As I attacked the sweet, sweet powder at the summit of Big Mountain — daring Canada to the north, stalwart Idaho to the west, hauntingly prehistoric Glacier National Park with its wisely sleeping grizzlies to the east, and the Kalispell-Flathead valley laid out like a magic carpet behind me — I worried at a simple question with an impossible answer, namely: Is Faith Reasonable?
What got us going was the provocative Sam-I-Am Harris, whose best-selling The End of Faith was quite explicit in saying: Hell, no! Faith is an abdication of the mind, like a willful astral projection of thought. Modern atheists (like the super-serious Ayn Rand, left) find faith not only irrational but immorally so. “The alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind,” Rand wrote in Atlas Shrugged.
But we’d just spent some considerable time, as you may remember, with our old Benedictine friend Thomas Aquinas, who used his own genius-level reason to meticulously pick apart faith, and so embodied Anselm’s self-definition of faith seeking understanding. Faith came first for pre-moderns; understanding could not contradict the truth, which comes from God, and so it’s up to us to make it work.
As I see it now, those of us who are willing to accept there may be something worth calling God in this world can go two ways:
- Faith is mysterious, beyond words and explanations, more of a feeling, perhaps in the body; we may accept and commit to it but will never really be able to explain it
- Faith is difficult, and may seem irrational, but that doesn’t mean we have to give up on finding logical reasons to believe — we may believe there is good evidence for God (argument from design), believe it’s useful to believe (pragmatists), think we can get at least part-way to God using logic and syllogisms (Aquinas), or convince ourselves God must exist (Descartes, Aristotle)
Put another way, people who think there is a God and have a reason for thinking this do so either because (1) God revealed Itself to her either through the church or scripture or personal experience; or (2) God became a necessary condition to help her understand what she saw and thought.
Put another another way: (1) God finds us; or (2) We find God. The second path is that of reason and faith.