This is the third in a set of responses to Philosophy for Believers. Links to all responses can be found in the introductory post to the series, along with a schedule of future posts.
As I get older, I grow increasingly fascinated with the question of how one arrives where one does in terms of understanding one’s faith. In looking back over my life, I realize, as I have written elsewhere, that I was strongly influenced by a theological system that was built upon a philosophical foundation that emphasized the compatibility of faith and human reason. It is this background that I bring to this question and to the reading of Dr. Vick’s comprehensive overview.
As I have come to see things, faith does not exist outside of reason. In other words, for faith to be faith, it need not be unreasonable. Intelligent, rational beings can accept scientific findings and theories, including that of evolution, and be able to posit a strong faith in both the presence and the current activity of the divine.
At the same time, faith does not require proof. While faith is not unreasonable, it does not depend on being proven. At the risk of jumping too far ahead in the argument to Aquinas, it must be noted that even Aquinas’ five ‘proofs’, in my view, point the evidence in the direction of God yet do not contain within them the absolute proof that would come from a direct manifestation of the divine in the present moment.
Thus to Fred, I would say with Kierkegaard that for faith to be faith, there has to be the element of leap. I would also say that the leap is not only not unreasonable, but, to the contrary, is, in fact, quite reasonable. Thomistic claims of unmoved mover, first cause and the like make reasonable sense. In asserting these arguments, one makes use of one’s mind to determine the validity of a claim for God. Yet the conclusion, while making sense, does not, as I see it, constitute absolute proof.
With respect to Frederica, we are told that she believes that she can’t prove God’s existence. We are also told that she does not believe that you have to prove God’s existence to believe. It seems that Frederica, if she were to believe in God, would be more open to an experiential understanding of the divine, i.e. something that might move her spiritually and touch her heart. That experiential sense of the divine is very powerful in many people and has been in the history of religion.
When all is said and done, the bottom line for me is that for faith to be faith, it has to entail FAITH. In other words, when it comes to the interplay of divine and human, there is so much that we simply do not know. The not knowing does not negate the possibility or value of believing. It remains a necessary safeguard into thinking that we actually know more than we do, one of the great dangers in the history of religion!