Faith and Reason are Incompatible

Or at least, so says Charles Habib Malik in his “A Christian Critique of the University.” He says:

There is the tremendous problem of whether there is essential incompatibility between reason and faith, between knowledge and virtue, between scholarship and the sense of mystery. On the face of it there seems to be such incompatibility. Can we give ourselves totally to Jesus Christ and the life of contemplation and still create intellectually? Aren’t you jarred out of yourself every time you move (or are forcibly interrupted) from the wonderful peace of contemplation even to active love, let alone to the scholarly pursuit? Don’t you feel then that you have landed in a different world altogether, indeed in an antithetical world? Can you serve two masters at the same time—thought and the resurrected Christ? (98)

So there is a problem here; truth and knowledge cannot be alien to Jesus Christ, the Eternal Logos; and yet the more we know scientific and philosophical truth the more we seem to be alienated from him; and the more we cling to him in love the more our intellectual grasp of scientific and philosophical truth appears to suffer, and the less we can converse with the great minds on an equal footing. Mind and spirit appear to be two radically different worlds; they do not understand each other; they cannot communicate, let alone commune, with one another; they are not at ease in the presence of one another; they profoundly disturb one another; each wishes the other did not exist; each hates the sight of the other; each wishes to be left alone. The spirit looks upon the pursuits of the mind as pointless and futile; the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God; and the mind looks down upon the spirit as primitive, ignorant, stupid, pitiful.

I can only say we must trust the mercy and love of Christ even in this impossible situation. But the problem is there and even this trust does not cause it to evaporate. (99-100)

On the surface of it, it sure does feel like he might be on to something. I will also say that I disagree, but I could easily be wrong.

3 responses to “Faith and Reason are Incompatible”

  1. I disagree, too. Any time we try to reconcile a paradox we miss the point. Reason and intellectual pursuits aren’t necessarily at odds with faith.

    I think we sometimes misinterpret the “wisdom of the world.” God ordered reality, and our ability to comprehend it is his wisdom–not the world’s. Worldly wisdom comprises philosophies and attitudes that are not surrendered to God.

  2. Beyond Words:

    I agree. I do not believe for a moment that faith and reason are some polar opposites. Faith and reason, when operating at their best, strengthen and challenge each other.


    Can’t catch me! ;)

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