Reason in Faith

This could have been taken straight out of Newman’s Grammar of Assent, with its proper nuance of reason’s role in the apprehension of the truths of our faith. These distinctions not only guard against fideism broadly (unhelpfully) construed, but against the “radical” characterization of faith as wholly alien, subversive, yada yada. The italics are mine.

“‘Tis rational to suppose, that it should be beyond a man’s power to obtain this knowledge, and light, by the mere strength of natural reason; for ’tis not a thing that belongs to reason, to see the beauty and loveliness of spiritual things; it is not a speculative thing, but depends on the sense of the heart. Reason indeed is necessary in order to it, as ’tis by reason only that we are become the subjects of the means of it; which means I have already shown to be necessary in order to it, though they have no proper causal influence in the affair. ‘Tis by reason, that we become possessed of a notion of those doctrines that are the subject matter of this divine light; and reason may many ways be indirectly, and remotely an advantage to it. And reason has also to do in the acts that are immediately, and remotely an advantage to it. And reason has also to do in the acts that are immediately consequent on this discovery: a seeing the truth of religion from hence, is by reason; though it be but by one step, and the inference be immediate. So reason has to do in that accepting of, and trusting in Christ, that is consequent on it. But if we take reason strictly, not for the faculty of mental perception in general, but for ratiocination, or a power of inferring by arguments; I say if we take reason thus, the perceiving of spiritual beauty and excellency no more belongs to reason, that it belongs to the sense of feeling to perceive colors, or to the power of seeing to perceive the sweetness of food. It is out of reason’s province to perceive the beauty or loveliness of anything: such a perception don’t belong to that faculty. Reason’s work is to perceive truth, and not excellency. ‘Tis not ratiocination that gives men the perception of the beauty and amiableness of a countenance; though it may be many ways indirectly an advantage to it; yet ’tis no more reason that immediately perceives it, that it is reason that perceives the sweetness of honey: it depends on the sense of the heart. Reason may determine that a countenance is beautiful to others, it may determine that honey is sweet to others; but it will never give me a perception of its sweetness.”

Jonathan Edwards, “A Divine and Supernatural Light,” in A Jonathan Edwards Reader (Yale, 1995), pp. 121-122.



  1. Love, not reason, should make decisions. Decisions based on reason and not love are karmically binding.

    Therefore, let the heart be your intelligence. The heart is unreasonable. The heart is mad. And yet the heart is the ground on which Reality altogether calls you to walk on.

    The only way to overcome the klik-klak machine that is the cosmos is to love. Allow the heart to break, and be that sign. Then you cannot be murdered, you cannot be a fool, you cannot be deceived.

    Love is the victory. Love is the meditation. Love is life. You simply must be willing to love. Allow God to Be. To love unconditionally beyond reasons (always)refusal is to be truly religious.

    • In your presentation, love is an abstraction, only made concrete by our wills. But nothing — no evidence immanent within the cosmos — guarantees the victory of love. It is an illusion to suppose otherwise. Only from outside of this world of chaos, evil, and absurdity can we receive any guarantee and foundation for the reign of love and justice. This is the Word of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

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