Faith and Reason

Essay by ktracyA+, January 2008

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The relationship between faith and reason is thoroughly discussed in Thomas Aquinas's Summa Contra Gentiles. In his writings, Aquinas distinguishes his thoughts between truths about God which can be arrived at via 'natural reason' and those which are known through revelation. According to Aquinas, faith and reason are related in a unique way. He explains that reason is not enough to understand God's essence. To fully understand God's essence, we also need faith. To begin, I will explain this view with reference to Summa Contra Gentiles. Then, I will go on to anticipate the objection that if God were rational in the way that Aquinas describes, why can't we prove his essence without faith? Finally, I will reply to this objection on behalf of Aquinas, by claiming that reason clearly adds to our understanding of God's essence, but we get the benefits of fully understanding this essence only when we add faith.

Aquinas believes in a theory which has two parts to it. He believes to understand the essence of God we must rely on reason and faith. He claims we cannot fully understand this essence through reason alone and faith will enable us to develop this full understanding. He classifies reason as being the basis for understanding, with faith being a necessary component to be able to completely understand the knowledge of God. Aquinas makes his case by saying humans gain their experience and knowledge through sensing the world. However, Aquinas argues human senses are not adequate for understanding God. He explains this by saying human senses limit us and therefore we must have faith to develop this complete understanding. Last of all, he makes a point to say faith is considered higher than reason. Aquinas breaks down the logic into two parts: preambles, which are truths that reason...