Augustine of Hippo
354-430 CE












Thomas Aquinas









Believing and Knowing:
The Interrelations of Faith and Reason

   Pre-theological Primitive and Archaic Traditions
   Historic Religion Produces Theology
Systematic or Doctrinal Theology
   Faith Seeking Understanding
   E.g. #1: God, Evil, and Theodicy
   E.g. #2: Making the Implausible Plausible
Natural Theology
   By Reason Alone
   Proving God's Existence by Reason Alone
   The Argument from Design
   The Argument by Definition and Logic
   The Argument for an Uncaused Cause
   The Philosopher's God
   The God of Natural Theology as Personal
   Symbols of the Divine
Faith and Reason
   The Dangers of Reason
   Faith without Reasoning
   Faith as Reasonable Commitment
   The Tensions of the Human Quest

Most religious people today see a distinct division between faith and reason.  Faith can be a source for answers that reason cannot provide.  Though the two are different, many would argue that their faith is at least partially reasonable. 

Though primitive people certainly wondered about the numinous realities, it was not until the axial age that people began to seek to systematically organize and explain their beliefs and practices.  This attempt to explain religion “from the inside” developed into the discipline of theology in historic traditions.  Theology has the double job of showing the internal coherence of the tradition as well as its rational plausibility 

Systematic theology is the name often given to theology that first presupposes that the religious beliefs of its traditions are true, and then seeks to deepen the understanding of their truth.  This is sometimes called “faith seeking understanding.”  One example in attempt to resolve "the problem of evil," which is to explain how evil can exist in a world controlled by an all-good and all-powerful God.  Each such attempt is called a “theodicy.”  Theology also seeks to bring plausibility to religious beliefs that, considered independently, might seem implausible.

Natural theology seeks to understand religious belief by reason alone.  One of the most important examples of natural theology is the attempt to prove God’s existence.  These proofs have taken three major forms: the argument from design, the ontological argument, and the cosmological argument.

The Argument from Design
This line of reasoning is perhaps the most popular. The extraordinarily complex order of nature, some argue, must be due to an ordering Power.  Western religion further claims this Power must be a conscious intelligent Designer.

The Argument by Definition and Logic
This argument, also known as the “ontological” argument, claims that the definition of a Most Perfect Being alone is enough to prove the existence of God.  Because by definition a Most Perfect Being cannot not exist and cannot temporarily exist, it must exist by "necessity."


The Argument for an Uncaused Cause
As used by Thomas Aquinas, this argues that fundamental facts of the cosmos, its activity, causal order, and even its very existence can only be accounted for if there is an ultimate necessary Cause of everything, which people know as God.


The God of Natural Theology as Personal
Natural Theology argues that God must somehow possess the “personal” traits of consciousness and freedom, albeit in an infinite and incomprehensible (to us) manner.  In addition, natural theology has legitimized symbols of the divine with the realization that the Ultimate exceeds the human grasp.

Some believers are threatened by the work of theologians who analyze religious ideas rationally.  Such logical work can suggest that religious beliefs must live up to standards of reason.  Yet some types of belief ignore standards of reason.  Yet there may also be a hidden logic to some faith; or it may be a reasonable commitment.

The Tensions of the Human Quest
Our ability to reflect and question can frustrate our search for security and stability.

End of notes to Chapter 11

This page last changed Tuesday May 20, 2003

In The Presence of Mystery













Shankara  788-820 CE








Marjorie Suchocki
Claremont Graduate
. Process