Last week, I summarised the first part of a talk given by Andrew Fellows at this year’s Transforming the Mind conference. We saw that setting up faith and reason against each other is not a fruitful approach, neither for the church as a whole, nor for Christian scholars.
A second option, which attracts many Christian academics, views faith and reason as each having a separate function, with faith being the more important. To get from reason to faith, a mystical leap is needed, and the two are not integrated. For Christian academics, this may seem to solve perceived conflicts between faith and reason. It also fits well with the current culture of secularism where religion is pushed into the private realm to create a ‘naked’ public space. However, both the academy and the church need heart and mind engaged. Separation of the two leads people to experience a cognitive dissonance, and ultimately to a diminishing role for faith.
Thus we finally come to the third option, which seeks integration. On this view, there is no real conflict between faith and reason. Both function under the lordship of Christ. Our motivation for seeking the integration of faith within the life of the mind is threefold:
The life of the mind is substantiated and grounded in God the creator. God is a person and he is rational (see e.g. Ps. 92:5 and many similar passages). This is why there is a correspondence between the human mind and the rest of creation. Without this grounding, reason has no foundation, and we have no reason to trust our mental capacities to produce knowledge.
It affirms the link between Christ and creation. Christ is the ‘logos’ of creation. ‘Logos’ cannot be reduced to rationality alone, but all things do find their coherence in Christ (Col. 1:17). The Incarnation shows that there is an affinity between thinking and Christ, who created reason. Christ provides a rationale for rationality.
The life of the mind is a path to spiritual maturity (Rom. 12:1-2). If you do not engage your mind in spiritual growth, you become conformed to the pattern of this world, the futility of reason without faith. Instead, in the way of Christ we are ‘made new in the attitude of our minds’ (see Eph. 4:17-24).
I hope this helps you to understand how the life of your mind fits in with your life of faith. What a great motivation not only to seek the life of the mind, but to do this as faith-ful Christian scholars! What drives you to pursue the life of the mind? And how can you help others (fellow Christian scholars, your church family) to value the life of the mind and to overcome the separation of faith and reason?