Augustine: Faith and Reason (Peters)

In The Logic of the Heart, James Peters attempts to “recover a robust conception of passionate reason.”  In light of modernity’s separation of faith and reason, and in light of postmodernity’s preoccupation with the self, Peter’s argues that Augustine and Pascal’s biblically informed views of faith seeking understanding is a proper way forward that helps us answer some of the basic questions – and longings – of humanity.  This is a detailed book, so I can’t summarize it all here.  But I did appreciate this section where Peters talks about Augustine’s views of faith and reason:
Augustine envisions human life as a journey of faith.  In its ideal form, human life is a journey beginning in faith (fides) and ending in that fully completed state of understanding that Augustine calls wisdom (sapientia).  In Augustine’s view, the starting point, faith, and the ultimate telos, wisdom, serve as the ideal alpha and omega stages of Christian discipleship.  In a classic formulation of this essential component of his philosophy, Augustine remarks, ‘Faith seeks, understanding finds; whence the prophet says, ‘Unless ye believe, ye shall not understand.'”
“The contrast to Hume here is unmistakable.  To see faith and reason as Augustine does is to proceed in a strikingly un-Humean fashion.  Whereas Hume finds faith subversive to reason, Augustine envisions faith as effecting the crucial transformation of the whole person, preparing and equipping him or her for reason’s fulfillment.  What faith starts, in other words, reason completes.  And indeed, reason alone, without the power of faith, cannot achieve the goal of understanding.  Let me note here that Augustine basically asserts two claims about the nature of faith: first, that faith seeks, and second, that the faith that seeks is a necessary precondition for religious understanding.  Both aspects of faith are decisive for comprehending how Augustine conceives of the rationality of faith.”
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Shane Lems
Hammond, WI
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