Faith Versus Reason

Faith Versus Reason

To have faith is to confess bias.  However, all beliefs are grounded and based on faith, at least initially.  Our very language supports this, “I believe in reason.”  You must have faith in reason before you attempt to use it.  In the end there is a faith element in everything we believe and do, it all begins with faith.  But, in many cases the faith element is tacit, hidden or so small it remains unnoticed.  Sometimes it is referred to by other names such as a hunch, intuition or hypothesis, but however small, it is there.  Faith is the beginning of knowledge.  The affirmation “I believe” is the beginning of all thought.

Some seem to believe the way to true knowledge is by endless questioning and doubting.  However, this is a belief that in itself requires faith.  Should we doubt everything except our doubts?  Now, do not get me wrong, there is a place in our thought process for doubting, but doubting cannot be the beginning, goal or the end.  It must lead to faith, for it is faith that leads to truth and action.  For example, the agnostic is frozen between belief and unbelief by their doubting and in turn doubting their doubts, while the atheist believes their doubts, and is going nowhere.  On the other hand the theist believes their beliefs and should be open to the future of truth[1].  If skeptical-ism is taken to its logical conclusion it could lead to a stalled intellectual progress and a cynical view of truth and learning. If you question everything in the end you must question your truth and when your truth is overthrown by doubting “the truth” is not far behind and you are close to being thrown into the abyss of relativism.

Some might reply. what about science and the scientific method?  Do you not need faith in reason to believe in science and the scientific method?  Does not science have to assume (have faith) that nature has her laws for scientist to do science?  I believe this is called the uninformed of nature.[2] This belief cannot be proven because to prove it you would have to believe in it to attempt to prove it. This seems to point to the fact that all human knowledge must begin with faith on some ground (foundation) which is also to accept it by faith.

[1] If skeptical-ism is taken to extremes it can lead to a stalled intellectual progress and a cynical view of learning. There is a tendency for skeptical-ism to lead to radical relativism which guts the meaning of existence and leaves people cynical.

[2] The scientists claim they test everything by the scientific method. However, the scientific method is based on faith in the uniformity of nature and reason. Some have questioned reasoning but I know of none that have questioned the uniformity of nature, for to do so would be to question the whole enterprise of science.

Against Reason, Systems and Idols

Against Reason[1], Systems and Idols

 “Reason is what I believe, those that disagree with me are therefore, unreasonable.” Everyone

  I have noticed that very reasonable and intelligent men differ widely on a large number of issues.  All seem to cling to the idea that their view is reasonable and the other side is unreasonable[2].  This would seem to point to the possibility that the problem may lie in the concept of reason itself.  Of course, to examine reason is like asking an eye to see itself.  When reason looks at reason, it does so through a dirty lens, and this brings us to the place to begin our investigation of reason.

In my contemplation of reason I came up with a number of answers as to why reasonable men disagree.  One of the most obvious is that some men are contentious and simply enjoy fighting and arguing.  Of these men you could say, they love controversy because it gets their intellectual juices flowing and therefore it has become like a drug; they have become addicted to arguing and debating.  They actually enjoy fighting with words and ideas and to them life would be boring without a good fight going on.  These people are often blinded to truth by their love for the fight.  Their real goal is not the truth but to win the argument[3].

The human ego needs to be addressed when discussing reason, for when we use reason to examine reason it is like looking at yourself in a mirror.  However, it is not just any mirror.  It is like the magical mirror of the step mother in Snow White.  The one that hung on the wall and was asked, “Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all?”  Of course, the mirror called reason would be asked who is the smartest of them all.  The egotism of reason is a very subtle form of intellectual pride that hides itself in “a search for the truth.”  A search  for the truth that can lead to intellectual pride, belittling of others and name-calling akin to; they’re stupid, morons, imbeciles, etc.

Moreover, the thing that we call reason is often captured and locked up by the idols or systems we create in our minds.  Reason then becomes a slave to the system, serving and supporting the system.  The explanation for this, is that reason works best when things are concrete, and systems make ideas that should be fluid to become concrete.  This is why many so-called  intellectuals believe that they can capture the truth and put it into their system.  However, the truth is that you cannot capture the truth by any system or ideology, no more than you could capture a great river in a tea-cup. This is the first lesson you should learn in reason 101, i.e. reason has her limits and one of those limits is that she cannot be put into a closed system and still be reason.

Still, another lesson taught by true reason is that reason does not necessarily reign, nor is it the chief element in the state of mind that we humans call intelligence.  In fact, reason that has been captured by a closed system can make you quite miserable and very narrow minded.  True reason is happy to share its place with the imagination, the will and the emotions[4].  In other words, it knows when not to be reasonable.  It knows that it is finite and it is not God.  A lesson that many who fancy themselves as philosophers and intellectuals should learn.

What happens when reason forgets that she is not God? Well, she will attempt to storm the very throne of God and pretend to be God.  In this, she becomes what the ancients called an idol.  We could conclude from this that the building of systems is nothing more than modern man’s building of temples for the idols of the human mind.

When reason alone looks for God, she is not searching for God with a capital G, she really is looking for a god that she can manipulate and place in her system or her temple of idols.  Of course, for some any god that they might find is too finite and small for their system, so they simply make their system the absolute while throwing God out of the temple.  In this, the human mind becomes a workshop for making idols and its greatest tool is the thing we call human reasoning.  If you do not believe me check our history[5].  What you will find is that reason will lead into a system, the system evolves into a movement, as the intellectual wins and captures lesser men in their systems, then the system and movement will harden and become an ideology or a school of philosophy.  In this, the ideology becomes the absolute (idol) that the mass man blindly follows.

Those who work in this factory of idols are the so-called intellectuals among us; mere men who really believe they understand the universe or at the least they pretend to.  They are usually very intelligent, are fast thinkers and talkers that amaze and entertain the mass man with their knowledge.  Many of these intellectuals serve as priest in our temples of human reason (universities).   The chief characteristic of these people is not the level of their intelligence but rather that they are ignorant of their own ignorance and have the ability to dress their systems up as science and convince the masses that it is the truth with a capital T.  Once the systems are formed and made absolute, the priests will call on their slave of reason to justify their systems.

In all this, we see so-called   reasonable men disagree, and reason is demonstrated to be a slave of the human will and all of its rebellious passions.  Surely reason is a dirty lens that darkens as much as it enlightens. Remember that as much evil has been done in the name of reason as by religion. In fact when religion does evil its practitioners say it’s reasonable.

This raises the question, have you been captured by an intellectual, a system or idol?

“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).

[1] I am not against reason, but rather the abusive of reason and exalting it to the place of God.  Reason is the gift of God, but like other gifts from God (sexuality) she is often terribly abused and taken to extremes.

[2] If you want to see a circus go to YouTube and watch the intellectuals argue and debate the issues. All claiming to be reasonable and the other side unreasonable.

[3] “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.  You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Titus 3:9-11).

[4] The best worldview that encompasses these three parts of the human psyche is Christianity.

[5] The truth about intellectual can be seen in Paul Johnson book “Intellectuals”. He concludes his book by saying “What conclusions should be drawn? Readers will judge for themselves. But I think I detect today a certain public skepticism when intellectuals stand up to preach to us, a growing tendency among ordinary people to dispute the right of academies, writer and philosophers, eminent though they may be, to tell us how to behave and conduct our affairs. The belief  seems to be spreading that intellectuals are no wiser as mentors or worthier as exemplars, than the witch doctors or priests of old. I share that skepticism”

A Critique of Pure Reason

A Critique of Pure Reason

“Come now, let us reason together, “says the LORD. “Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool (Isa 1:18).

Let me begin by saying that from a reasonable point of view or from a Christian world view, there is no such thing as pure reason. It is self-evident; that reason is finite and has been polluted by men’s passions and his own finiteness. It has even been shown by computers that mathematics is not as absolute or as perfect as once imagined. As one man has said, “reason is a sick lady, sick with finiteness and sin.”

The awareness of the corruption of reason is so prevalent that science has had to create what is known as the ‘scientific method’ or ‘law’. This would set some limits and critiques on human reasoning, and the human tendency to abuse her. In this, the existence of the scientific method bears witness to the corruption and limits of reason. However, like all laws, the scientific method has its own limits. For example, if taken too rigid it tends to stifle faith and imagination, which are needed for growth in science or any field of study. Of course, lawless people will ignore it and legalistic people will abuse it and misapply it. Even so it remains the best method of keeping people’s thinking reasonable, at least to a degree in science.

I once told a young man that given enough time, reason would chase its own tail. Being a rationalist his reaction was one of amazement mixed with a little anger. I explained to him that when I give a reason for something, I must subsequently give a reason for the reason and then a reason for that reason; this regression would be infinite until I came to the end of reason itself.

We have one of two choices. To follow the regression of reason to the end of reason and accept the nihilism which follows; or follow reason to a first cause. If you are an atheist and denied that the first cause is intelligible, your problem becomes insurmountable, for you would have an irrational force giving birth to rationality .1.  In this, you will inevitably end up denying reason (if you are brave or should I say foolish enough) or making it the first cause and in that you would have made reason a god. Moreover, reason will find its end when it comes up against itself for how can reason explain itself without arguing in circles or chasing its own tail. For example, “I believe in reason, because that is what reason says to believe” or “I believe in reason because my philosophy professor said I should believe in it, and he learned it from Plato, who learned it from reason.”

Are you saying that you do not believe in reason? No, I am simply saying that reason has it limits and be careful not to ask too much of her. She is not infallible and without a proper foundation to reason from, she is like a man trying to ride a wild horse, she can kill you. She is a gift from God and was given as a tool to help us find our way on our journey. If we corrupt her, we do so at our own peril. If we make her into god, we bring the wrath of God upon ourselves. “You shall not have any other gods before you.” We make reason into god when we turn reason into rationalism. The different between reason and rationalism is that reason knows her limits; rationalism does not and in this, rationalism is unreasonable and even stupid.

1.Some have argued that natural selection was the source of reason. However, selection presumes a choice with the options already existing. Therefore, natural selection cannot explain reason. The only out for the naturalist is to claim mutations as the source reason, i.e. a mistake. The question is, can you trust the mind, which is the product of non-directed random mutation? In other words the mutations were not reasonable, but they created reason. Of course, if you are a theist you believe that the deity directs all things as the first cause.