- Thomas C. Oden, Systematic Theology: Volume One: The Living God (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006), 375-404. (Abbreviations at the bottom)
- One should include my “What is Faith” post with this reading.
The Reasoning of Revelation
Does revelation elicit and require its own kind of reasoning? To what extent can the study of God expect to be reasonable? Does faith risk something essential to itself when it tries to be reasonable in the world’s terms?
No study of God is complete without dealing with the limits and resources of human reasoning in God’s presence. Four issues in particular need to be investigated: (1) At what points can or must the inquiry into God appeal to reason? (2) What is meant by reason, and why is radical skepticism finally untenable? (3) Could any disclosure of God occur without reason altogether? (4) Does faith reason in its own unique way?
Must the Study of God Appeal to Reason?
Reason (dialegomai, ratio), as classical Christianity understood it, includes all the capacities of the soul to behold and receive truth (Augustine, Letters CXXXVII, NPNF 1 I, pp. 473-80; cf. Letters 120.1, FC). These include intellectual, emotive, and volitional (thinking, feeling, and willing) aspects of the self, insofar as all these faculties enter into the discernment and interpretation of the truth (Augustine, Con f. IV.1 ff., NPNF 1 I, pp. 89 ff.).
The Participative Premise: Reasoning out of a Community
Christian study of God requires a risk-taking effort to enter into and explore that context in which the relevant data are found. The data of the religious communities cannot be effectively evaluated or even heard if we do not enter into the sphere of that community’s life
its prayer, its confessional memory, and its acts of self-giving love. Those who elect to stand aloof from that worshiping community will have lost the chance to understand it from within. As one cannot undergo psychoanalysis merely by reading books, but only through analysis—so too, theology.
The study of God is not well grasped as an individualistic inquiry apart from a community that seeks to embody and celebrate it. In studying any discipline, one must enter into its language, artifacts, instruments, data bases, symbols, graphs, and diagrams—whatever that particular discipline requires—and live with those resources for a while, taking them seriously. Likewise, a participative element is required in Christian theology (Pss. 95:2; 34:8; Matt. 19:15-22; Acts 11:5; Teresa of Avila, Life I, pp. 17-20; cf. Calvin, Inst. 1.1-3; Bucer, De Regno Christi III, LCC XIX, pp. 200-207; Wesley, WJW V, pp. 185-201; XI, pp. 237-59).
Christian reflection well expounded should be reasonably intelligible to an educated person who is not a Christian (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, ANF I, pp. 194 ff.; Athenagoras, A Plea for the Chr., ANF II, pp. 123-49). But its evidences may not be completely plausible, persuasive, or even meaningful to one who has not made any participative effort, or to one who has not at the very least attentively listened to someone else who has made that integrative effort and lived it out in his or her own daily behavior (Clare of Assisi, Rule, CWS, pp. 209-25; Calvin, Inst. 4.15). It is a psychological axiom that our behavior authenticates our belief system so radically that we trust people’s behavior far more than what they say they believe (James 1:23, 24; Clement, First Epis. IX ff., ANF I, pp. 7 ff.).
Theological reasoning involves at least a tentative sympathy with the data to be understood. That does not suggest an uncritical, naive, gullible acceptance, but rather an attitude of receptive, imaginative open-mindedness that examines facts without hardened, preconceived cynicism. Though Christian teaching does not expect a prior radical commitment to everything the church tradition has said, it does require some capacity for at least tentative openness to Holy Writ and holy tradition, in order to give it a chance to speak its own word, to declare its distinctive self-understanding (Augustine, The Catechising of the Uninstructed, chaps. 5-9, NPNF 1 III, pp. 288-92). Within this framework, the hearer is challenged to approach Christian teaching with a kind of risk-taking willingness, to be dissatisfied with cheap solutions, and to probe the deeper dimensions of internal consistency in the community that lives out of mystery, while seeking to reason as well as possible out of the mystery revealed (Augustine, The Usefulness of Belief, X.23-XVIII.36, LCC VI, pp. 310-18).
Christian teaching seeks to correlate a wide range of data, and therefore overlaps with companion disciplines (Augustine, The Teacher, LCC VI, pp. 69 ff.). It is something like sociology in that it requires complex data gathering and the interpreting of socially shared symbols and experiences. Sociology has methods, insights, and problems that overlap with those of anthropology, history, economics, and political thought (C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination; cf. Tho. Aq., The Division and Methods of the Sciences, Q5, pp. 3-50). One cannot bracket out a small area of data and say: This is the absolute matter, subject, or text of sociology into which no other discipline can enter. The study of God is like this. It searches for proper balance in an extremely wide range of historical, psychological, moral, and religious input (Clement of Alex., Strom. II, ANF II, pp. 347-79). It is a broad-ranging intellectual exercise, yet a specific discipline with a single center—God’s address through Jesus Christ and through Israel, as that word is made relevant to the whole range of other modes of human knowing, feeling, and acting.
Theology is a joyful intellectual task because the source of its task is the source of profoundest joy (Tho. Aq., ST I-II Q2-5). At the moment at which one feels one’s theological endeavors becoming tedious and heavy, one may have forgotten that the center of the effort is the joy of God’s presence—the ground of true happiness, the end of human despair. The God-inquiry furnishes the mind with its most radical challenge: God. It offers an unparalleled opportunity to think consistently, constructively, and fittingly about the One who gives life: this extraordinary, unduplicable being, God, who ultimately enjoys the penultimate goodness of creatures (Gen. 1:18-31).
Empathic Listening for Consistency
How may we weave our way through the fine distinctions that affirm reason as useful gift, yet with appropriate self-limits in the presence of the holiness and power of God?
Systematic theology is a critical discipline devoted to discovering, clarifying, understanding, defending, and extending the truth that is implied in the experience of the Christian community, the truth of God’s self-disclosure as remembered in Scripture and tradition. Responsible discourse about God addresses the thoughtful, self-critical mind as it seeks clarity in understanding God. This inquiry wants to avoid obscurantism or evasion under the guise of piety, yet take seriously the energies of piety’s own modes of reasoning (Anse1m, Concerning Truth, TFE, pp. 91 ff.; cf. Proslog., preface, pp. 103-5).
Christian theology necessarily requires the rational exercise of thinking, because it is by definition reasoned discourse about God, modestly framed in terms of the immeasurability of its Subject (Gregory Nazianzen, Orat. XXVII, First Theol. Or., NPNF 2 VII, pp. 285-88). Seen from the viewpoint of the university or the encyclopedia, theology is a discipline. As such it requires self-critical reasoning about the word of God delivered through Scripture, liturgy, proclamation, and counsel.
Theology has long been suspected of being slightly too simple and far too difficult, a reputation well-earned on both counts. It is only part of the modern quandary concerning theology that much of the language of Christian confession is delivered through premodern cosmologies, prescientific views of the world (Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology, pp. 5 ff.). The conflict of cosmologies is not as deep as the conflict between faith and unfaith in the hearer. Even when clothed in the latest language and symbols of modernity, Christianity with its “Word made flesh” cannot remain completely nonoffensive (Kierke-gaard, Training in Christianity, pp. 79 ff.). Since classical Christianity is a tradition of exegesis, it has from the second and third centuries faced the awkwardness of having had its eternal Word spoken and echoed through various views of the world—dated understandings and misunderstandings of nature, psychology, and society that in turn differ widely from current conceptions of causality, physics, and reality. Christianity’s problem with what we call modernity is one that Christianity has faced many times before with many other “modernities.” Bultmann wrongly imagined that the gulf between modern and premodern consciousness was larger than other gulfs the traditions of exegesis have managed to bridge (EPT I, II, passim). Our contemporary problems of cross-cultural communication do not pile higher than those faced by Athanasius, Augustine, John of Damascus, Thomas Aquinas, or Luther. Each had to struggle with making archaic language and symbol systems accessible to their own “modern” hearers of the fourth, seventh, thirteenth, or sixteenth centuries (cf. Athanasius, whose Festal Letters were mostly written amid massive persecution; Augustine, whose City of God was written amid the collapse of Rome; Gregory the Great, whose Pastoral Care was written amid continuing attacks upon Rome from both the north and the east; John of Damascus, whose Orthodox Faith was written in the then-new Muslim world, etc.).
A major obstacle to the modern hearing of classical Christian reasoning is an inveterate modern chauvinism that assumes that modern consciousness is intrinsically superior to all premodern modes of thinking; conversely, all premodern thinking is assumed to be intrinsically inferior to modern consciousness. That premise is deeply ingrained in the pride of modernity. In order to begin to hear the distinctive reasoning of the classical Christian consensus, that recalcitrant cultural egocentricity must be circumvented. How? The student of God must learn how to enter with historical empathy into archaic, seemingly outmoded, premodern frames of reference, accurately trying to hear what a text or a person is trying to shout as from a distant hill. The fact of distance does not mean that the message is in error.
It remains a problem of reason and will (being willing to reason, and reasonably willing) to learn how to employ empathic imagination to get into another frame of reference, to understand somebody else who thinks with different categories and out of different language frames—chiefly Hebrew, Greek, and Latin but also at various periods Aramaic, Coptic, Arabic, German, French. Classical Christian writers have preached and taught in all these symbol systems and more. They have often transcended their own thought world and embraced other symbol systems in the service of the truth (among the best exemplars: Paul, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Raymond Lull).
In listening for the internal consistency of the deep nuances of classical Christian reasoning, we face complex problems of cross-cultural translation of meanings readily available in one period but almost inaccessible to another. An intellectual effort is required by the serious student of God’s revelation who must take in a wide range of data, listen to strange voices, place text in context, and pray for the guidance of the Spirit (Augustine, On Chr. Doctrine III, NPNF 1 II, pp. 556-73). The task requires rigorous understanding not only of Scripture but also of the tradition that remembers Scripture; in addition it requires the gift of putting all into a personally meaningful, internally cohesive formulation that corresponds to one’s own experiencing process (Augustine, Con f. VI, NPNF 1 I, pp. 89-101; Gregory the Great, Pastoral Care, ACW, passim). All of that requires thinking; Christian faith cannot simply appeal to mystery or refer itself uncritically back to immeasurable divine wisdom.
Scriptural Teaching Concerning Reason
The biblical writers welcomed reason that is open to the evidences of faith. Isaiah appealed to his hearers: “Come now, let us reason together” (1:18, KJV). Prophets such as Amos denounced idolatry and greed for its unreasonable stupidity (Amos 3:14-4:3). It is the fool, not the wise one, who says in his heart, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1; cf. Pss. 53:1; 92:6).
Paul spoke to his Corinthian audience as persons “of good sense” (1 Cor. 10:15, “of discernment,” TCNT). He protested against the opponents of faith as those who were “unreasonable” or “wrongheaded” (2 Thess. 3:2, KJV, NEB). The writer of the letter to Colossians prayed that they might receive from God “all wisdom and spiritual understanding for full insight into his will” (Col. 1:9, 10). Jesus himself reasoned by analogy through parables, and often reasoned from pragmatic evidence.
Biblical faith has been poorly described as contrary to reason or inaccessible to any kind of rational analysis or critical judgment. This has encouraged obscurantism to parade as faith, and fidism to refuse to give or seek any reasons for faith. This stands contrary to the apostolic counsel that believers be prepared at the proper moment to give reasons for the hope that is in them. “Be always ready with your defence whenever you are called to account for the hope that is in you, but make that defence with modesty and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
The early Christian writers followed the biblical assumption that reason was to be utilized positively within appropriate bounds in the discussion of revelation. Athenagoras declared that “natural reason is chiefly and primarily adapted . . . to delight unceasingly in the contemplation of Him who is” (Resurrection of the Dead XXV, ANF II, p. 162). Clement of Alexandria (Strom. VI.12, ANF II, p. 503a) and Origen (Ag. Celsus 1.13, ANF IV, p. 402) argued for the inner affinity of faith and reason. Augustine formulated the relation with precision and wide influence: “If thou hast not understood, said I, believe. For understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that thou mayest understand; since ‘except ye believe, ye shall not understand”‘ (Augustine, On Gospel of John, tractate XXIX, NPNF 1 VII, p. 184, quoting Isa. 7:9; cf. Hooker, Laws of Eccl. Polity 111.8).
Classical Christian exegetes sought to communicate both the importance and the limits of reason. They tried to avoid the rationalist exaggeration that reason is omnicompetent, thereby leaving no role for revelation (Tertullian, Apol. XLVI, XLVII, ANF III, pp. 50-52). They also resisted the opposite exaggeration, that reason is completely undone and incompetent in the presence of the mysteries of religion (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho II, ANF I, p. 195). A balanced, discriminating statement of the proper function of reason in theology requires firm grounding in Scripture and tradition (Clement of Alex., Strom. V.12-14, ANF II, pp. 462-76).
Feelings, passions, and emotive flow cannot substitute for analysis, observation, logical consistency, and historical awareness. Uncritical emotion may mislead, as Amos recognized in the irony of those who without reason “feel secure on the mountains of Samaria” (Amos 6:1, italics added). Modern psychological consciousness often finds it easier to talk about inner feelings than to provide a reasonable analysis of the motives of emotive life. One need not deny the importance of the emotive life in order to affirm the need for reason (Catherine of Genoa, Spiritual Dialogue, CWS, pp. 91 ff.; J. Edwards, On Religious Affections).
The plague of personalistic pietism has been the unconstrained notion that what is really important about God is only “what I feel about it right now.” As a result, what one must finally trust comes down to little more than “gut feelings” and changeable, often self-assertive, emotive states—not the manifestation of God, not Scripture, not the historical experience of a community. Feeling disclosure is a primary objective in the intensive group experience. However useful, that in itself is incomplete; one’s feelings may emerge out of cruelty, deception, or inordinate anxiety, for example. Classical Christian teaching asked for more than feeling-disclosure. It asked for rigorous, critical reflection, within the bounds of humble contrition, concerning the self-disclosure of God and its relevance for everything human.
Classical Christian teaching sought to nurture and assist this capacity for careful analytical reflection to avoid Christians becoming “slaves to passions and pleasures” (Titus 3:3; John Chrysostom, Hom. on Titus V, NPNF 1 XIII, pp. 535-40). Without the constraint of sound moral reasoning, the passions are prone to become “licentious” (2 Pet. 2:18), “ungodly” (Jude 18), “worldly” (Titus 2:12), or “dishonorable” (Rom. 1:26). Even the law, which is good, is prone to awaken “sinful passions,” as Paul knew: “While we lived on the level of our lower nature, the sinful passions evoked by the law worked in our bodies, to bear fruit for death” (Rom. 7:5; cf. Maximus the Confessor, Four Centuries of Charity 111.50-64, ACW 21, pp. 182-85).
Those who have been emotively grasped by the power of the Spirit to recognize the love of the Father through the Son do not merely feel without thinking. They owe it to themselves to seek whatever clarity is possible concerning the consequences of that experience (Tho. Aq., ST I Q78 ff., I, pp. 404 ff.). They may or may not reflect critically upon what inward religious experiences mean and require in such a way as to “conduct themselves wisely toward outsiders” (Col. 4:5, RSV), but those who do engage in such reflection tend to extend and deepen the meaning of the experience itself (Augustine, Conf. XIII, NPNF 1 I, pp. 192 ff.), even though reason seems always prone to overextend itself (111.6, NPNF 1 I, p. 63).
Reason and Certitude
Doubt and the Hunger for Certainty
It is understandable that a finite human being, troubled with the vicissitudes of life, should hunger for certainty in knowledge, or at least for high reliability, to whatever degree is possible. But how does one know? How is it possible to be sure that we know what we think we know? These are perennial questions of epistemology, but in certain crucial times, especially amid sorrow, illness, and death, our usual rational explanations become stretched to their limit. As every pastor knows, these are the very times when theological questions are profoundly asked. These crucial moments make it exceptionally difficult to answer the question, How do we know what we seem to know, or what we seem to know in part? Life constantly undoes our theories of knowing (Luther, Letters of Spiritual Counsel I, II, LCC XVIII, pp. 26-82; for much of what follows, I am indebted to Soren Kierkegaard, Concl. Unsci. Post., Reinhold Niebuhr, NDM, and L. Harold DeWolfe, TLC).
The act of pardon in the Christian service of worship announces, “You are forgiven.” But how does one know one is forgiven? Is there any relative certainty? Classical Christian teaching speaks of a circle of knowing: through the inner assurance of the Holy Spirit and the reliability of Scripture, the divine self-disclosure is knowable. But to what degree is certainty capable of being achieved in such statements? And if so, is it an empirical, or moral, certainty?
Multiple Levels of Reasoning
Christian teaching has long been aware of the difficulty of attaining rational certainty of any sort. All human reason, not theological reason alone, functions under the stubborn limitations of finitude and potential self-deception.
Reason may be defined in a preliminary way as the capacity for internal consistency of argument based on evidence. Both deductive and inductive processes are combined in this definition. Reason can too narrowly be defined in either an abstract, rationalistic, nonexper-iential way or an excessively empirical, experiential way.
Rationalistic Method: Deductive Reasoning
Some rationalistic methods define reason in excessively nonexper-iential, nonsensory, and abstract ways. Descartes wanted to reason by cutting off all sense experiencing, by locking himself up in a stove, blocking all sensory input, so that exclusively on the basis of his own internal reason he could see if he could come to any reliable knowledge (Descartes, Meditations; W. Temple, Nature, Man, and God). Descartes is a prototype of one who wanted to block out the experiential and sensory side of the dialectic of knowing. When he realized that he was doubting, he reasoned: If he could doubt, then he must be thinking, and if he was thinking, then he surely must be. Therefore he came to what he regarded as reliable knowledge (that he existed) on a purely nonsensory basis. In time, that tradition of rationalism (as represented by Descartes, Spinoza, Wolff, and others) easily became overextended, and its claims unqualified and overweening.
Classical Christian reasoning, by contrast, has not characteristically proceeded by discarding sense experience. It wants to use its deductive rational capacity, but only while utilizing to the fullest extent possible the inputs of sense experience, though admittedly there are finite limits to sense experience also. Reason depends, as Thomas Aquinas knew, upon sense perception, even though the senses may err. Thomas’s arguments for the existence of God all began with sense experience, by looking around at the orderly processes of nature, causality, contingency, and language.
No one is consistently able to exact the rigorous tests of sense perception in order to gain knowledge that is familiar to much ordinary daily experiencing. Suppose we are considering the notion of the number 1000 squared. We can in our minds instantly calculate a million in order to find that exact number accurately. But we do not have to stop to count those one million units. If we did we would take the demands for sensory validation too far. We take for granted a reliable structure of interpretation, a (rational) mathematical formula, 1000 x 1000, and trust the reasoning by which we square a number.
Thus in a sense we take it on the authority of those who have worked with mathematics for a long time (and perhaps have even counted those numbers), even though counting may seem absurd if we already know the formula. We often work confidently on the basis of such nonsensory rational ideas without feeling any need to “count” (to validate our reasoning empirically).
Scientific Method: Inductive Reasoning
The experimental method that we find in modern natural and behavioral sciences is based upon careful observation of change under controlled conditions on the basis of sense experience. Vast scientific and historical accomplishments have resulted from this experimental method. Yet this method has been alleged by some modern advocates (e.g., B. F. Skinner, Ivan Pavlov, Karl Popper, A. J. Ayer) to be the only way to know anything. There is little doubt that Christianity can make admirable use of empirical data gathering and scientific experimentation, but they are of limited value when we are talking about the central concerns of Christian teaching: the meaning of history, sin, grace, atonement, and sacramental life. The experimental method is useful when quantifiable objects are measured and changes observed, but God is not a quantifiable object. Christian teaching does not dismiss or deride experimental psychology, sociology, biology, or physics. It has learned much and can learn more from the data of the experimental sciences, natural and behavioral, and does not object to those methodologies per se, where quantifiable objects are being investigated.
These sciences ordinarily seek to isolate a single variable and try to account through some kind of quantifiable data-gathering process for a demonstrable change in that single variable that is repeatable and that can be experimentally reproduced and validated in a laboratory. But can one utilize that method effectively when attempting to speak significantly to the question of the meaning of suffering, the forgiveness of sin, or the overarching purpose of the historical process? The empirical method has limited usefulness in approaching poetry, literary analysis, religious experience, or love, all of which are grasped intuitively by a Gestalt or pattern of looking at personal knowledge that is seldom subject to exhaustive empirical analysis. Christian teaching in particular is looking for a pattern at work in all human history, to grasp the meaning of history (Augustine, CG XVIII, NPNF 1 II, pp. 361 ff.), so empirical method can take one only incompletely toward this understanding.
Hence both these methods that are available to us have positive but limited value: a rationalistic method and an empirical method. Both are needed; both are insufficient to the subject matter of the study of God.
There is another type of reasoning, prevalent primarily in the American tradition, sometimes called pragmatic reasoning, which essentially judges the truth of a thing in terms of its results, practical application, or impact (William James, Pragmatism; Essays on Faith and Morals; C. S. Peirce, Collected Papers, vol. VI, par. 465 ff.). This method of reasoning also has been useful to a certain degree in Christian teaching about God, salvation, and community. For Christian truth hopes also to “work,” to turn into practical acts, to be applied. But what pragmatism tends to neglect is the level of the truth question that lies prior to its practical application. Pragmatism is not so much interested in asking whether a proposition or affirmation is true or false as in asking only whether it has a practical or useful effect of some kind (J. B. Pratt, What Is Pragmatism?). That is not as deep as Christian teaching seeks to go.
Convergence of Plausibility
The method of comprehensive coherence is yet another, more complex, type of classical pastoral reasoning. The search for comprehensive coherence is the attempt to grasp or see as most probably true that proposed solution to a problem which is on the whole supported by the greatest net weight of evidence from all quarters—deductive and inductive reasoning, logic and scientific method, historical reasoning, Scripture, and tradition. It is a centered intuitive act of drawing together of insights or data from widely varied resources and searching for their interrelated implicit meaning or convergence of plausibility (Clementina, Horn. II, ANF VIII, pp. 229, 230).
The knowing of God is at times something like a detective story, but one in which the answer is crying out to be revealed, the clues lying about everywhere. Some of the evidence is circumstantial, some requires careful data gathering; other steps need clear reasoning, faithfulness to credible sources, or sharp intuition. Comprehensive coherence is that kind of reasoning which says that the most adequate explanation of something is the one that brings into focus the most widely varied inputs into a single, cohesive, tentatively meaningful frame of reference. Intuitive reasoning based on facts seeks to ascertain whether the overall evidence is reasonable or not. It differs from strict laboratory or experimental conditions in its breadth, variety, and imaginativeness. Scientific experimentation tries to bracket out these broader intuitions and insights and focus upon a single, manipulatable, objective variable (cf. Anatolius, Fragments from the Books on Arithmetic, ANF VI, pp. 152, 153; Reinhold Niebuhr, NDM I, pp. 18-24, 104 ff.). But the single-variable approach can box the inquirer into a vision that is highly constricted.
The study of God, ironically, is distinguished from empirical science in that it seeks to account for the greatest possible number of variables, rather than a single variable. For this unique study asks about the meaning of history. This is one way of describing the central task of theology: to give a credible account for the meaning of history, creation to consummation, viewed as God’s story (Luke 1:3; cf. 1 Chron. 11:11; 2 Chron. 13:22; Ps. 81:10). To deny a hearing to any kind of data by a prior and arbitrary limitation of method risks losing that part of the truth. Historically, theology has been relatively more willing to investigate speculative hypotheses, eschatology, psychological intuition, paranormal phenomena, and moral conscience than have the behavioral sciences, which have often ruled out such hypotheses.
In pleading for an attitude of openness to evidence, Augustine remarked that “every good and true Christian should understand that wherever he may find truth, it is his Lord’s” (On Chr. Doctrine 11.18, LLA, p. 54). If God is the deepest truth (even though not fully fathomed), wherever the truth appears, there is some evidence of God’s presence (Clement of Alex., Strom. 1.13, ANF II, p. 313). Truth has self-evidencing power (Clementina, Hom. 111.36, ANF VIII, p. 123). So theology can look for evidence anywhere.
However open to any truth one may be, any evidence may be distorted by human egocentricity and finitude, for all our perceptions are finite. We see the world from a very limited perspective. We ourselves have not lived for more than a few decades, yet human beings have lived in cities for at least twelve thousand years. Homo erectus is said to date back three or four million years, and the earth’s history perhaps four and a half billion years. Our sufferings for one another are placed by the historical reasoning of the New Testament in the context of the “purpose of God hidden for ages” (Eph. 3:9; cf. vv. 10-13; Col. 1:26).
The most perplexing problems of epistemology are rooted more fundamentally in the basic dilemma of human existence—human finitude, with freedom to imagine. The fundamental paradox of being a human being is the fact that we live in nature, and are restricted by nature, yet we are capable of self-transcendence, of life in the spirit. We are not explainable to ourselves merely in terms of naturalistic reductionisms, yet we are not transnatural or superpersonal angels or unembodied intelligences. Human existence is by definition a combination of the natural and transnatural, rooted in nature and the causal order, yet with capacity for self-determination and self-transcendence.
This is symbolized in the Christian community by shorthand language: body and soul, or soma and psyche. There is no body/soul dualism, because in Scripture the psycho-somatic interface is kept so taut—the psyche is constantly affected by the body, and the body is nothing (except a corpse) without its living reality, the psyche. The soul is never in history unembodied (not even in the Resurrection!), and the body that lacks soul lacks life. The person (psycho-somatically, paradoxically conceived) is wrapped in causal chains, yet exists as free—finite, yet capable of transcending finitude. Human life is “a sort of connecting link between the visible and invisible natures” (John of Damascus, OF 11.12, NPNF 2 IX, pp. 30, 31).
This boundary location of the perceiver makes perception all the more difficult to fathom. Even though one knows one is perceiving something, one does not always know the depths or limits of the perception. Every human being has the task of holding both sides of that composite together in a meaningful way (Kierkegaard, Sickness unto Death, I.1, pp. 146 ff.).
Epistemology is that troubled inquiry that seeks to understand how we can possibly know anything. It reflects the tension of the larger human problem: finite freedom. Empiricism has inordinately focused upon data gathered by sensory experience. Rationalism has inordinately focused upon the reason that transcends the natural, that which gives order to this natural vitality. The history of philosophy reveals both tendencies in various combinations in various periods (Reinhold Niebuhr, NDM I, pp. 1 ff.). Empiricism may become exaggerated, in the form of a radical skepticism, so as to overemphasize the competency of sense experience. Exaggeration of the power of reasoning may lead into a soft, fuzzy trap of abstract idealism, such as in Hegel. Regardless of which side comes to the fore, the problems of epistemology remain rooted in the fundamental dilemma of being a human being.
Problems and Limits of Radical Skepticism
Dependence of Reason on Experience
This brings us full circle, surprisingly, back to the limits of radical skepticism. Our data are not infallible. This is true even in the natural sphere—for example, when you put a stick in the water and it appears to bend. To account for this, you have to discount the bent appearance of the stick. Our sensory apparatus is always having to make these kinds of adjustments and to apply checks to itself. We are the victims of optical illusions, mirages in the desert, delusions, and dreams. Even when our sensory powers are working under the most favorable conditions, we still see the world from quite a limited perspective.
From critics like Hume we hear doubt cast upon causality itself. We had assumed that we could always rely on the fact that effects are produced by causes, but Hume argued that this is merely a habit of mind—assuming that certain causes are going to elicit certain ef-fects—but that one cannot necessarily infer thereby that what now appear to be ironbound causal laws might not later be viewed with different eyes. Although overstated by Hume, this critique bids us be humble about the competency both of our capacity to reason and our capacity to rely upon sensory input (Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Phil. Works II, pp. 411 ff.).
Moreover, if all claims to have received a revelation from God were to be automatically accepted, fanaticism would be welcomed, and the easy credit would lead to constant bankruptcy. Reason functions to sort out the legitimacy of claims of alleged revelation in the light of whatever one has already learned about God through comprehensive coherence (1 Thess. 5:21; cf. 2 Cor. 11:1-21).
Data received must often be corrected on the basis of subsequent experiences, and those experiences in turn await being corrected by later experiences, only to find that later experiences then have to be again corrected by earlier experiences, and so on (Jer. 5:3). The dilemma deepens: How can we be assured that there are not yet-to-be-discovered important data that will challenge or contradict our currently assumed reliable and constructive knowledge?
The Dependence of Reason on Unproved Postulates
We not only have practical difficulties with establishing sensory evidence in every discrete case, but our reasoning also depends upon assumptions and postulates to which no data-gathering process can appeal, and that no data-gathering process can establish and that no reasoning process can prove without assuming these postulates precisely while the proofs are being attempted (Origen, De Princip., preface, ANF IV, pp. 239-41). Two examples are the intelligibility of nature and the principle of consistency.
One example is the elementary principle of the intelligibility of nature: Any attempt to communicate through language involves the assumption that we are living in an intelligible order. Yet how can one prove that assumption? It remains an axiom, an assumption that lies quietly behind our reasoning (Augustine, Soliloquies II, LCC VI, pp. 41-63).
Another assumption is the principle of consistency: If genuinely contradictory ideas can be true at the same time, then no argument for or against any conclusion has any force. Yet there is no way to establish that principle empirically, and no way to demonstrate it rationally without first depending on it (Anselm, Concerning Truth IX ff., TFE, pp. 107 ff.).
The Impossibility of Radical Skepticism
This takes us to the hypothesis of complete skepticism about knowing anything. The ancient skeptic Carneades asserted that it is impossible to know anything at all. He thought that we must base any truth on premises that we already hold, and that if we attempt to prove the premises, we can only move back toward other premises upon which we base our proof (N. MacColl, The Greek Skeptics, cf. Augustine, On the Profit of Believing, NPNF 1 III, pp. 347 ff.). Thus we are pressed toward a total skepticism.
This is really the humorous conclusion of this chapter’s trajectory thus far: The reason no philosophy has been able to teach or embrace a complete skepticism is that it is impossible to do it. To believe that nothing can be known is to believe that even the meaning of that belief cannot be known. If you believe that you can know nothing, you have to be skeptical also of that belief (Tho. Aq., ST II—II Q60, I, pp. 1448, 1449). So even the most radical skepticism stumbles back with an internal contradiction. Even if you should try to teach the notion that nothing can be known, you are involved in an absurdity, because to teach it would be to assert that you know something. Skepticism is the yielding of the mind to a conviction of the impossibility of certainty, accompanied by a complacency about such a condition. Since skepticism believes that there is no truth, it must itself be classified as a faith in the reliability of ignorance (Pope, Compend. I, p. 48; DeWolfe, TLC, I). This insight helps theology to move through and beyond the morass of skepticism.
Though absolute certainty is not deductively or inductively attainable, complete skepticism is even more logically absurd, and cannot be maintained in practice. It is unreasonable to lay a radical demand upon ourselves, as we proceed theologically, to prove everything empirically, as some scientific and philosophical critics of religion expect. But that is no excuse for not taking as seriously as possible the evidentiary process so as to try to bring into our consciousness as many factors as we possibly can that will appeal to a comprehensively cohesive form of reasoning.
This is why the predominant form of reasoning in Christian theology has been a somewhat different form of reasoning, namely, historical reasoning. The Old Testament view of reasoning about God is historical in scope and method. Yahweh repeatedly refers to himself in distinctively historical terms: “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Exod. 3:15, 16; Mark 12:26) and often rehearses to the Israelites the mighty deed he has done in history (Joshua 24:2-13; Ps. 136).
God meets us not just in our inner thoughts but in history, demonstrating the divine presence and power through events (Deut. 11:1-4; cf. 1 Cor. 2:4). “The Lord is righteous in his acts; he brings justice to all who have been wronged. He taught Moses to know his way and showed the Israelites what he could do. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, long-suffering and forever constant” (Ps. 103:6-8). That the Lord is compassionate and gracious is known by recollecting God’s historical activity (Irenaeus, Ag. Her. V.21, 22, ANF I, pp. 548-51; Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. Lect. VI, NPNF 2 VII, pp. 33-43).
One who wishes to get in touch with God’s demonstration of his justice and mercy in history must look candidly at universal history and learn to reason about all of history from the vantage point of a special history—Israel’s. To know Yahweh at all one must look particularly toward the distinctive ways in which Yahweh has become self-revealed in history. The Hebraic way of reasoning is to tell a story. History telling or narrative is the distinctively Hebraic way of reasoning—a highly complex mode of theo-historical reasoning (Ezra 1:1-4; Neh. 1:1-4; Amos 1:1-5).
Hegel employed a different kind of historical reasoning. He theorized that reason is manifesting itself in historical processes, so that what is going on in history he called Absolute Reason unfolding itself. This historical reason, he argued, displays a recognizable logic that can be seen in every discrete historical unfolding. His effort centered upon seeking to understand the logic of history. The pattern he recognized recurrently was that of a force followed by a counterforce, and then a synthesis made possible by the conflict of those two energies. The same form of reasoning is found in Hegel’s psychology and political thought, epistemology and metaphysics. Everywhere Hegel looked he saw this kind of reasoning in history working itself out in thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Scripture does not argue for this sort of predictable logic, yet Hegel’s fundamental idea (however unbiblically rationalized) is derived from Hebraic historical consciousness. It is a unique type of reasoning—reasoning derived from history, especially the history of God’s mighty deeds (Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel VII, I, pp. 321 ff.; Augustine, CG XVI, NPNF 1 II, pp. 309 ff.; cf. Hegel, Reason in History; Kierkegaard, Concl. Unsci. Post.).
Ordinarily the final meaning of a person’s or nation’s history is only knowable at the end of the story. One cannot write a definitive biography of Gandhi until his life is over. A living person or nation could always take a new turn, and make subsequent choices that would bear upon the meaning of the whole. Suppose the meaning of human history is to become knowable only at its end, as virtually all late-Judaic apocalyptic writers assumed (the Books of Enoch, the Apocalypse of Baruch, and War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness), for apokalypsis refers to the final uncovering of meaning that had been hidden.
Jesus was born into a community saturated with expectations that the end of a grossly distorted history would eventually reveal its meaning, however disastrous the present may be (cf. Daniel, 2 Esdrus, and the Assumption of Moses). Suppose, however, that an event occurs in history that reveals the meaning of the end before the end. This is what happened in Jesus Christ—his incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection, the one mighty deed of God that bestows significance upon all human deeds (Lactantius, Div. Inst. IV.25-30, ANF VII, pp. 126-34).
Supposing that such a revealing event had occurred in history, would it not be necessary that it be followed by a remembering community, one that sought to preserve the meaning of the whole historical process revealed in that event? Would it not be understandable if a community of celebration followed that event that remembered it, shared in it, and proclaimed its meaning to all who would hear? (Methodius, Three Fragments, Hom. on the Cross and Passion of Christ, ANF VI, pp. 399-401).
Such a community has emerged in Christian history, reasoning out of this event, seeking to make it understandable in each new cultural-historical context. Through a gradual process of canonization, the documents witnessing to this event became received as Holy Writ, attested by the Spirit as a reliable point of contact with the originative event through which the meaning of history—God’s Word to humanity—became clarified. Something like this process occurred in the historical Christian community. Each phase of history has required astute historical reasoning (e.g., Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho LXXXII—CXLII, ANF I, pp. 240-70). Each new situation of the church has demanded a modestly revised form of historical reasoning—the recollection of revelatory events amid these particular new historical conditions. Hence, theological reasoning is historical reasoning.
What Purpose Does Reason Serve in the Study of God?
There are five classical explanations of why reason is required in any revelation: Reason is needed to receive the truth, distinguish truth from falsehood, reveal reason’s own limitations by pointing beyond itself, interpret the truth, and transmit it to new generations.
TO RECEIVE REVELATION
A revelation can be made only to a potentially rational being. Stones do not receive revelation. Without reason even the most obvious revelation could not be apprehended or grasped. If God wished to reveal the truth to a stone, it would first be necessary to create in a stone some capacity to understand, or the capacity to reason, in order for it to receive the revelation (Tho. Aq., ST II—II Q2, II, pp. 1179-88; Gamertsfelder, Syst. Theol., p. 126). One must assume in any revelation both the capacity to apprehend truth and the active openness of the mind to the truth offered. Reason helps faith to understand the content of what is to be believed (Augustine, WAS, p. 59).
TO DECIDE WHETHER OR WHEN REVELATION HAS OCCURRED
All alleged revelations cannot be taken seriously. Some are patently spurious, fraudulent, or manipulative claims (Hippolytus, Refutation of all Heresies, VII, ANF V, pp. 100 ff.; Kierkegaard, Authority and Revelation: The Book on Adler). The community has to sort out which self-proclaimed revelations are true and which are not. When a murderer claims that he acted by divine revelation, faith must utilize its rational-analytical capacity to sort out what is alleged to be true through divine revelation, though falsely, as distinguished radically from that which, by a larger process of comprehensive coherence, can be consensually received and understood as truly God’s own revelation (Tho. Aq., SCG 1.3, I, pp. 63 ff.).
Reason is required in order to judge the evidences of religious claims to revelation (Clement of Alex., Strom. VI.7-11, ANF II, pp. 492-502; Wesley, WJW VI, pp. 350-61; Hodge, Syst. Theol. 1.3, pp. 58, 59). The evidence must be fitting to the truth purported. Truth conveyed through history requires historical evidence plausibly set forth. Truths of nature require natural, empirical, scientific evidence. Truths of the moral sphere require moral evidence. The “things of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:5) require the self-evidencing assurance of the Spirit (The Pastor of Hermas, II, comm. 10, 11, ANF II, pp. 26-28). In this way sound reasoning and faith’s response to revelation do not contradict but complement each other.
TO SHOW THE REASONABLENESS OF THAT WHICH REASON ITSELF CANNOT ATTAIN
God forbid that He should hate in us that faculty by which He made us superior to all other living beings. Therefore, we must refuse to believe as not to receive or seek a reason for our belief, since we could not believe at all if we did not have rational souls. So, then, in some points that bear on the doctrine of salvation, which we are not yet able to grasp by reason—but we shall be able to sometimes—let faith precede reason, and let the heart be cleansed by faith so as to receive and bear the great light of reason; this is indeed reasonable. (Letters 120:1, FC)
It is through reason that we may see that reason points beyond itself. It is reasonable that right reason know its own limits. Reason serves faith by pointing both beyond itself and to its own limits (Augustine, Sermons on New Testament Lessons LXXVI, NPNF 1 VI, pp. 481 f.; cf. LXVII, p. 465).
TO INTERPRET AND APPLY REVEALED TRUTH
Even if a community had received divinely revealed truth, and recognized it as such, it must still use reason to discover the implications of this truth amid its historical context, expressed in its own language. Even after we have learned that God is revealed as just and requires justice, we still must ask what that justice means for us and how it is to apply to our particular situation. This requires reason (Tho. Aq., SCG III. 121-22, pp. 141-47; Wakefield, CSCT, pp. 20-22; Gamertsfelder, Syst. Theol., p. 128; DeWolfe, Theol. of a Living Church). It is by reason that the believer learns to utilize analogies in the service of the truth, to make observations from nature and history, and to remove doubts by setting forth reasonable arguments. The teachings of faith are exhibited, clarified, and made rhetorically persuasive by good reasoning (Augustine, Con f. XI.25-31, NPNF 1 II, pp. 172-75).
Reason helps remove objections to belief (Augustine, Letters CII.38, NPNF 11, p. 425).
TO TRANSMIT THE MEANING OF REVELATION
To transmit truth to another, one must employ reasoning. To communicate from one rational mind to another, one must presuppose the rational capacity of both speaker and hearer. Reason is needed if one seeks either to understand or to make understandable the truth of Christian faith. No preaching, teaching, or apologetics can occur without some rational capacity. By reason, faith’s wisdom is correlated with the insights of philosophy, history, political ethics, psychology, and other sciences (Clement of Alex., Strom. IV.18, ANF II, pp. 518-20).
Hence, reason is needed to receive revelation, to distinguish between true and false revelation, to help us to believe what we cannot see, to interpret the truth of revelation in the present, and to transmit revelation to emergent historical situations.
Authorized Prerogatives of Reason
No one can be required to believe absurdities. The mind is God-given and has a responsibility to reject falsity. If a claim of religion requires that which negates or contradicts a previous, duly authenticated revelation of God, it is to be rejected as false religion, and inconsistent with faith’s reasoning. Paul went to great lengths with the Galatians to urge consistency of teaching with the original apostolic teaching: “But if anyone, if we ourselves or an angel from heaven, should preach a gospel at variance with the gospel we preached to you, he shall be held outcast” (Gal. 1:8).
God would be inconsistent as just and good if, holding human freedom responsible for its moral conduct, God provided neither sufficient means for human beings to recognize the moral good nor any evidence of the divine will. If human beings are to be held responsible for themselves, they must have some capacity to know the good, and to recognize their own failure to do good. “How could they invoke one in whom they had no faith?” asked Paul. “And how could they have faith in one they had never heard of?” (Rom. 10:14). Yet unbelief does not arise out of ignorance alone. It arises willfully because “men preferred darkness to light because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19).
The earliest Christians were warned against naiveté: “Do not trust any and every spirit, my friends; test the spirits, to see whether they are from God, for among those who have gone out into the world there are many prophets falsely inspired” (1 John 4:1). Furthermore, a standard of judgment is given: “This is how we may recognize the Spirit of God: every spirit which acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 4:2).
Christian faith concedes to reason what is rightfully its due. God does not reveal himself to irrational, but rational, creatures, capable of distinguishing between true and false evidence. Revelation does not imply faith in the absurd or impossible, or faith based on ignorance. Christian faith opposes anti-intellectual obscurantism as much as it does extreme skepticism. Faith resists a blind fidism that believes without examining the evidence; and a defensive skepticism that believes only its doubt of the credibility of all evidence (Tho. Aq., SCG 1.4-7, pp. 66-75; Wesley, WJW VI, 350 ff.; Hodge, 1.3, pp. 54, 55).
The Tendency of Reason Toward Egocentric Distortion
Although reason is intended to be put to good use, it is prone to distortion. The intended uses of reason have been divided into three categories: First, reason functions as an organic part of faith’s reflection upon itself, as in the right use of logic, grammar, rhetoric, induction, and deduction. It is necessary to use reason, for example, to translate Scripture into various languages (Augustine, On Chr. Doctrine; Justin Martyr, First Apol., ANF I, pp. 159-87). Second, reason has crucial apologetic functions, assisting faith in stating reasons for its conclusions where doubts about it have arisen (Justin Martyr, Hortatory Address to the Greeks, ANF I, pp. 273-90). And third, reason has a polemical use in the correction of error by argument (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Her., ANF V; cf. Gerhard, Loci I, p. 76; cf. DT, pp. 36, 37). None of these functions would be possible without the use and application of rational criticism.
Yet reason since the fall has been blind, proud, vain, wrapped in error and self-deceit (Rom. 1:21; 1 Cor. 3:1; Gal. 4:8; Eph. 4:17, 18). Fallen reason is not able, without grace, to lift itself up to a recognition of the divine mysteries (Matt. 11:27; 1 Cor. 2:14-16). Hence reason may become harnessed for evil as well as good. Reason may be utilized by egocentricity to more profoundly oppose revelation, faith, hope, and love (Rom. 8:6; 1 Cor. 2:11 ff.; 3:18-20; cf. R. Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society). Fallen reason stands in need of repentance, cleansing, and conversion, so that it too might become captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4, 5). Hence, because of its self-deceptions, natural reason unaided by grace is not to be viewed as an adequate rule for judging faith or revelation (Gerhard, Loci II, pp. 362 ff.; cf. DT, p. 34).
The rational capacity of Adam and Eve (symbolic of all humanity) is twisted by pride, anxiety, guilt, and self-assertion. Thus our remarkable rational capacity has become, to some degree, an instrument of sin, guilt, and death. We use reason to promote wrongdoing and to do evil. The biblical notion of distorted, alienated, self-assertive reason has increased the realism of the Christian understanding of humanity. Nonetheless, the right use of reason is thought by most classical exegetes to be useful and necessary—not as a rule of faith, and never as absolute judge of faith, but as an aid to faith’s reflection upon its source and ground. “Theology does not condemn the use of Reason, but its abuse and its affectation of directorship, or its magisterial use, as normative and decisive in divine things” (Quenstedt, TDP I, p. 43, in DT, p. 35).
Whether Faith Has Reasons That Reason Does Not Know Faith
The term faith (pistis) is utilized in the New Testament with several levels of meaning. Faith is
- the recognition through the active life of the Spirit of, “the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1 Kjv)
- an active trust or confidence, as when one asks “in faith, nothing doubting” (en pistei, meden diakrinomenos, James 1:6)
- a belief, trust, and assurance in God’s righteousness in Christ that is active by love and yields the fruit of good works
- the act of believing; for example, when one says, “I believe” (Apostles’ Creed) one is saying “I have faith that . . . “
- a body of truth confessed as necessary for salvation, as in “the faith once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3, Kjv), or the Christian religion for which the believer contends (1 Tim. 6:12)
- reliability, or constancy in fulfilling one’s promises, as when Paul speaks of the “faithfulness of God” (Rom. 3:3)
- trust in the intelligibility of the cosmos that premises scientific inquiry (Ps. 89:1-8)
- obedience, or the obedience of faith, which stands ready to be guided by duly constituted authority (Rom. 16:26)
All these varied shades of meaning cohere, interflow, and coalesce in Christian teaching concerning faith (cf. Ambrose, Of the Chr. Faith, prologue, 1.4; II.Intro.; II.11, 15, NPNF 2 X, pp. 201, 206, 225, 236, 240; Augustine, On Psalms LI, NPNF 1 VIII, p. 195; Luther, Freedom of a Chr., ML, pp. 56-61; TDNT; TDOT). Faith includes the capacity to discern by grace the things of the Spirit, and to trust in the reliability of the divine Word (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. Lect. V, NPNF 2 VII, pp. 29-32). Faith embraces the complementary meanings of the trusting frame of mind that has confidence in Another and the trustworthiness that can be relied upon (Tho. Aq., ST I—II Q1-13, I, pp. 1169-1233; Calvin, Inst. 3.2).
Faith does not occur without grace: “Yes, it was grace [chariti] that saved you, with faith [pisteos] for its instrument” (Eph. 2:8, Knox). When grace enlivens reason, reason is not subverted but empowered. Human reasoning, by grace, appropriates divine truth without ceasing to be human reasoning. When reason discerns the truth God speaks, it does not do so without God’s grace. God cannot be comprehensively grasped by any human reason, but some aspect of God can be grasped by faith’s reasoning which leads not to a false God or an illusion of God, but truly to God insofar as God becomes accessible to human knowing (Basil, Letters, To Amphilochius, CCXXXV, CCXXXVI, NPNF 2 VIII, pp. 274-79).
Since faith is the discernment of spiritual truth, faith is not separable from reasoning, rightly understood. Rather, faith is a way of reasoning out of God’s self-disclosure, assisted by grace. In faith the reasoning is directed to the things of the spirit, rather than to empirical data. Hence it is impossible to have faith without reasoning, or belief without any form of thinking, although our thinking is always inadequate to its infinite Subject. Since faith enlarges human vision, the logic of faith is an enlarged, not a diminished, logic (Tho. Aq., SCG 1.1-9, I, pp. 59-78).
The struggle of Christian teaching against various exaggerated rationalisms is not a struggle against reason but against the misapplication of reason—such as when reason is made the sole judge of revelation, or when reason completely refuses to credit true revelation. There can also be an overdependence upon speculative reasoning, or a distorted technical reason that functions without moral constraints. Hence excessive rationalisms pervert the function of reason and thereby undermine the appropriate service of reason to the study of God. Rationalism can turn into a tight and uncritical dogmatism just as religion can.
Classical Christian writers have sought to show that faith does not conflict with right reason, that there is harmony between revelation’s historical way of reasoning and reason’s respect for all the evidence, and that human reasoning is made more plausible and whole when the premise of historical revelation is received. But Christian reasoning cannot proceed without the assistance of grace and the premise of revelation.
The Data Base of Faith’s Reasoning
If authority of Scripture and tradition are objective criteria of theology, then faith and reason must be considered as subjective criteria, but in different ways. For as Scripture is definitive for tradition, so does faith set the context and bounds in which faith’s historical reasoning operates.
Unless we cling to the absurdity of rejecting the benefit of any experience of any others, our reasoning must depend upon some external authority. This is true of scientific reasoning, which is dependent upon the consensually shared authority of induction, observation, hypothecation, and deduction.
In theology, the inductive data base of experiences and observations is mediated to us from many others—countless examples of faith, suffering, martyrdom, and witness stretching over many centuries, relayed to us through unwritten and written sources. It is the language of this community’s experience with which theology has primarily to deal. Among the written sources are those consensually designated by the community as canonical Scripture, as authoritative witness to the revelation of God. The Holy Spirit guides the preservation and guarantees the trustworthiness of scriptural witness. Scripture rightly interpreted remains the reliable guide to revelation upon which faith is based. Reason cannot proceed without the testimony of Scripture. Reason has its data base in Scripture as tested through tradition and experience.
However great may be the differences between philosophy and theology, as different as are reason and revelation, these two spheres are not locked in endless antagonism. One thinks in the light of natural intellect, the other in the light of God’s self-disclosure in history. Both think either toward or from the truth.
It is from a surprising quarter, seventeenth-century Lutheran Scholasticism, that the faith/reason relationship is most beautifully stated: “Anyone who would deny those things which are visible in a greater light because he had not seen them in the smaller, would fail to appreciate the design and benefit of the smaller, so also he who denies or impugns the mysteries of faith revealed in the light of grace, on the ground that they are incongruous with Reason and the light of nature, fails, at the same time, to make a proper use of the office and benefits of Reason and the light of nature” (Johann Gerhard, Loci II, p. 372, in DT, p. 33).
Faith’s Presentation of Evidences to Reason
The revelation given by God is addressed primarily to faith, and only in a secondary sense to reason. Faith receives the self-evidencing divine disclosure in the special certitude constituted by trust and by assurance through the Spirit. However, this same faith is then charged with the task of gaining the assent of unbelieving hearers in the world (Athenagoras, A Plea for the Chr., ANF II, pp. 123-48; Tatian, Address to the Greeks, ANF II, pp. 59-84). As faith receives revelation, so faith then seeks to pass on the evidences of revelation to others, utilizing reason where appropriate to state, clarify, and present these evidences (Augustine, Ag. the Epis. of Manichaeus I—V, NPNF 1 IV, pp. 129-31).
In addressing faith primarily, revelation addresses a human faculty seated in the human constitution, the faculty of believing. This faculty is at work, accepting the truth on sufficient evidence, wherever human knowing occurs, and especially spiritual knowing (1 Cor. 2:11-16; Heb. 7:14-25; 11:1 ff.).
Believing is that faculty that “makes us certain of realities we do not see” (Heb. 11:1). It enables the heart to recognize “the truth as it is in Jesus” (Eph. 4:21). No other human faculty is sufficiently competent to recognize this truth. For faith is to the unseen world what the senses are to the visible world (Maximus, Four Centuries on Charity 111.92-99, ACW 21, pp. 190-92). Faith is the eye that sees what the senses cannot see, the ear that hears what the senses do not hear. One who lacks this eye and ear “refuses what belongs to the Spirit of God; it is folly to him; he cannot grasp it, because it needs to be judged in the light of the Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:14; Gregory Nazianzen, Or. XXVIII, NPNF 2 VII, pp. 290-91).
Faith in God is not alien to the human condition, because “the Spirit of God himself is in man, and the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding” (Job 32:8). This Spirit already at work within us discerns the truth, receives its evidence, and celebrates its veracity (Augustine, On Trin. IV.22-32, NPNF 1 III, pp. 85, 95). The coming of Jesus is like the coming of a light that is offered to “enlighten every one,” even though some prefer darkness (John 1:9-12). The Revealer “knew men so well, all of them, that he needed not evidence from others about a man, for he himself could tell what was in a man” (John 2:25). Since God empathized with our limitations, he radically adapted the evidence of revelation to the human condition, so that even amid our self-assertive deceptions we might be able to recognize the truth incarnate and the Spirit of truth (John 1:14; 16:13).
One who prejudicially resists this evidence has “a distorted mind and stands self-condemned” (Titus 3:11). Such persons “defy the truth; they have lost the power to reason, and they cannot pass the tests of faith” (2 Tim. 3:8).
Faith Is a Way of Reasoning
In this way the Scriptures viewed faith as sound reason. Hence faith and reason are deeply bound and melded together in inextricable spiritual kinship. The same Spirit who has called forth faith also awakens reason to receive “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints” (Col. 1:26), a mystery reason of itself cannot fathom. The evidences of God’s self-disclosure that faith recognizes, faith now calls upon reason to recognize and credit. In this way the judgment of the mind is given the honor of examining the evidences of faith. While faith is raised up to receive and embrace revelation, reason is bowed low to behold its self-giving love. Faith does not despise reason, but presents those evidences for revelation in history that are understandable to reason (Wesley, WJW VI, pp. 351 ff.).
But what are these evidences that faith presents to reason? They are Scripture’s recollections of the divine self-disclosure in history. Through the presentation of these evidences, the believer is taught to “be always ready with your defence [pros apologian, ready to provide reasons] whenever you are called to account for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15). Luke wrote his Gospel as “a connected narrative” (diegesin) for Theophilus, “so as to give you authentic knowledge” (epignos, Luke 1:4) of the coming of the Saviour (Luke 2:11). So every believer, and especially everyone in public ministry, needs to be supplied with such “authentic knowledge” to provide credible reasons concerning the reliability (asphaleian, certainty) of that in which they have been instructed (Luke 1:4). It was just such “an outline of the sound teaching which you heard from me” (2 Tim. 1:13) that Timothy was instructed to keep before him, so that the reasons for faith might be readily available to him.
The Clementine Recognitions (mid fourth century) commended the process of asking hard questions of faith, requiring faith to reason about itself:
Do not think that we say that these things are only to be received by faith.
but also that they are to be asserted by reason. It is not safe to commit these things to bare faith without reason, since assuredly truth cannot be without reason. And therefore he who has received these things fortified by reason can never lose them; whereas he who receives them without demonstrations, by an assent to a simple statement of them, can neither keep them safely, nor is certain if they are true. . . . And therefore, according as any one is more anxious in demanding a reason, by so much will he be the firmer in preserving his faith. (Recognitions 11.69, ANF VIII, p. 116)
The Trustworthiness to Which Trust Responds
Faith is not merely intellectual assent to propositions about God. Faith (pistis, fiducia) is an entrusting of oneself to someone or something that is regarded as trustable (John of Damascus, OF IV.10, NPNF 2 IX, p. 79). One can think of this by analogy by asking oneself: Who do I trust and why? To answer that question autobiographically is to reflect profoundly upon one’s relationships with others.
We learn to trust certain people because they make themselves known as trustworthy. I may live through a history together with another in which I know that whatever that person tells me will be dependable. I would never know that, hence never trust that person, unless there were a concrete history (including names, dates, and pivotal events) of trustworthiness that revealed that person’s reliability.
So it is in the Christian community, that one’s trust in time is placed in that Source and End of all things—God—as that eternal One who has become known through a historical process as unfailingly trustworthy. That is the story the Bible tells. The events are remembered as revealing the trustworthiness of God to Israel. The Bible witnesses to that history, to elicit that kind of trust (Ps. 40:1-4; Augustine, On the Psalms XL, NPNF 1 VIII, pp. 119-28). Such trust is not based upon abstract propositions, nor is it based upon psychological feelings about ourselves.
Christian faith is not a faith in faith. The central predicament of introverted pietism is faith based on faith itself, moving, like a dog chasing its tail, in a frustrating circle. Sound faith is based upon that which calls forth faith—a history of trustworthy relationships through which the other (human partner) or Other (divine partner) becomes somehow known as trustable. Words in themselves cannot engender that trust. It takes a history. Such a faith is not based upon projections of need or rhetoric or conceptualities, however good, but upon a history in which God has made himself known as caring partner and has shared his existence with us faithfully (Athanasius, Ag. the Arians 11.14.6-11, NPNF 2 IV, pp. 351-54; John Cassian, Conferences XIII.7-12, NPNF 2 XI, pp. 425-30).
Reasonable Acceptance of Legitimate Authority
The classical ecumenical writers argued that the acceptance of legitimate and reasonable authority is itself an eminently reasonable act, for both scientific and religious knowledge. When the believer trusts the church’s authority to discern and canonize Scripture, distill from it the creed, and propose a rule of faith as a guide to scriptural truth, that is viewed as a reasonable act. “It behooves us to flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord’s Scriptures” (Irenaeus, Ag. Her. V.20.2, ANF I, p. 548).
Amid the horrors of persecution, Cyprian observed that whoever is able to call God Father, must first call the church Mother (Epistles LXXIII.7, ANF V, p. 388). If reasons appear that make it clear that the church’s judgment has become untrustworthy, or its consensual judgment misguided, then the believer has a duty to question that authority. Such a predisposition toward ecclesial trust does not imply an abandonment of reason; rather, it assumes that the community is merely providing the believer with evidence for consideration, reflection, and testing against other forms of knowing. This predisposition to ecclesial trust is the very thing most lacking in the Protestant psyche; the whole basis for the Reformation being a “hermeneutic of suspicion” toward the Roman church (cf. Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy, pp. 20 ff.).
Children conditionally accept the word of their parents and teachers who are seeking to present them with evidence that they then can duly examine, test, and draw their own conclusions about. Educators do not normally regard that act of conditional acceptance as irrational but rather as a reasonable openness to evidence under competent guidance. It is far less reasonable to suppose that the child must begin with a consistent attitude of radical distrust, as in a “hermeneutic of suspicion,” toward those who are seeking to permit the child to examine evidence.
Similarly, the knowledge received through Scripture and church tradition remains subject to further exploration, experiential confirmation, and amendment by subsequent evidence. To depend upon Holy Writ and holy church for supplying the very evidence with which faith deals does not imply sacrifice of intellect, however, but a reasonable act of openness to evidence.
The Possibility of Faith
How is faith possible? We do not attain faith by simply saying we ought to have it; we do not logically derive it from deductive premises. Rather, faith comes by trusting in God by the power of the Spirit (Ps. 26:1). It is by faith that Abel’s sacrifice was greater than Cain’s, that Enoch was carried to another life, that Noah built the ark, that Abraham left Ur to go where he had never been, that Sarah conceived, that Isaac received the promises, that Moses left Egypt (Heb. 11). Faith walks by trusting and not always by seeing (cf. 2 Cor. 5:7). “Commit your life to the Lord; trust in him and he will act” (Ps. 37:5). As we learn to trust others by taking risks, so we learn to trust God, step-by-step, by risking trust. Those who will not risk small steps of trust will find the larger vision of God’s trustability implausible (Luther, Freedom of a Chr., ML, pp. 56-61).
Faith is not simply poured down our throats without any choice of our own. It is at times a risk-laden choice amid hunger, fire, war, and death. But we do not get very far reasoning about God until we somehow enter into that sphere in which faith in God’s historical revelation is taken seriously—hence the world of Scripture, of the celebrating community, of preaching and sacrament. There again and again we meet others who have taken risks in relation to that trustworthy One, and again and again, according to their witness, God makes himself known as trustable (Cyprian, Treatises III, On the Lapsed, ANF V, pp. 437 ff.).
All this remains subject to critical reflection. A broad historical data base, imagination, and critical reason all have been richly employed by historical Christianity. As we test out the trustability of God, trust is given a chance to grow. Such is the testimony of Jewish and Christian communities. It is only in the process of risking trust that God’s trustworthiness becomes credible.
Faith is indeed possible, because we know that in this community God has been trusted. Nonetheless, since faith remains a risk-laden decision, no one can do it for any one else. Just as nobody can die for anybody else, nobody can believe for another (Luther, Eight Sermons, WML II, p. 391; cf. Freedom of a Chr., ML, pp. 66, 67).
In any event, life demonstrates that faith of some kind is necessary (Theophilus, To Autolycus 1.8, ANF II, p. 91). We in fact do not live as free self-determining persons without trusting something, without casting our reliance upon something that renders our existence worthwhile, plausible, and meaningful (H. R. Niebuhr, RMWC, pp. 124 ff.).
For we cannot be human beings without making choices. The very essence of choosing involves risk, and where risk is, there is some form of trust, even if misguided (Kierkegaard, Either/Or II; Judge for Yourselves!).
People admittedly can have faith in what is unreliable, or untrue, or incompletely true, or untrustworthy. It is reasonable that our faith be attached to that which is more rather than less trustworthy, that is based upon a larger rather than a smaller range of comprehensive coherence. Such a rational duty would apply to every person who has the capacity to reason. For God did not give us the capacity for reason in order that reason be abused, but used (Clement of Alex., Strom., VII.6 ff., ANF II, pp. 531 ff.).
ACW Ancient Christian Writers: The Works of the Fathers in Translation. Edited by J. Quasten, J. C. Plumpe, and W. Burghardt. 44 vols. New York: Paulist Press, 1946-1985.
AF The Apostolic Fathers. Edited by J. N. Sparks. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1978.
AFT Agenda for Theology. Thomas C. Oden. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979.
ANF Ante-Nicene Fathers. Edited by A. Roberts and J. Donaldson. 10 vols. 1885-1896. Reprinted ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979. Book (in Roman numerals) and chapter or section number (usually in Arabic numerals), followed by volume and page number.
Angl. Anglicanism, The Thought and Practice of the Church of England, Illustrated from the Religious Literature of the Seventeenth Century. Edited by P. E. More and F. L. Cross. London: S.P.C.K., 1935.
Apost. Const. Apostolic Constitutions. Or Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. ANF, vol. 7.
Arndt A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich. (Translation of W. Bauer, 1953.) Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BC The Book of Concord, (1580). Edited by T. G. Tappert. Philadelphia: Muhl-enberg Press, 1959.
BCP Book of Common Prayer (1662). Royal Breviar’s edition. London: S.P.C.K., n. d.
BPR Book of Pastoral Rule. Gregory the Great. NPNF 2 X.
BQT Basic Questions in Theology. 3 vols. W. Pannenberg. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1970-1973.
Brief Expl. Brief Explanation of the Ten Commandments, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer. Martin Luther„ in WML, vol. 2, pp. 351-286.
BW St. Anselm: Basic Writings. Translated by S. N. Deane. LaSalle, IL: Open Court, 1966.
BWA Basic Works of Aristotle. Edited by R. McKeon. New York: Random House, 1941.
Catech. Catechism or Catechetical
Catech. Lect. Catechetical Lectures. Cyril of Jerusalem. NPNF 2 VII. Or FC 61, 64.
CC Creeds of the Churches. Edited by John Leith. Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1979.
CCC Creeds, Councils, and Controversies. Edited by J. Stevenson. London: S. P. C . K. , 1966.
CD Church Dogmatics. Karl Barth. Edited by G. W. Bromiley, T. F. Torrance, et al. 4 vols. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1936-1969.
CDG The Christian Doctrine of God. William Newton Clarke. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1912.
CFS Cistercian Fathers Series. 44 vols. to date. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1968—.
CG City of God. Augustine. NPNF 1 II.
CH Church History. Eusebius of Caesarea. NPNF 2 I. See also EH. Chr. Christian, Christians
CLRC Courtenay Library of Reformation Classics. 5 vols. Appleford, Abingdon, Berkshire, England: Sutton Courtenay Press, n.d.
COC Creeds of Christendom. Edited by P. Schaff. 3 vols. New York: Harper & Bros., 1919.
Comm. Commentary. Or Commonitory. Vincent of Lerins. NPNF 2 XI. Compend. Compendium. Or Compendium of Theology. Thomas Aquinas.
New York: Herder, 1947. Or Compendium of Christian Theology.
William Burt Pope. 3 vols. New York: Phillips and Hunt, n.d.
Concl. Unsci. Post. Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Soren Kierkegaard.
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1944.
Conf. Confession. Or Confessions. Augustine. LCC VII. NPNF 1 I. FC 21. CPWSF Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. 24 vols. to date. London: Hogarth Press, 1953—.
Crit. Pract. Reason Critique of Practical Reason. Immanuel Kant. LLA.
CSCT A Complete System of Christian Theology. Samuel Wakefield. New York: Carlton and Porter, 1862.
CSK The Cell of Self-Knowledge. Seven Early English Mystical Treatises (including Divers Doctrines, Katherine of Seenes, and Treatise of Contemplation, Margery Kempe). Edited by E. G. Gardner. New York: Duffield, 1910.
CSS Cistercian Studies Series. 68 vols. to date. Kalamazoo, MI: Cistercian Publications, 1968—.
CTC Christianae Theologiae Compendium. Johnannes Wollebius. Edited by Ernst Bizer. Neukirchen: 1935. English translation by John Beardslee, in Reformed Dogmatics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1977.
CUP Concluding Unscientific Postscript. Soren Kierkegaard. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1941.
CWMS Complete Writings of Menno Simons. Edited by John C. Wenger. Scott-dale, PA: Herald Press, 1956.
CWS Classics of Western Spirituality. Edited by Richard J. Payne et al. 30 vols. to date. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1978—.
CWST Complete Works of St. Teresa. Teresa of Avila. Edited by E. Allison Peers. 3 vols. London: Sheed and Ward, 1946.
DCC Documents of the Christian Church. Edited by H. Bettenson. New York: Oxford, 1956.
DG The Doctrine of God. Herman Bavinck. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1977.
Div. Inst. Divine Institutes. Lactantius. ANF VII.
Div. Names Divine Names. Dionysius (Pseudo-Dionysius). Translated by C. E. Rolt. London: S.P.C.K., 1975.
DT Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Heinrich Schmid. 3d ed. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 1899.
DTh Dogmatic Theology. Francis Hall. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1907-1922.
ECF Early Christian Fathers. Edited by H. Bettenson. London: Oxford University Press, 1969.
ECW Early Christian Writers: The Apostolic Fathers. Translated by Maxwell Staniforth. London: Penguin Books, 1968.
EH Ecclesiastical History. Eusebius of Caesarea. FC 19, 29.
EL Everyman’s Library. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1910—.
Elem. Theol. Dog. Elements theologiae dogmaticae. Francois Xavier Schouppe.
Brussels: H. Goemaere, 1863.
EPT Essays Philosophical and Theological. Rudolf Bultmann. New York: Macmillan, 1955.
ESS Exercitationes sacrae in symbolum. Sacred Dissertations. Hermann Witsius. Translated by D. Fraser. Utrecht: 1694. Edinburgh: A. Fullerton, 1823.
ETA Examen Theologicum Acroamaticum (1707). David Hollaz (or Hollatz). Leipzig: B. C. Brietkopf, 1763.
FC The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation. Edited by R. J. Deferrari. 69 vols. to date. Washington, DC: Catholic University Press, 1947—.
FEF The Faith of the Early Fathers. 3 vols. to date. Edited by William A. Jurgens. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1970—.
FER The Fathers for English Readers. 15 vols. London: S.P.C.K., 1878-1890.
FGG From Glory to Glory, Texts from Gregory of Nyssa’s Mystical Writings. Translated by H. Musurillo. New York: Scribner’s, 1961.
Mystical Writings. Translated by H. Musurillo. New York: Scribner’s, 1961.
GC Of God and His Creatures. Thomas Aquinas (abbreviated translation of Summa Contra Gentiles). Translated by Joseph Ricaby. Westminster, MD: Carroll Press, 1950.
Hom. Homilies or Homily
HPC A Harmony of Protestant Confessions. Edited by Peter Hall. London: J. F. Shaw, 1842.
Inst. Institutes of the Christian Religion. John Calvin. LCC, vols. 20, 21. References by book and chapter number.
Inst. Instruction, or The Instructor. Clement of Alexandria. ANF II.
1W The Inspired Word. Luis Alanso Schoekel. New York: Herder and Herder, 1965.
JJW Journal of John Wesley. Edited by N. Curnock. 8 vols. London: Epworth, 1938.
KC Kerygma and Counseling. Thomas C. Oden. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978.
KJV King James Version, 1611
LACT Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology. 99 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1841-1863.
LCC The Library of Christian Classics. Edited by J. Baillie, J. T. McNiell, and H. P. Van Dusen. 26 vols. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1953-1961.
LCF The Later Christian Fathers. Edited by H. Bettenson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1970.
LF A Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church. Edited by E. B. Pusey, J.
Kebel, J. H. Newman, and C. Marriott. 46 vols. Oxford: J. Parker, 1838-1875.
Literal Interp. of Gen. Literal Interpretation of Genesis. Augustine. CWS.
LLA Library of Liberal Arts. Edited by Oskar Piest. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs Merrill, 1951—.
Loeb Loeb Classical Library. Edited by T. E. Page, et al. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1912—.
LPT Library of Protestant Thought. Edited by John Dillenberger. 13 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 1964-1972.
LT Loci Theologicorum. Martin Chemnitz (1591). 3 vols. Frankfurt: N. Hoffmann, 1606.
LW Luther’s Works. Edited by J. Pelikan and H. T. Lehmann. 54 vols. to date. St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1953—.
LXX Septuagint (Greek Old Testament)
ML Martin Luther: Selections From His Writings. Edited by John Dillenberger. New York: Doubleday, 1961.
MPG Patrologia Graeca. Edited by J. B. Migne. 162 vols. Paris: Migne, 1857-1876.
MPL Patrologia Latina. Edited by J. B. Migne. 221 vols. Paris: Migne, 1841-1865. General Index, Paris, 1912.
MTEC Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church. Vladimir Losskii. London: J. Clarke, 1957.
MWS Ministry of Word and Sacrament: An Enchiridion. Martin Chemnitz (1595). St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 1981.
Myst. Mystical, or mystery
NBD The New Bible Dictionary. Edited by J. D. Douglas et al. London: Intervarsity, 1962.
NDM Nature and Destiny of Man. Reinhold Niebuhr. 2 vols. New York: Scribner’s, 1941, 1943.
NE A New Eusebius: Documents Illustrative of the History of the Church to A.D. 337. Edited by J. Stevenson, (based on B. J. Kidd). London: S.P.C.K., 1957.
NEB New English Bible
NIV New International Version
NPNF A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. 1st Series, 14 vols. 2nd series, 14 vols. Edited by H. Wace and P. Schaff. References by title and book or chapter, and subsection, and NPNF series no., volume and page number. New York: Christian, 1887-1900.
OBP On Becoming a Person. Carl R. Rogers. Boston: Houghton and Mifflin, 1961.
ODCC The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross. Revised by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974.
OUED Oxford Universal English Dictionary. 10 vols. Edited by C. T. Onions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1937.
OF On the Orthodox Faith. John of Damascus. NPNF 2 IX. FC 37.
Or. or Orat. Oration or orations
Phi. J. B. Phillips. The New Testament in Modern English.
Phil. Frag. Philosophical Fragments. Soren Kierkegaard. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1962.
Princip. De Principiis. Origen. ANF IV, pp. 239-384.
Proslog. Proslogium. Anselm. Translated by S. N. Deane. In BW.
PSG Philosophers Speak of God. Edited by Charles Hartshorne and William L. Reese. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953.
PW Practical Works. Richard Baxter. 23 vols. London: James Duncan, 1830.
RD Reformed Dogmatics. Heinrich Heppe. Translated by G. T. Thomson. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1950.
Ref. Dogm. Reformed Dogmatics. Edited by J. W. Beardslee. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1965.
RMWC Radical Monotheism and Western Culture. H. Richard Niebuhr. New York: Harper & Bros., 1960.
RPR Readings in the Philosophy of Religion. Edited by John Mourant. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1954.
RSV Revised Standard Version
SCD Sources of Christian Dogma (Enchridion Symbolorum. Edited by Henry Denzinger). Translated by Roy Deferrari. New York: Herder, 1954.
SCG On the Truth of the Catholic Faith, Summa contra Gentiles. Thomas Aquinas. 4 vols. (with sub-volumes). Referenced by book, chapter, and page number. New York: Doubleday, 1955-1957.
SDF The Sayings of the Desert Fathers. Translated by Benedicta Ward. London: A. R. Mowbray and Co., 1975.