Reasoning our way to faith

Being Jewish, I can’t reach Patrick’s ultimate conclusion that “Jesus is the answer,”* but I sure can agree with everything else in his post. He explains why we must support the Pope’s thesis that reason and religion have to take a role in public debate today because our enemies, using hatred and irrationality, are placing religion in the forefront of world politics:

I bring all this up because theology matters, and never more so than today, when a suave despot can pray openly before delegates at the United Nations for the return of the “Twelth Imam” while doing everything possible to hasten that return, which (oddly) seems to depend at least in part on whether the Iranian government can enrich uranium.

With rhetoric about “infidels” flying around and a so-called “Islamic Bomb” on the horizon, conversation about God can’t be relegated to dorm rooms, coffee shops, and pulpits. Americans United for the Separation of Church and State probably wishes that we all had ruby-crusted slippers and a ticket back to some mythical place where Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation” letter to the Danbury, Connecticut Baptists tells them to do whatever it is they do behind closed doors far away. Sadly for that organization, all President Jefferson actually did was reassure the Baptists of his time that the First Amendment kept the federal government from establishing a national church. As Mark Levin has pointed out, two days after writing to the Danbury Baptists, Jefferson attended church services held in the House of Representatives.

In other words: faith in the public square? No problem. In fact, it’s a good idea, as more than a few of the Founding Fathers said. But now we must sort through mutually incompatible statements of faith while we strive for peace. Over against the Christian notion of faith and reason as analagous to “two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth,” Fr. Schall characterizes the Islamic notion of God as making reason superflous, because God is pure will. I don’t know whether that summary (which Ryan Anderson echoes at First Things) is correct, but it certainly squares with what I’ve read elsewhere. Islam is big on divine sovereignty, and apparently its conception of divine sovereignty works to the exclusion of all else, which is why Allah is not “bound” to avoid even self-contradiction.

You can, and should, read the rest here.

You may also want to read Stephen Carter’s still timely book, The Culture of Disbelief, which is about the dangers of removing religion entirely from the public square.


* I do know that, if Jesus is indeed the answer, I’ll have some fancy footwork to do at the end of days. I can only hope that C.S. Lewis was correct in the theology he spelled out in The Last Battle to the effect that those who embrace the humane, moral tenets of a legitimate religion, and live a good life, will still be saved.