INTRODUCTION; faith, asserting instead that all meaningful


                   Faith and reason lead to
same conclusion. He held the view that one must believe inorder to understand. Faith
and reason are both sources of authority upon which beliefs can rest. Reason
fundamentally is understood as the ethics used for inquiring subjects from a
methodological point of view, whether it be good, intellectual, or religious.
Once demonstrated, a proposition or argue is normally understood to be
justified or authoritative.

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 He says, “I do not
understand so that i may believe, but he said i believe in order that i may

Faith and Reason

Traditionally, faith
and reason have each been considered to be sources of justification for
religious belief. Because both can purportedly serve this same epistemic
function, it has been a matter of much interest to philosophers and theologians
how the two are related and thus how the rational agent should treat claims
derived from either source. Some have held that there can be no conflict
between the two—that reason properly employed and faith properly understood
will never produce contradictory or competing claims—whereas others have
maintained that faith and reason can (or even must) be in genuine contention
over certain propositions or methodologies. Those who have taken the latter
view disagree as to whether faith or reason ought to prevail when the two are
in conflict. Kierkegaard, for instance, prioritizes faith even to the point
that it becomes positively irrational, while Locke emphasizes the
reasonableness of faith to such an extent that a religious doctrine’s
irrationality—conflict with itself or with known facts—is a sign that it is
unsound. Other thinkers have theorized that faith and reason each govern their
own separate domains, such that cases of apparent conflict are resolved on the
side of faith when the claim in question is, say, a religious or theological
claim, but resolved on the side of reason when the disputed claim is, for
example, empirical or logical. Some relatively recent philosophers, most notably
the logical positivists, have denied that there is a domain of thought or human
existence rightly governed by faith, asserting instead that all meaningful
statements and ideas are accessible to thorough rational examination. This has
presented a challenge to religious thinkers to explain how an admittedly non rational
or transrational structure of language can hold meaningful cognitive content.

St. Anselm

Like Augustine, Anselm
held that one must love God in order to have knowledge of Him. In the Proslogion,
he argues that “the smoke of our wrongdoing” will prohibit us from
this knowledge. Anselm is most noted, however, for his ontological argument,
presented in his Proslogion. He claimed that it is possible for reason to
affirm that God exists from inferences made from what the understanding can
conceive within its own confines. As such he was a gifted natural theologian.
Like Augustine, Anselm held that the natural theologian seeks not to understand
in order to believe, but to believe in order to understand. This is the basis
for his principle intellectus fidei. Under this conception, reason is not asked
to pass judgment on the content of faith, but to find its meaning and to
discover explanations that enable others to understand its content. But when
reason confronts what is incomprehensible, it remains unshaken since it is
guided by faith’s affirmation of the truth of its own incomprehensible claims.

Anselm, in the
Monologion and Proslogion, presents two quite different methods of relating
faith and reason. One takes as its point of departure the teachings of the
faith, and meditates on their meaning and how they are corroborated by our
experience. The other takes as its point of departure the desire for faith, a
faith that is in some way presupposed by the desire, but is radically
deficient. One might say that faith in Anselm’s works plays two distinct roles,
one negative, and one positive. In the more analytic work, such as the
Monologion, 47 faiths plays a role similar to that of Socrates’ daemon as
mentioned in Plato’s Apology. 48 Socrates says there that his daemon never
tells him what to do, only what not to do. It tells him when he is going wrong.
The role of faith in works like the Monologion and Augustine’s On the Trinity
is similar to this. Along with supplying the revealed teachings for reflection,
faith tells us that these teachings, although they surpass human reason, are
not absurd. We find it puzzling to think of God as one and three, and Christ as
God and man, but these teachings are not contradictions, but matter for
ever-deeper reflection and analysis. Thus, we are not to reject as absurd those
mysteries of faith which we cannot comprehend. The other role, the positive
one, is found in the Proslogion and in Augustine’s Confessions. Here faith as
grace, rather than propositions, is a positive guide, not through providing
conclusions about what is true, good, and beautiful, but by moving us to search
for truth, goodness, and beauty—ultimately, for God. As Anselm says near the
end of the Monlogion, 49 we should focus ourselves on loving God. As God is
infinitely true, good, and beautiful, we must strive with all our might to know
Him. And it is easy to forget to do so. We are constantly distracted by less
important things and by our appetites. To support love’s quest for truth,
goodness, and beauty, we need to hope that we may succeed. And to hope and love
as we should, we must have faith in God. This is not just a commitment to the
truth of propositions; rather, this is a commitment to a person. And it is made
possible by God’s love for us, by the covenant by which He binds himself to us.

At the end of the
Proslogion, Anselm writes: “Lord, by Your Son You command, or rather, counsel
us to ask and you promise that we shall receive so that ‘our joy may be
complete’ John 16:24.”50 Anselm believes that the deep desire we have for God
will bring us to Him, that we shall grow in wisdom, virtue, and love—in short,
that we shall learn to live the life of God through God’s grace. If we would
discover who and what God is, God Himself must be our teacher, whether through
his creation or his grace.


     In conclusion, Anselm passionately endeavoured
to find a way by which his faith could arrive at a satisfying understanding and
awareness of God. This quest was found on trust which became a point of origin
by which he finally sought to know his trust and to see God. Although he used
reason and his rational capacity as a means by which he wanted to arrive at his
goal, he found that the limits of reason prevented him from reaching his end by
himself. Anselm struggle to make logic of how he was to know God if his understanding
was imperfect and the image of God within him corrupted. Although he could
prove God’s existence through the use of reason, it was still not enough to
satisfy his passionate want to see God. In his strivings to see God, he hope to
arrive at an understanding of his faith that would make God real to him and
actualize his faith into a seeing faith. However, only God could illuminate his
vision to see; thus, Anselm was dependent on God’s grace to bring understanding
to his faith. He realized that grace was the essential element by which
understanding was possible. Faith could not successfully seek and find
understanding without grace. With grace, however, he realized that his
understanding would be illuminate so that his faith could notice. Not too
differently than Anselm, we are all faced with the ineffable mystery of knowing
God although our intellectual capacities are far from able to do so. We must
allow our faith to seek understanding and hunger for the sight of God as Anselm
did. However, since our capacities in the end are not able to bring God into
focus successfully, it is ultimately God’s grace which illuminates our understanding
and allows us to see what we could not see before. When our faith truly seeks
understanding and we begin to reflect on and analyze our faith, just as with
Augustine and Anselm, we realize that it is only by God’s grace that our faith
can be actualized. Faith seeking understanding is a process that involves one’s
entire being – loving God with one’s entire soul, mind, and strength. Although
our best efforts still do not give us clear vision of God, our limitations do not
remove our obligation to seek God fully. Ultimately, as beings who are seeking
to give understanding to faith, the importance of God’s grace becomes
paramount, since it is only by his grace that we can come to see and understand.
Thus, our faith must seek understanding, not that it might believe, but that,
in believe, we might come to understand and to see the God of our belief.


J. Hopkins, A Companion
to the Study of St. Anselm. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1972.

Brian Davies and Brian
Leftow, editors, “Anselm on Faith and Reason,” Cambridge, England: Cambridge
University Press, 2004.


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