William Hasker in his book Metaphysics – Constructing a World View states “Notoriously, one person’s unchallengeable truth is another’s questionable assumption, and for someone else it may be an outright falsehood.” This quotation encapsulates how a strong or even a critical rationalist may feel with the presentation of my thesis. It consists of four points:
1. Humans do not know the future.
2. Humans make decisions in present time.
3. Human reason cannot conclusively know the future outcome of any decision.
4. Human reason requires a degree of human faith.
What I mean by this is that no decision, no matter how rational or how carefully weighed it may be, is a completely for sure thing. There remains an element of faith involved in all decisions that are or are not made. The faith that reason requires is not a specific faith such as a Christian’s faith, but a general faith. Faith is understood in this thesis to be both cognitive (belief in a set of rules) and volitional (commitment to those set of rules). I will argue that reason and faith are compliments of each other and reason grows out of faith. In this paper, I will underscore the importance of this thesis, defend it against contrary theses, cite possible objections that may arise in my defense, and then give a conclusion.
My thesis incorporates not only the epistemological question concerned with the relationship between faith and reason, but also incorporates questions that are metaphysical and anthropological in nature. My hope in this paper is to present an alternative to the false dichotomy that some have made between faith and reason. I hope to begin by demonstrating that a general/human faith is a prerequisite to natural reason before showing how natural reason can possibly lead to religious faith. The importance of this thesis is to show that faith and reason are not mutually exclusive, but are intimately connected even in non religious matters.
Whether it is taking the giant leap of faith suggested by Kierkegaard or the sending of an unseaworthy vessel by W.K. Clifford, there appears to be no certainty of future outcomes. We may jump, but we do not know for sure if we will make it to the other side. We may chose to send out (or not send out) a ship based on empirical evidence, but we cannot know a choice’s outcome before we first make a choice.  William Clifford presents an argument about a ship owner who sends out a vessel whom the owner believes to be capable of sailing despite clear evidence to the contrary. Clifford goes on to argue that it is “wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.” Clifford’s argument has as many holes in it as does the fictitious ship in his illustration. What makes something right or wrong? Is it based on past outcomes, evidence, reason? What if that fictitious ship owner intended the ship to sink to collect some insurance money or some other devious motive? Is it possible to make a decision that will always have the same outcome? Even if a ball falls on earth at a 9.8 m/s/s, it doesn’t mean it will fall at the same rate on the moon. So, even constants on earth are not the same constants elsewhere in the universe. Also there is the question of sufficient evidence. Who determines that the evidence is sufficient? Some of the greatest scientific breakthroughs in history were proven because of the faith the scientist had in a theory that at one point had “insufficient evidence.” Clifford here is prejudiced against a type of faith, but in the process of demonstrating what he views to be a moral conclusion, he is in fact affirming his own faith in human reason.
John Locke and Thomas Aquinas are classified as strong rationalists, but unlike William Clifford they believed that through careful rational investigation it was possible to make a convincing argument to have religious faith. The problem with the assumption of Locke was that he viewed reason as separate from faith, albeit reason could lead one to faith. What I am suggesting is that rational investigation takes a degree of elementary “human faith” before it can lead on to a religious faith. We have a necessary faith in the principles of nature for instance. We are born with a basic faith that the air we breathe will sustain us and the food we eat will satisfy our bodies. Rational investigation then grows out of this simple and often overlooked faith that as children we took for granted. We find upon rational investigation as adults that the air we breathe has certain compounds in it that are absorbed by our lungs and allow us to bring life giving oxygen to our bodies.
I agree in part with Thomas Aquinas that there “exists a twofold truth concerning the divine being, one to which the inquiry of the human reason can reach, the other which surpasses the whole ability of the human reason.” Where I differ is that the apparent “inquiry of reason” is as dependent upon faith as “that which surpasses the whole ability of human reason.” The former faith is in the natural order and human faculties and the later faith is in a transcendent and personal God, i.e. Yahweh. This is where I would like to make a comment on epistemology. To “know” God is often associated with having information about, to understand an attribute, or understand how a religious system works. These are the limitations of the inquiry of reason. To know by being intimately acquainted with or through personal experience with is a form of knowing God that requires more than just faith in our natural capacities as humans to reason. It requires a faith according to Aquinas’ view and mine – in a transcendent and personal God. The faith of rational inquiry can only lead you to believe in a generic god at best, but hopefully it will be the impetus to help you take Kierkegaard’s leap of faith.
Soren Kierkegaard helps to complete my transition from human faith to human reason to religious faith. Kierkegaard noted that with the knowledge of God there was an objective and a subjective dimension and that was the “contradiction between the infinite passion of the individual’s inwardness and the objective uncertainty.” God cannot be grasped or proven objectively and needs to be experienced subjectively. I agree that “without risk there is no faith,” but do not believe that this risk has to be blind. Our human faith and reason do not prove or justify religious faith, but they do prepare a person for which leap of faith to take. Religious faith requires us to transition from a human faith in ourselves as the subject to God as subject. As our human faith fueled our human reason, so our religious faith fuels our religious reasoning. Religious faith does not require “evidence” to be validated by some unbiased reason, but articulates as clearly as possible their respected doctrine and religious truth.
I am sure there are many shortcomings and objections that have arisen around the defense of my thesis. The first objection could be my differentiation between what I call human faith and religious faith. To this I would refer to the etymology of the words and their usage in the pre-enlightenment world. Faith (pistos) for instance was not a religious term in classical Greek and was used in philosophical discussion in Hellenistic Greek. I would argue that my usage of faith is precise so as to avoid the trap of separating faith from reason. Also it could be critiqued that I am suggesting that it doesn’t matter what one’s faith is, as long as you have faith. If our religious faith is a leap and doesn’t depend on outside validation then where do we jump? Our reasoning capacities allow us to see the “fruit” of followers of religious faiths. We then are compelled by their witness and are drawn to follow them in taking the “leap.” Religious faith is articulated in a reasoning that encapsulates the doctrine and metaphysical truth the particular religion holds to. This is not using an “objective, unbiased rationalism” to pick the best religion. The purpose of religious reasoning should be more concerned with ontology than epistemology.
To conclude I have shown in my thesis defense that there is required based on the uncertainty of future outcomes, a degree of human faith necessary for reason to operate. Rational inquiry is an outgrown from a faith in the natural order – mathematics, sleep, biology, ect. Rational reasoning alone cannot objectively prove religious faith though it does prepare one to expand into a faith that on finds the most compelling. The human faith and reason we naturally possess can only take us as far as a generic god, but to know who the God is requires a movement from the safe and impersonal knowledge about god into a risky and personal acquaintance with God.
William Hasker, Metaphysics: Constructing a World View
(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1983), 20.
 Michael Peterson et al., Reason & Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion, 4th ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 67.
 Ibid., 54-55, 59.
 William Clifford, “The Ethics of Belief,” in Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, 3rd ed., ed. Michael Peterson et al. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 104-109.
 Thomas Aquinas, “The Harmony of Reason and Revelation,” in Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, 3rd ed., ed. Michael Peterson et al. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 93.
 Soren Kierkegaard, “Truth is Subjectivity,” in Philosophy of Religion: Selected Readings, 3rd ed., ed. Michael Peterson et al. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 122.
 Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Little Kittle – Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (electronic version 1.6: W.B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1985), 849.