Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Faith and Reason: Three Views

Faith and Reason: Three Views edited by Steve Wilkens; with contributions by Craig A. Boyd, Alan G. Padgett and Carl A. Raschke. IVP Academic, 2014. 185 pages. ISBN 978-0-8308-4040-3

What does faith have to do with reason? What does Jerusalem have to do with Athens? This question has been asked repeatedly since Tertullian asked it 1800 years ago. Faith and Reason: Three Views seeks to answer this question through the contributions of three Christian philosophers. Carl A. Raschke, professor of religious studies at the University of Denver defends the "Faith and Philosophy in Tension" or faith against reason view. Alan G. Padgett, professor of systematic theology at Luther seminary defends the faith seeking understanding view. Craig A. Boyd, chair of the core curriculum and general studies at St. Louis University defends the synthesis of faith and reason view. Steve Wilken, professor of philosophy and ethics at Azuza Pacific university is the editor of the book. He does a good job in introducing the different views and showing at the end of the book showing where the authors agree despite their differences. In defending their views, the authors engage some of the leading Western thinkers: Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and Kierkegaard.

The first view presented is the faith and reason in tension view by Raschke. He received his Ph.D from Harvard University. He is the author of The Next Reformation: Why Evangelicals Must Embrace Postmodernity (2004) and other works. He makes a surprising assertion in the first sentence: "Christian Faith and Philosophy for the most part have been in tension for most part have been in tension for most of the last two thousand years" (35). Is this really true? It seems doubtful. Why would he make such an assertion. He follows with: "Ever since early Christianity spread beyond Roman Judea during the first century, the tension between faith and philosophy have remained largely resolved" (35). He seems to using these assertions to make his case of faith against reason. Raschke accuses Aquinas of simply baptizing the thought of Aristotle. This seems to be a distortion of Aquinas's view.

The second essay presented is Padgett's faith seeking understanding view. This view is similar to Boyd's synthesis of faith reason. The main difference, according to Boyd, is that he sees that "reason can play an important role as an antecedent to faith" (15). Padgett's focus is on the relationship between philosophy and theology. He believes in the autonomy of each discipline. He writes, "So far I have been arguing that the character of informal reasoning and the nature of academic disciplines suggest that while some principles of good reason will be found across the disciplines, each tradition works out its own specific standards of good thinking in the quest for truth" (104). He argues that Christian scholarship can be "excellent scholarship" and that Christian theology can learn from other disciplines, but must be allowed to do its own work. This view sees faith as foundational to thinking about the faith. Faith comes first.

The last view presented is the synthesis of faith and reason by Boyd. This might be the strongest essay presented. The author thinks the relationship between faith and reason is similar to the relationship between nature and grace. This idea is that grace perfects nature. It does not destroy it. The author defines his different terms and characterizes three types of reason. Boyd seems to side with the Catholic tradition of Thomas Aquinas about the relationship of faith and reason. I see the biggest difference between Boyd's view and the other is how complete was the fall. The other views seem to accept a total corruption or a total depravity; while, Boyd seems to support the Catholic view of a wounding of nature, but not a complete destruction.

All three authors make a strong case for their view of the relationship of faitha nd reason. This discussion has been going on since Tertullian's famous remarks about what has faith to do with reason. Those interested in this debate will be helped by this book.

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