What is the place of reason in Christianity?
What is the point of, or the reason for, the difference between the premodern notion of “reason” and the modern notion? What are the pluses and minuses of each?
2. How do you think reason is related to :
3. How . Can there be truth without knowledge? Knowledge without certainty? Certainty without proof? Proof without the scientific method? Why or why not?
Should methodology be a first and important question? Why or why not?
Is apologetics more or less appropriate today than in the Middle Ages?
Is Christian apologetics naturally and properly “conservative” or “liberal”?
Why do you think Luther called reason “the Devil’s whore?” Isn’t reason fallen along with the rest of human nature? If so, how can we trust it?
If we need God to validate reason and reason to validate God, how do we escape circular reasoning? Since any proof of God is by definition rational, if God does not validate, what else can? Reason itself? Something subrational? Our brain-computers were programmed either by God (a good spirit), the Devil (a evil spirit) or blind chance (no spirit, no mind); only in the first case are they trustworthy. Doesn’t this lead us straight into circular reasoning?
Why do you suppose Aquinas said that “to impugn human reason is to impugn God?” What are some consequences that follow, if that is believed?
Please forgive me if I take on just a couple of your questions and ask you to narrow down the scope of your questions. Perhaps you can send me one or at most two questions at a time and I can take them on at a reasonable pace.
So, let me respond to one or two.
Why did Luther call reason "The Devil’s whore.?"
This is an interesting question. Luther had two minds with regard to reason. In some contexts he lifted up the role of reason in Christianity and in others he very strongly spoke against it. I believe Luther learned this attitude from Augustine, which is not unreasonable because he was an Augustinian monk. What Luther is taking about when he calls reason "The Devil’s whore." is that ultimately we are saved by faith. We come to God through faith. Faith is the heart of salvation and faith is not arrived at through reason. In fact, those who absolutely require reason as a motivation for any belief or action are not likely to become a Christian. Bottom line, the cross is not reasonable. God’s love for us is not reasonable. Jesus dying for our sins is not logical. We come to know God by faith, not by sight. In this sense, a strict reliance on reason is an enemy of salvation. Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 1:20f. "Where is teh wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe." He continues to imply that the message of the cross is not arrived at by reason and that it is foolishness to the logical man. God did this to shame those who think they are really smart and that they can somehow arrive at a relationship with God through their wisdom. Augustine agreed with Luther on this point. He was very skeptical of using pure reason to appeal to people for salvation.
Having said that, Luther was perfectly comfortable with using reason to help explain to those already saved the rational basis for the nature of God, for Christian theology and the like. He agreed with Thomas Aquinas that what is true must be reasonable (although he would not have taken this as far as Aquinas).
One way to put it in modern terms is that Luther felt that Christian apologetics is more for the saved than the unsaved. He might have been somewhat skeptical of using apologetics as part of our evangelism, but would have wanted believers to have their faith, which was a gift of God from his perspective, bolstered by rational arguments.
I think that Luther has a point here, but that he went over the top when he called reason "The Devil’s whore." My experience is that only a very small percentage of people come to Christ because of Christian evidence. Far more are drawn to Jesus because of God’s love or because of the emotion of the cross or such non-rational things. However, it is my opinion that Luther was over reacting. Satan does use logic and reason and science against Christian faith, but Christians can use this as a tool to help people come to faith as well. I do not think we should abandon reason as a tool only of Satan.
As I referred to above, Thomas Aquinas was more enamored of the role of reason in Christianity. He believed that one could apply Aristotlean logic to Christianity to good effect. I think that Aquinas may have swung the pendulum a bit too far in this direction, but I do agree with the sense of what he is saying to impugn reason is to impugn God. What he is saying is that Christianity is reasonable. One does not have to abandon reason to be a Christian. Christian philosophy is good philosophy. It is the best philosophy. Christian teaching is perfectly well aligned with reality. It is reasonable. Like Luther in his statement that reason is of the devil, I think we could argue that Aquinas is making a somewhat hyperbolic statement about reason, but he is trying to make a rhetorical point. and we should understand what he says in this light.
Now, I am willing to take on some other of your questions, but can you please do me a favor and ask me one or two quesions at a time? Can you narrow your inquiry down a bit so that it is more manageable?
John Oakes, PhD