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The problem of the relation between faith and reason remains a key concern within theology. The reason lays primarily in the fact that faith and reason can exist in a consistent harmony. Thus, the existence of God is the basis of this consensus. As evidenced by the general theological definitions of faith and reason, the former is a person’s ability to comprehend God while the latter is the human ability to comprehend God and the world.
In the context of explanation of the role of reason within theology, it is important to mention that religious epistemology is mainly aimed at the comprehension of God. The object of religious knowledge in monotheistic religions, such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, is God who manifests Himself as the Subject, the Personality (Kelly 13). Consequently, the act of religious study or the act of faith has a dialogical character. However, religion performs an ideological function and forms a coherent and complete picture of the world. Therefore, it is necessary to explain this world in any way. This question is the primacy of reason.
Theology, just like mythology, does not reproduce the knowledge in a systematic form. It does not perform the functions of making sense of objective knowledge that bears a universal, holistic, and evidence-based character. Thus, the main goal of this paper is to summarize the main research thoughts about the role of reason within theology and try to clarify the reasons of helplessness of the human mind in the matter of proving the existence of God and understanding of the mysteries of faith.
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Researchers’ Reviews of Reason Within Theology
In the materialistic culture of the 21st century, the theme of the relation between faith and reason is the problem of overcoming all obstacles in the movement to change the world and to find effective ways to know it. In this way, religion is regarded as the form of an obstacle of deterring mind progression. Thus, Martin Albl argues that reason is an important measure for determining the reliability of knowledge obtained from two other sources (54). According to him, there exist two main sources in the study of theology and acquiring religious knowledge, one of which is reason and the second one is tradition (Albl 54). Consequently, the mind is not only a source of religious knowledge but also that of general knowledge as well as knowledge of morality.
Certainly, the question about the understanding of the mysteries of faith is primarily a matter of the existence of God. Nevertheless, for an unbeliever, reason can bring indirect evidence for the existence of God. However, many researchers do not support the so-called ontological proof of God’s existence. Mueller believes that humans have the idea of God as the idea of absolute perfection. Nevertheless, absolute perfection is impossible without existence. Therefore, God must exist (Mueller 47). Consequently, faith and reason should interact in such a way that the mind, through its possibilities, must put faith in the arguments of its correctness.
The type of research that will be used in this study is the empirical-analytical group of approaches to the analysis of several published theological works about the relation between reason and faith. These works form the basis for formulating inferences about the understanding of the mysteries of faith.
The Role of Reason within Theology
Contemporary people are skeptical of faith because they are used to defining all facts only by the arguments of reason that requires these arguments. Clement of Alexandria was one of the first researchers who addressed the problem of faith and reason. He drew attention to the fact that it was impossible to prove everything because people took a position on faith. They take the fact that truth can be known, that truth exists, and that truth needs to prove (Balentine 61). Сertainly, faith presupposes the existence of indefinable origin, such as life, good, wisdom, and love, as well as the transformation of the whole human being, realizing their contact with God (Balentine 65). In this sense, the mind goes into voluntary slavery to religion.
In Christianity, a man, as a mortal creature, cannot comprehend the essence of infinite Almighty God. People can know about the existence of God based on the evidence of nature or based on the divine energies, present in the world, but they will never comprehend the essence of God. Thus, Christianity always leaves a place for mystery. God is fundamentally different from this created world, the laws of logic do not affect God, and it is possible only to believe in Him. Thus, many Christian theologians insist on the priority of faith over reason, considering that all information received from knowledge of nature cannot be compared to the person’s belief that defies logical justification.
The peculiarities of reason are determined by the direct emotional shape of people’ attitudes to the force ruling over them. They are more subject to faith than to reason, but the role of reason is not diminished. According to Christian religion, people are created in the likeness of God, so they are reasonable and free (Balentine 29). Many Christian theologians, when dealing with the problem of the relation between faith and reason, stood on the priority of faith but argued that the reason had to bring to a certain point (knowing nature) where the person no longer needed it (Balentine 41). However, it is necessary to distinguish the reason driven by faith, whose purpose is to seek God, from the self-sufficient reason that can only be a tool of theology as it captures faith’ prescriptions.
As such, faith is an indispensable source of knowledge more often than the reflexive processing of direct empirical information. People would rather believe in some information about the surrounding than check its validity. Moreover, people believe not just in individual facts but also in the entirety of patterns among them. The volume of information, accepted on faith, is so large that nobody is able to recall even a small part of what they have to believe (Mueller 68). Thus, believers include the most skeptical scientists who even in their scientific picture of the world take for granted the information, citing authoritative academic convention of their time. In such a situation, underestimating the value of faith as a source of knowledge and neglecting faith is unwise. At least, people should recognize permanent dependence on the forced belief in constantly coming information.
There are two extremes to be avoided in the discussion of understanding of the mysteries of faith: the only use of reason and the only use of faith. It is necessary to distinguish faith and reason, but never divide one from the other (Mueller 76). Thus, faith is primarily the action of intelligence and will, while reason is mainly the action of the intellect. According to this view, the object of faith produces evidence, for example, through reliable evidence, the relationship between cause and effect, direct experience, etc. (Mueller 79).
At the same time, evidence points to an object of faith, whether it is the unity of the Church, the existence of God, the divinity of Christ, etc. This evidence informs that reason makes a volitional commitment not only possible but also rational (Kelly 83). Thus, faith is a volitional commitment of an informed reason that turns it into original, identifying faith with something dependent.
However, people must not forget that the Revelation is replete with mysteries. In this case, only faith enables one to penetrate the meaning of mystery and make it available to reason. It means that believers fully recognize the truth of what is revealed to them because God is the guarantor of truth (Kelly 92). This truth in the context of some particular interpersonal relationships encourages the reason to accept it and to recognize its deeper meaning. Thus, the Church has always considered the act of trust to God as the first choice that concerns all people personality. Reason and will maximally reveal their spiritual nature to give people an opportunity to commit the action that most fully expressed their freedom.
There are also signs contained in the Revelation that help reason in seeking for the realization of mystery. They enable a deeper understanding of truth and allow reason to plunge into mystery (Balentine 52). Thus, faith is necessary not to deprive the mind of autonomy or limit its field of activity but to explain that God exists in human’s fate. Consequently, there is no reason for the rivalry between faith and reason; they complement one another and have the area where they are carried out.
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In conclusion it should be mentioned that the role of reason within theology is one of the most important challenges today because this issue has a fundamental nature. This paper is devoted to the study of the balance between faith and reason, the rational faith. Therefore, it is necessary to make some specific conceptual conclusions. The desire of the human reason of understanding of the mysteries of faith is an essential characteristic of a person. Reason is one of the means to the knowledge of the world and the Creator in so far as He makes Himself known to people and it is manifested in this world by His actions. Faith is one of the essential ways of knowing reality, without which the existence of man would be impossible. If there is a reality that can and should be known only by pure reason or only by sensory experience, there is also a reality that can and should be known only by faith. It is important to distinguish between faith itself and faith in God representing the conscious and free force of the entire human personality, in which all its properties, including reason, will, and feeling, participates.