Faith before reason

  • Sumo

There is a simple way to see that faith comes before reason.

We universally hate being lied to.

That probably requires some explanation, I accept, but it captures all that I will say.

Firstly, though, why bother thinking about this? It’s because there’s a prominent line of thought that places an absolute divide between faith and reason. ‘My total authority is reason, I have no place for faith.’ It’s a claim that any faith is always irrational.

This is – oh, the irony! – a creedal position. It is propounded as an unchallengeable tenet that must be believed.

(I do not think this position is held widely, but it is held loudly. The faith-reason dichotomy has some devoted and insistent public defenders. Plenty of people who opt not to hold the Christian faith, however, know that 100% of people exercise faith.)

This post is not to argue that we all have faith before reason, but to illustrate it, So, again, this is the illustration: We universally hate being lied to.

A lie hurts, profoundly. To lie is to speak a word, and break it. The liar makes a promise: ‘I will do this’, ‘This is true’, etc. Every promise is – at the same time – an invitation to faith. ‘Trust me!’ And we do exercise faith: we trust, and our trust is betrayed.

Now, what has this to do with reason? It shows reason to be secondary.

Reason tells me that lies are everywhere and from all people. Men and women, young and old, every culture … we are liars. Could anyone disagree? If reason were primary, we should be able to stop lies affecting us. Logic would change us to expect lies and simply treat them with equanimity. ‘Oh, a lie – yes, that makes sense and has no personal effect on me.’

But instead, our strong faith continues. We believe that words should mean something. We trust that a promise will be kept. We rely on information from other people. We cannot shake our faith – faith is a bedrock reality of human life. And it’s a good bedrock!

Faith is not against reason. But faith is before reason.