TheRole of reason within Theology
The role and characterization of reason in the scrutiny of the worldand God is variously comprehended in different metaphysical andtheological traditions. However, within the universal theologicalelements, reason is an aid to reflection upon understanding andrevelation. Instead of acting as a source of knowledge by itself,reason acts as an intellectual tool, which organizes people’sideas, thoughts, observations, and questions about the world and God.In this regards, reason is the methodology of material reality andscience while faith is the system of spiritual reality, whichclarifies and enlightens a person’s comprehension of the mental andphysical existences. In most cases, reason reveals ordinary knowledgeand some truths about God (Paul 4). It is imperative to note thatreason is indispensable in theology as it transmits revelation, allowpeople to accept revelation and decide when a revelation hashappened, as well as, allow them to interpret and apply revelation.Thus, it is imperative to scrutinize the role of reason withintheological elements and traditions as it endeavors to deepen itscomprehension of the ambiguities of faith.
Theology as arational discipline
Before analyzingthe importance or the role of reason in spirituality, it isimperative to understand the different opinions on reason amongtheologians. One group argues that reason supports revelation, whichmeans that revelation must be disclosed by reason (supported byProtestant, Anglican, and Catholic theology) while the other groupclaims that reason plays an inconsequential role. However, severalscholars and philosophers have criticized the group claiming thatreason plays a negligible role or acts to inhibit revelation. Kantobserves that people cannot construe the scripture or traditionwithout utilizing reason (Scutt). Theologians do not accepttraditions or scriptures without determining or examining theircoherence or importance (White 109). In understanding the role ofreason within the realms of theology, it is essential to understandthe meaning of theology. Theology simply refers to theos andlogos where theos means God while logos meansthe controlled utilization of reason. This means that theology is thereasonable or cogent scrutiny of the divine. Theology insists thelogical assessment of all reality, as well as, the rigorous anddisciplined utilization of reason (Albl 13). Reason is indispensablein Christian traditions as humans are rational beings. McGrathpostulates that Christian faith is deeply rational thus, it can beexplored and supported by reason (143). This means that reason playsan imperative role in exploring the Christian faith, for example, byadvancing support to the elements and ideas of faith.
When aided by faith, reason divulges certainties about humans and theuniverse that people cannot comprehend or interpret with reasonalone. It is essential to construe that people cannot access thetranscendent through reason alone, but they can access it throughreasonable faith. Through reason, Christians manage to communicatetheir beliefs undoubtedly, guard faith against straying into error orfanaticism, arrange the beliefs into organized forms, and provideanswers to reasonable objections. McGrath posit that theology is notlimited to reason since Christian faith goes beyond reason and allowpeople to access insights and truths of revelation (143). Reasonalone cannot discover these truths or insights hence, it needs faithto divulge truths about God and the universe. However, reason buildsupon what people know through revelation, as well as, allowing themto explore its implications. In itself, reason is an act of faith toassert that people’s thoughts and ideas have any connection toreality at all. Scutt asserts that people detach reason from faithand perceive reason as an exercise in unearthing and enlightenmentwhile they perceive faith as acceptance without unearthing andexperience (1). However, Scutt asserts that these descriptions limitthe meaning or the elements of reason and faith since people canexercise reason through faith and confirm faith through reason (1).This means that reason and faith can work together or interconnect.
Reason as asource of ideas
Wesley positedthat people usually develop their comprehension of God throughtradition, experience, scriptures, and reason (Outler 9). Accordingto him, the scripture is the principal source while reason,tradition, and experience work to help people understand thescripture (Outler 9). For theologians, reason is a foundation fromwhich to progress their ideas about God and the universe (Paul 7).They see it as a reasonable deduction from definite premises or one’sinstinct and feelings where they find their ways to God. For example,through reason St. Anselm advanced the ontological argument for theexistence of God. It is imperative to note that people utilize reasonto advance their theology in diverse ways. Furthermore, they usereason to connect thoughts and concepts they find in the scripture,as well as, complete or advance concepts that are not within thescripture (White 109). It is also essential to note that people usereason to describe and defend their experience and tradition. In thisregards, by using reason, people manage to dismiss certain deductionsthat sound unreasonable and accept conclusions that sound rational.
Since reason andfaith go together, theologians use reason to defend their traditionsand scripture. However, people change their reasoning or reason todefend tradition, experience, and scripture. For example, peoplewill dismiss certain opinions because the deductions disagree withtheir comprehension of God, but they will use the dismissed opinionswhen the deductions agree with their comprehension of God. This meansthat it is difficult to realize when reason informs people’stheology or when theology control their reason (Mueller 378). Humansdeliberate and make decisions based on reason. Through reason, humanbeings weigh evidence, draw inferences, judge falsity and truth, andseek or give clarifications. Theology is a “faith seekingcomprehension,” which means reason plays an imperative role inunderstanding God and drawing ideas on Him.
Reason answerspractical oppositions
Faith rests upon rational foundations, which means that by peoplededuce it entirely through reason. People derive Christian belieffrom reason, which means that through reason people can answer doubtson elements of Christian faith or beliefs. In the words of ThomasAquinas, it is greatly difficult for non-Christian to acceptChristian articles of faith or dialogue on matters of faith (Albl48). Aquinas further posits that doctrinal reason cannot attest thetruth of an article of faith to a non-Christian, but it can answer anon-Christian’s oppositions that an article of faith isunreasonable or illogical. This means that theologians cannot attestthat God is a Trinity, but they can react to oppositions that beliefin the Trinity is illogical by utilizing reason. In this regards,reason acts as a way through which theologians can defend theirbeliefs. Furthermore, faith rests upon infallible reality in whichone cannot validate the contrary of actuality thus, theologians canonly answer arguments against faith rather than demonstrate thearguments. Reason can provide answers to Christian faith as it allowspeople to question their belief.
On the otherhand, theologians can use reason to prepare for faith since throughperception, they can observe the natural world and eventuallyconsider supernatural knowledge. Reason and faith recurrentlyinteract with reason helping people to gain a vibrant comprehensionof their faith and faith guiding their reason to help it perceiverightly (Mueller 377 Paul 7). Reasoning means that a personcritically examines all elements of their faith thus, reason helpsto prepare for faith. People weigh facts and opinions about faith ortruths and then use their reasoning to deduce a credible conclusion,which helps them to define, defend, and understand their faith. It isimperative to note that without reason, it is difficult to supportone’s faith or defend it to non-believers. This means that reasonhelps people to not only understand the mysteries of faith but alsoreact to practical disagreements.
It is imperative to note that some Christian beliefs areinconsistent with reason. This means that Christians use reason tojudge these beliefs. The greatest highlight of reason in judgingreligion is enlightenment rationalism, which supposes that reason isfaultlessly accomplished at telling people all they want to knowabout the universe, God, and themselves. Thus, reason enlightenspeople by dispelling the gloom of Christian conviction and steeringin the splendid light of human reasonableness. However, this does notmean that people fail to recognize the importance of faith, butrather they utilize rationality to develop faith into a supportedelement. It is difficult to support a belief or faith that one doesnot understand, which means that people use reason to evaluate abelief or a faith.
As suggestedthroughout the discussion, reason is an indispensable source oftheology. Theologians usually utilize reason to inform theircomprehension of the universe and God. Furthermore, reason helps themto comprehend why they hold onto their theology, as well as, allowthem to understand how or why other people hold onto their theology.Some people think that reason does not play an important role indeveloping theological elements by claiming that it hindersrevelation. They assert that people can only understand God throughfaith, but this is wrong since reason acts to solidify and supportfaith. Furthermore, through reason, theologians manage to advancetheir faith, as well as, understand its mysteries.
Albl, Martin C. Reason, Faith, and Tradition: Explorations inCatholic Theology. Saint Mary`s Press, 2009. Print.
McGrath, Alister E. Christian theology: An introduction.John Wiley & Sons, 2011. Print.
Mueller, John. Theological Foundations: Concepts and Methods forUnderstanding Christian Faith. Saint Mary’s Press, 2007. Print.
Outler, Albert C. "The Wesleyan quadrilateral in JohnWesley." Wesleyan Theological Journal 20.1(1985): 7-18. Print.
Paul, John. "Encyclical letter, Fides et ratio, of the SupremePontiff John Paul II: To the bishops of the Catholic Church on therelationship between faith and reason." (1999). Print.
Scutt, Marie Zermatt. "Kant on reason and theology."(2006). Web. 17 July 2016 <http://repository.upenn.edu/dissertations/AAI3246235/>.
White, Charles Edward. "What the Holy Spirit Can and Cannot Do:The Ambiguities of Phoebe Palmer’s Theology ofExperience.”." Wesleyan Theological Journal 20.1(1985): 108-121. Print.