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Published:October 21st, 2008 17:51 EST
Reasonable Faith

Reasonable Faith

By Scott Bufis

Tillich claims that There is no conflict between the nature of faith and the nature of reason; they are within each other[1] It would then seem possible to reconcile the struggle between faith and reason.  The reconciliation of this struggle comes through reasonable faith, which allows people to still hold that which they are ultimately concerned with but in a reasonable, humane way.  Reasonable faith is the ultimate form of faith because it ensures a faith with direction and responsibility which results in a more peaceful faith.


            To have faith is to believe in that which is not provable, but is it unreasonable to have faith?  Faith is essential because, as beings that cannot possibly prove everything in existence, we must eventually leap to get to that ultimate truth.  And if we must have faith, we must apply reason to that faith to ensure that our faith is productive and not destructive.  To apply reason to faith is to be reasonable with faith; to understand that what one believes may not be completely accurate, and to be accepting and non-violent towards those who believe different.  After all, throughout history people`s faith in religion was one of leading reasons for war. 


            We, however, have reached a point in our human potential that has allowed us to not get bogged-down by unreasonable faith.  We understand reason, logic, and humanity enough to have faith and still be progressive, loving, humane creatures.  We acknowledge this potential that we have, and I believe that we are ready to start applying this reasonable faith to society.  Of course atrocities in the name of faith and religion still occur, and these things will probably continue to occur, but it is in our hands, the hands of those individuals who have a reasonable personal faith, to start making changes for the progression of humanity.  Faiths believing they have the ultimate path to the ultimate Truth largely contributes to the perpetuation of inter-religious violence.


 If religions and faiths were not so threatened by other faiths, this problem could be torn down.  Tearing down this problem would therefore allow those of all different faiths to live harmoniously with one another.  What I am presenting right now is the epitome of reasonable faith.  Let us therefore apply logic and reason to the faith that we have, but still hold faith in things that may not be provable.


            Tillich says that reason gives the tools for recognizing and controlling reality, and faith gives the direction in which this control may be exercised. [2]  This means that reason creates the ability to make a change or to take hold of the world, and faith is the initiative behind the ability.  When one has faith, then he has something in his life that he is ultimately concerned about.  Because he is ultimately concerned about it, he wants to propel that faith as far as it will go.  Reason is the ability to propel that faith by, first, acknowledging that which one is ultimately concerned and, second, by controlling where and how far this faith goes.  We must be cautious, however, because the reason behind faith can become skewed and may lead to violence and hate, as the religious wars in history indicate.


            When we take hold of the idea of reasonable faith, we can see that it is, in fact, possible to reconcile faith and reason.  Reasonable faith allows us to have our own personal faiths, but with reason behind it to ensure that it does not go astray.  Faith is precious yet fragile.  Therefore, we must ponder it with intense care and act on it with reason to make sure that our faith is peaceful and that it attempts to improve humanity.


[1] Paul Tillich, Dynamics of Faith, (New York, NY: HaperCollins, 1957), 88.

[2] Tillich, Dynamics, 86.