How Faith and Reason Differ Essay
How Faith and Reason Differ Faith is not tangible: it cannot be held in one’s hand or proven to another with certainty. Faith is an attitude that centers on belief; specifically, the belief that certain tenets (e.g.
the words in the Bible) are beyond reproach. To those who are religious, the proof behind faith is much like the truths mentioned in the United States’ Declaration of Independence: self-evident (Jefferson 612). Reason relies on the tangible: it is, in part, the act of holding a thing up for examination to prove its veracity.
Those who rely on reason need a thing to be concrete (or at the very least, logical) before they can suspend their doubts about its existence and/or accuracy. If not for the need to address reason, why would the authors of the Declaration of Independence have claimed the self-evidence of the truths they then carefully listed? (612). There is a schism between faith and fact that often pits religion against reason when it comes to believability.
The origin of human life is an easy place to begin a dialogue about what is accepted by those who focus on faith versus those who focus on reason. Christians turn to Genesis to understand the origin of human life. They accept without hesitation that all human beings are the direct descendants of Adam and Eve, and they accept without question that whatever needed to occur (e.g. genetic mutation) did occur to ensure that all of the offspring of Adam and Eve were able to reproduce additional healthy humans (Genesis 1:26-27).
Biological issues prevent those who focus on reason from accepting that one male and one female produced children, who then mated and produced more children (all of whom were related), and that this is the origin of all human life. One who uses reason to get at a thing is forced to consider the biological truth that the lack of a larger gene pool would deem this explanation highly unlikely and most probably false (“Family Health”). The facts surrounding creation are contained in the Bible, and in the sense of a thing being written, are tangible—which is more than enough for those who are faithful, but supremely insufficient for those who focus on reason. Closely related to biblical creation is the Fall of Mankind, and again, while those who look to the Bible (i.e. faith) for their truths find easy answers, those who use reason aren’t so sure. The biblical explanation has Eve violating God’s order not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge as she falls victim to the temptation of the serpent (i.e.
the devil). Eve then tempts Adam who also eats from the forbidden fruit, and when God learns of this violation, he punishes his first couple and by extension, all of mankind (Genesis 2-3). The results: human mortality and original sin (“Christian Beliefs”). Those who deal in reason want to know why one mistake led to the semi-permanent ruin of the whole race; it brings to question just how “good” God’s creations were. What God did is akin to a parent flogging a child for taking a cookie out of the cookie jar—the punishment simply does not fit the crime: it defies reason. And really, it was God’s garden; if he blames Eve for being naïve (i.e. falling for the serpent’s lie), shouldn’t he take some responsibility for failing to construct a serpent-proof garden? If God is the almighty, all knowing, all seeing being the religious faithful claim, didn’t he see the serpent thing coming? As for human mortality: simply put, nothing is immortal, and it makes little sense to think that was the “plan.
” If immortality was part of God’s original design, why bother making only two people? Why not make all of them at once; after all, if immortality had been built-in, God would have eventually had to rescind the command to be fruitful and multiply, and that seems like poor planning. Those who deal in faith feel no compunction in responding; their honest, heart-felt response is that each of these things was indeed a part of God’s plan. The question of immortality versus mortality raises a final issue: what was the initial role of Heaven? What was the point of God’s creating Heaven if His plan was that Adam and Eve should populate the Earth with “good” people who followed His rules without question? The faithful view Heaven as a reward for a life lived by God’s rules. They believe that those who fail to worship God, act in the name of God, and ask for forgiveness from God will not be allowed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 7:21). Those who deal in reason want to know why God had a Plan B (i.e.
Heaven) in the first place. They consider the idea that death is final; that there is no next life; that all anyone has is the time she is given on Earth is profoundly humbling and frightening. A mind guided by reason understands that the human tendency to avoid one’s own extinction begs for an alternate, if improbable explanation: Heaven is a means for those who cannot comprehend their own demise to live in less fear of their eventual deaths. Those who are faithful shake their heads and pray for those who use reason, for they “know” on judgment day that the “unfaithful” will learn the painful truth: Heaven is real, and those who looked for “reason” to explain faith won’t be allowed in. There is very little common ground between those who turn to faith as proof and those who require fact to believe the veracity of a thing. The very essence of faith is the unconditional belief in that which isn’t provable; whereas, the very essence of reason is to demand proof of a thing before it can be accepted. The closest thing to common ground that one might find is from the mind of C.
S. Lewis who stated in his work God in the Dock that,Christianity claims to give an account of facts—to tell you what the real universe is like. Its account of the universe may be true, or it may not, and once the question is really before you, then your natural inquisitiveness must make you want to know the answer. If Christianity is untrue, then no honest man will want to believe it, however helpful it might be: if it is true, every honest man will want to believe it, even if it gives him no help at all. (qtd.
in Pfanstiel) Ironically, that which is self-evident (i.e. factual beyond question) is held up by both those driven by faith and those driven by reason as “proof” that a thing is real, and that makes finding concrete answers a complicated thing.Works Cited“Christian Beliefs about Human Nature.
” Religion Facts. 2006. 15 Sept. 2006 <http://www.
religionfacts.com/christianity/beliefs/human.htm>.“Family Health History Campaign: Common Questions.” The Centre for Genetics Education in Sydney, Australia.
11 May 2006. 16 Sept. 2006 <http://www.genetics.
com.au/fhh/ fhhfaq.htm#3>.Holy Bible: King James Version. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995.Jefferson, Thomas.
The Declaration of Independence. Fields of Reading: Motives for Writing. 7th ed. Ed.
Comley, Nancy R., et al. Boston: Bedford, 612-615.
Pfanstiel, Philip. “The Inductive Study of Truth: Man or Rabbit?” The Phillip Pfiles. 15 Sept. 2006 <http://www.philipfiles.com/Articles/Truth-ManOrRabbit.htm>.