then that divine intervention must trump the dictates of reason, or else Christians are, in the words of St. Paul, “of all people the most to be pitied” (1 Cor 15:19). Yet at the same time, Christians hardly want to be caught in the old accusation of believing six impossible things before breakfast.

Consider Thomas Aquinas, who worked so hard to solder together a viable harmony of faith and reason. Whatever the cause, his synthesis fell apart after his death. Nominalism insisted that words are mere tools of convenience, which left reason orphaned also: since words didn’t...

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About the Author

Edward T. Oakes, SJ, is Chester & Margaret Paluch Professor of Theology at University of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, the seminary for the Archdiocese of Chicago.