Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Faith & Reason

Since I used Augustine's theory of Just War in a previous post, I've had several people ask me more about him. So, I thought it might be a good thing to spend some time exploring who he was and why his thoughts continue to have such a lasting impact on Christians centuries later.


Augustine was primarily concerned with figuring out how faith and reason go together. To illustrate this, imagine you take the same bus every day to work or school. As you run to the bus stop in the morning, do you ever stop to think that the bus you're about to board might not take you where you want to go?

Probably not.


It's probably because that bus takes you where you want to go every day. If it takes you to the same place every day, you have a good reason to believe it will take you there today, right? You've read the bus schedule. You know the bus numbers. You see the bus number, and the schedule tells you that this bus number goes to your destination. You've got reasons.

Still, you can't prove that when you're getting on the bus, can you? It takes some amount of faith that this particular bus will take you to that particular place on this particular day.

Faith is believing that something is true -- even though you can't be absolutely certain that it is true. Every religion involves a measure of faith since religious truth is not the kind of truth that can be "proven" like a math equation can be "proven". Religious truth is not like scientific truth -- it cannot be experimented with in a laboratory.

However, faith is usually based on some evidence. Most of us have been convinced by some kind of "proof" before we really put the full weight of our hopes and desires in a religious system.

A lot of people prefer "reason" to "faith" because reason seems certain and faith seems vague. Everyone, though, has to act in faith every day:

When you step onto a bus, it's an act of faith.

When you tell a friend a secret, you have faith that they'll keep it.

When you step on your brakes, you have faith that your car will stop.

You may have plenty of good reasons to back up your faith, but you still have to have faith. In your daily life, faith and reason go together. But which comes first? Is there a proper sequence? That's part of what Augustine spent his life trying to figure out.