Thursday, February 26, 2015

Breaking Luther: Reason is opposed to faith

When Pope Benedict gave his Regensburg address and Muslims went mad killing a nun and threatening Christians about the world, many people blamed the Pope for being intolerant.  Yet few, until now with the ISIS threats, recognized that his address was not a bashing of Islam per se, but rather it was calling on Muslims of good will to recognize that they need not submit their reason to the faith as if the two were opposed to one another. So too, few people recognize that this idea of reason being opposed at times to one's faith is not present alone in non-Chrisitan faiths, but it can be found among heretical sects and schismatic groups.

Enter Martin Luther.  In his sermon's on Matthew's Gospel(which can be found HERE), Dr. Luther tries to nuance the relationship between faith and reason.  It is important to not take him out of context because it doesn't serve anyone in doing so, so for the sake of not slinging unnecessary mud I have copied and pasted the full text below with my emphisis:

Again, they argue: How can children believe, seeing that as yet they have no reasoning power? Thus they add reason to faith. To this Christ answers: This is exactly why children can believe better. They cannot reason. For reason is directly opposed to faith. This is why you must let reason go. It must be killed and buried in believers. But the Anabaptists turn reason into a light of faith so that reason may serve faith as a guiding light. I hold that it does shine forth as smudge in a lantern. Christ wants us to turn into veritable children if we desire to come into the kingdom of heaven. He means that, as all reasoning is, so to speak, still buried in children, so reason is also to be killed in all Christian believers. Otherwise faith has no place in them. For reason opposes faith.

For instance, Scripture says that there is only one God, but that in this one, divine Essence there are three distinct Persons: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost. However, these are one Essence and Substance. Now the Turk presently comes with his reason and asks how it is possible for one to be three and three one. Moreover, say they, in a house there must be no more than one lord and host; just so there must be only one God in heaven. — All this is the language of reason. But in this matter you Christian must become a child and say: Indeed, I cannot comprehend this doctrine; but I must become a child, must let myself be carried, touched, and blessed by Christ, and I must believe it. I must close the eyes of reason and not determine how this is possible or impossible; but I must believe and accept the pure, simple Word. The same thing is true of all other articles of faith. When heathen hear that God's natural Son became man, they say: That is impossible. — No doubt it is if reason is asked for advice. But you must let go of reason in this matter, must pay no attention to it, must entirely kill it; otherwise you will not come into the kingdom of heaven. One cannot grasp or comprehend this matter by reason. You must believe the article that Christ was born man in the fullness of time. You must permit yourself to be carried and led to Christ by the divine Word. Then you will partake of the kingdom of heaven. You must become children. This is the place for little children. Little children Christ carries, fondles, embraces, blesses, and says: Of such is the kingdom of heaven. If, then, I permit myself to be carried, Christ gives me His works and His merit and the kingdom of heaven.

The Turk says the same thing about the Lord's Supper: that mere bread and wine are present in it; and, again, that in Baptism there is simple water, such as is poured over the hand. Really now, says he, should this be called a "washing of regeneration, "as is written in the third chapter of the Letter to Titus? —The matter is ridiculous to them; for one can hardly wash a spoon clean with this water. How, then, is one to bathe body and soul with it? Reason cannot comprehend the articles of faith, including the doctrine of the Sacrament of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Therefore the order is: You must become a child and say: I do not understand this. I do indeed see nothing but water and how it is being poured over a little child. But I will gladly be a fool and a child, and I will believe Him when He says that, through the Word, Baptism has the power and might of regeneration and forgiveness of sins [Translation from What Luther Says, 1:485-486 (entry 1440)].

Now Lutheran apologists will say that we are splitting hairs, but I dont think this so at all.  Luther claim's that reason cannot comprehend the articles of the faith. It's one thing to say that it's not necessary to understand everything about the faith in order to submit to it and be Catholic, for such is the nature of a child or likely the majority of Catholics. It is another thing to say that we must kill the reason in order to enter the kingdom.  There is nothing in the faith that is in and of itself unreasonable, their are aspects of the faith that are hard to understand but if they are examined there is nothing illogical in the nature of their teachings. It's not illogical to believe in the trinity because having three person's in one nature (or substance) is not illogical.  It is difficult for us to comprehend indeed but not irrational.  And once you dig deep into what the trinity is in and of itself it is the only logical answer to who and what God is which is a communion of persons, a family of self donation as Dietrich von Hildebrand would say. Now if such difficulties bring about doubt in the mind of the believer it is not reasonable to then tell them that they need to kill their reason.  A difficulty does not presuppose a doubt or a falsehood.

A mystery of the faith does not mean we know nothing of it, it means that we cannot at this time comprehend all that the mystery truly is, and nothing of such a mystery is irrational.

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