Gift horse or Trojan horse?

"For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge..." 2 Peter 1.5


The task of establishing the basis of religious faith has been conceived as the struggle between faith and reason. Does what we believe derive from philosophical reflection or divine revelation? The late mediaeval Italian scholar, Thomas Aquinas, and the 20th century Scottish theologian, TF Torrance, might considered as representing these extremes. Aquinas claimed that revelation embellishes what human being can discern about God ourselves, while Torrance insists on our dependence on God's self revelation.


Accepting this dichotomy might lead, on the one hand, to regarding human intellect will great suspicion: as a dangerous distraction when it comes to faith on account of its inadequacy and therefore its likelihood to lead us away from, rather than towards, the truth about God. On the other hand hand, we might take the view that the insights of human intellectual endeavour provide useful tools for better understanding our faith, such that the exercise brings us closer to God, even if we have to take a few wrong turns and go up a few blind alleys to get there.


In order to give it a fair hearing, it seems only right to consider what some of those tools, or strands, of philosophy are and what they may offer. Metaphysics, for example, is the study of everything beyond our ability to know and define in an empirical way. Logic considers the thought processes we employ in the conduct of our reasoning. Epistemology explores and charts the boundaries of what we can aspire to know. Analysis concerns itself with the nitty gritty of what we mean by the statements we make about faith - and other aspects of being. Then there is the question of culture: to what extend are our religious convictions and behaviour shaped by the environment in which we are raised?

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