How to cite this article: Abiodun P. Afolabi, “Rational Faith in Irrational Times:
A Critique of Segun Ogungbemi’s Is Reason Compatible with Faith” in Laleye, S.A.
Oladipupo, S.L. (eds.), The Polemics of an African Philosopher: Essays in Honour of
Professor Segun Ogungbemi, Flash Printing & Publications, 2016, pp. 47-63.
Rational Faith in Irrational Times: A Response to Segun Ogungbemi’s “Is Reason
Compatible with Faith?”
Abiodun Paul AFOLABI
Department of Philosophy, Adekunle Ajasin University,
Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State
E mail: email@example.com,
In God, Reason and Death, Professor Segun Ogungbemi examines the relationship between
reason and faith. In chapter six of the book “Is Reason Compatible with Faith?”, Ogungbemi
used rational but recycled arguments that unduly elevates and exalts reason over and above faith
in a cavalier manner, undiscerning to the simple. His default attitude being to inject
rationalization into beliefs system using Christianity as a paradigm. His contention against blind
or irrational faith is similar to J.P. Moreland’s (1997: 25) position that;
faith is now understood as a blind act of will, a decision to
believe something that is either independent of reason or
that is a simple choice to believe while ignoring the paltry
lack of evidence for what is believed.
Thus, this chapter will do some “temple cleansing” of the mind and provide intellectual
formulations for the compatibility of faith claims with reason. Except we provide a new
understanding for the theological concepts of faith and reason, modern mind might not be able to
get out of the woods explaining how effectively faith claims are compatible with reason.
The first part of the topic “Rational Faith in Irrational Times” is from Ravi Zacharias’ Public Lectures, “Rational
Faith in Irrational Times”, www.youtube.com Downloaded in 2015.
This chapter will show that Ogungbemi’s rage against irrational faith is right but his distorted
view of biblical claims for alleged lack of rational arguments is feeble and untenable. This is
because there are serious limitations to the sort of reasoning he desires for proffering answers to
the subject. We will not just refute Ogungbemi’s position but we will also build an affirmative
case for the possibility of rational faith. The analysis here will also enlarge the impoverished
modern horizon, which has pitched faith together with its intellectual affective component
(reason), within the normal range of common reason’s operation. We will also remind reason of
its real dimensions and its grandeur that lies in the recognition of its essential insufficiency and
ultimate frailty when faced with the ever-greater mystery of reality.
This chapter therefore concludes that, although reason is a necessary component for religion to
move from superstition to a substantive practice, there are limitations to the sort of reason that
Ogungbemi prefers to understanding the cardinal doctrines and teachings of the Judeo-Christian
faith. This is because the claims of religion are absolute and normative and once we employ the
sort of descriptive reason of science that prides on sensual evidence, we would lose sight of the
rational evidence which faith rests upon.
Is Reason Compatible with Faith? Ogungbemi’s Response
Ogungbemi responded to this question by examining the position of the commensurabilists and
incommensurabilists represented by Kierkegaard and Pojman respectively. He rejects
Kierkegaard’s attitude towards rationality, thus labeling it ‘disdainful’ (Ogungbemi: 2008, 85).
He contends that Kierkegaard “overstates his case because Jesus Christ did not rule out some
elements of doubt on matters of faith in God” (Ogungbemi, 85). He backs up his claim that doubt
and reason cannot be banned from religion with Christ’s assertion in Matthew 27 verse 46 where
Christ asserts “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Ogungbemi, 85)
Besides Segun Ogungbemi’s alleged doubt by Jesus Christ, he also cites Peter’s (one of Christ’s
disciples) support for reason. As such, he posits that “the founder of Christianity allowed some
elements of ‘weak doubt’” in the face of insufficient evidence as was in the resurrection story,
where Christ had to present himself to his disciples to ground their belief that He actually
resurrected (Ogungbemi, 86). He also explains that since the faculty of reasoning is a gift from
God, and it contributes to our knowledge of God and the universe, it cannot be the enemy of
faith. Thus, he disagrees with Kierkegaard and the incommensurabilist who claimed that a leap
of faith is necessary to understand God.
Although, the commensurabilist position seems appealing to Ogungbemi, he nevertheless
opposes certain explanations of Pojman who supported this position. He questions the evidence
that confronts biblical characters as insufficient to lay claims to faith. Here, he seems to reason
along with the atheists by questioning the veracity of certain biblical miracles, especially the
resurrection story, on the grounds that they are fallacious and not rationally compelling. He
agrees with the commensurabilist that evidence is not contrary to faith but opines that the
question of how much evidence and who decides the degree of evidence that is enough to back
up a claim should be subjective (Ogungbemi, 89-90).
In the end, Ogungbemi, argues that reason and faith are compatible because they probably want
to lead us to the ground of our existence. He submits that a belief in God entails not just the use
of rationality alone but also the passion and commitment of a believer (Ogungbemi, 90).
A Critique of Ogungbemi’s Response
Often when we hear one side of a case presented, the evidence sounds persuasive. But then when
we hear the other side of the story, and suddenly we see the initial case crumble in the light of
new facts and arguments. Ogungbemi has been known as a scholar whose personal convictions
always resonates in his approach to issues and this attitude “unarguably leads to fecundity of
ideas and knowledge in this ever-increasing multidisciplinary environment we find ourselves”
(Igboin: 2008, 25). His argument is not dissimilar to that of Matthew Parris in “The Rage of
Reason” who claims to be a lover of reason over and against the irrationality of religion. He
(Ogungbemi) in other related works
just like Matthew Parris also punctuates his plea with a
wish for the Bertrand Russells, and David Humes of the past to return and deliver us from the
scourge of the “religious nonsense” around. We might not be able to engage all of Ogungbemi’s
invocations against Biblical claims because of space, but we will respond to some salient ones.
We do not pretend to critique from an evenhanded position because “all thoughts including (and
most especially) religious ones, rest upon certain assumptions and presuppositions” (Farinaccio,
2002: 26). However, these assumptions about reality will not only be identified, but also
Scrutinizing his paper, we notice that his conclusion looks hazy because he admonishes the
Christians to entertain ‘weak belief’, in the face of insufficient evidence, while maintaining that
the foundation of their belief “cannot be supported with any rational argument” (Ogungbemi
2008, 89). His final remarks that ‘reason is not against our belief in ourselves’ reveals his
leanings towards reason and his impassioned hostility to rational faith comes through loud and
See Ogungbemi, S. “Belief in God” in Ogungbemi, S. (2008). God, Reason and Death Ibadan: Hope, pp.15-24
We realize that his plausible default motive is to arouse our consciousness to the fact that neo-
orthodoxy, which gives credence to blind or irrational faith as it were in the medieval period,
cannot stand in this modern time. In arriving at this conclusion, he first criticizes Kierkegaard
and the Incommensurabilists who maintained that ‘a leap of faith is necessary because of the
limitations of reason’. It seems that Ogungbemi is against the position of Christian theologians
who uphold popular opinion, that to understand God and His ways, one need to exercise an
absolute faith unchecked by doubt and reason. He decries that those who favoured this position
do not consider the evidence from their own Scriptures. He alluded to the fact that the
progenitors of Christianity favoured doubt as against blind faith and even supported the
employment of reason in order to ground their faith.
First, his analysis of the relationship between faith and reason is narrowly treated. He examines
only two theories on the debate, perhaps deliberately leaving out others like fideism. Examining
his onslaught against the claims of faith-beliefs, he sneers at the idea that Christ promoted doubt
when he lamented Eli, Eli, La ma sabach tha-ni? Meaning “My God, my God, why has thou
To understand Christ’s words here, one need to understand the context of the
scriptures and the nature of theology. Hence, the nature of the person of Christ, the nature of His
sufferings and the nature of His question need to be understood. Failure to understand these will
only lead to misinterpretation.
Granted that the Bible contains narratives that are true, Christ’s existence was in two forms. He
exists both as a Spirit and a man. As a man, He went through the harrowing experience of torture
and persecution and the pains he went through demands that he vents his emotions because flesh
and blood flows in him. Hence, he uttered these words because as an individual having the
See Matthew 27 verse 46
natural instincts to feel pain, there is every tendency to react and as such, his reaction which
Ogungbemi interpreted as doubt is justified because it came from a man with psychological
instincts. But to classify his words here as doubting God, His Father, especially when He has
been in relationship with the Father before then is not correct. Christ’s action did not stem from
his spiritual nature because at this point, he had lost divine fellowship with His Father. Detached
from the source of His being, he was left in a situation that was unfamiliar. Note that throughout
the Scriptures, this is the only time He did not address God as Father. Christ could not have
doubted God, His father here, having earlier believed that it was His Father’s will to be crucified
Ogungbemi also punctuates his petition with the example of Thomas where he quotes Luke 24 36-
39. He argues that if Christ did not support doubt, he would not have allowed Thomas, one of his
disciples to doubt his personality as the resurrected Christ. Of course, Christ would encourage a
sincere seeker of truth and that is why He did not chide Thomas for such request but he
graciously acceded to his demand. We also support Thomas’ request because failure to allow the
demand of evidence in matters of faith, will result in failure of faith. This is because faith is
based on ‘reasoning from evidence’ as we would show later. However, it behooves evidence
seekers to deal with the totality of the evidence at their disposal.
Granted that the writings of the holy writ are correct explanations of events as they happened, we
need to point out here that Christ’s entertainment of Thomas’ request for evidence was not to
promote doubt. He allowed doubt so as to ground the comprehensive understanding of faith as
believing the truth even without sensual evidence. Thomas has been a disciple of Christ before
his death and was well informed that He (Christ) would resurrect after His death. Even if he was
not there when Christ first appeared, he should have believed the testimony of the disciples that
first reported to him. This is because they were trusted disciples and sometimes, we trust the
claim of individuals not because we have evidence for their claims but because of the trust we
have for them. This kind of faith involves a ‘trusting acceptance’ of an authority. This then can
be called a reasoning trust. It is not the case that Thomas’ request to see Christ was the first
evidence confronting him, but he chose not to trust the authority behind the evidence. This
implies that an ideal faith goes beyond the request for sensual evidence but does not preclude
evidence. Although his request for proofs was consented to by Christ but what followed after is
instructive to those who would put themselves in the shoes of a believer. Christ said “....blessed
are they that have not seen, and yet believed.”
On the proportion of evidence needed before faith can be allowed a soft landing. The problem
with evidence is that it is very much limited to the moment and creates the demand for more
evidence. As a result, we need to put forward here that trust is embedded in faith and trust
presupposes an object. An object evokes trust when there is an antecedent judgment of the mind
that the object is trustworthy. The comment of Christ here is to lay down the comprehensive
requirements of biblical faith which is authority behind the evidence to which Thomas lacked.
Thus, Ogungbemi’s claim that God promotes doubt (either in the weak or strong sense) is
untenable. For example, we might accept the testimony of Afolabi, being a Philosophy Teacher
at Adekunle Ajasin University, that Philosophy became an autonomous Department in 2010. In
this case, it would be helpful to do some research, investigating other sources of evidence for the
subject which are deemed reliable, but the testimony of Afolabi still stands until then. The case
of doubt in Thomas was to show that human beings need more than evidential (sensual) faith to
comprehend the things of God. Even if Thomas was convinced of the resurrection of Christ after
See Holy Bible, King James Version, John 20 verse 29
seeing the evidence, Ogungbemi still cannot comprehend the resurrection story claiming that it
cannot be supported with rational arguments. Even in the face of massive historical records and
that have supported the resurrection of Christ, he still desires rational arguments and
explanations. Zacharias (2000: 47) assertion that “the prophecies, person, and work of Christ,
His resurrection from the dead, and numerous other affirmations do have points of verification in
history”. Ogungbemi is like that hypothetical figure who demands a sign and at the same time
has already determined that anything that cannot be explained scientifically is meaningless.
Moreso, Ogungbemi conflated doubt with curiosity. He felt the exhibition of doubt at all times
makes one to be curious on the issue at hand. That is, a request for evidence before believing in
certain claims is an act that stems from a curious mind. This may be true in some cases but
sometimes, doubts arise when individuals allow their passion and emotion to becloud their
reasoning or perhaps when their reasoning because of its limitations cannot support the claims on
ground. Doubts from emotional outbursts, rather than reason properly guided cannot pass for
curiosity. We do not imply that it is in all cases that doubts are products of emotional outbursts
but the very claim here is that a reliance on doubt as something that stems from pure reasoning
will lead one astray.
There are unrevealed fears that allays the mind of a doubter - either the fear of the absurd
happening or the fear of how such event is going to happen. Faith in religion, particularly
Christianity, is different from feelings and passion, because the latter two fluctuate and vacillate
but faith does not. Faith is firm on both what it looks at or believes in, irrespective of the
circumstance and situation around because of the authority behind the claims.
For these historical records and writings, see [1.] Josh McDowell (1975), More Evidence that Demands a Verdict
[2.] Josh McDowell and Don Stewart, Answers to Tough Questions Skeptics ask about the Christian Faith
Also, Ogungbemi’s position that the fact that one loves God does not proscribe such individual
from questioning his existence is utterly unfounded. How can you claim to love something and
later question the existence of such thing except for academic purpose? For such an action is
absolutely contradictory as A at one point would be not A at another time. Instead of questioning
the existence of a God that was once loved, a sincere believer can only seek to understand the
manifestations of such love and the reasons for his love for such God, especially when he
realizes that the love is not for a fellow human being but a being that transcends time and space.
However, he fails to understand that the kind of reason that he favours to be compatible with
faith is the one found in sciences. If that is the case, then he cannot succeed in such venture
because the methods of rationality in science demands objectivity and certainty in findings. And
we know that faith either in the descriptive or normative sense (as we will show later) cannot be
measured or proven in any scientific sense. Polkinghorne, (2000: 160) submits that “while
science can describe reality, it fails when attempting to completely explain the reality it
describes. These limits arise when meta-questions come to the fore, questions which science
does not have the ability to explain yet, while often more comprehensible answers to questions
that transcend science are to be found in metaphysical theories”. We can say science thrives on
the ‘faith of confidence’ of findings but the faith in religion is the ‘faith of conviction’ in the
authority behind claims.
Hence, Ogungbemi’s position that reason must be compatible with faith is not wrong but the
very problem is which sort of reason can go alongside faith? To really make the position of this
chapter clear, one need to understand that reason, no matter the achievements it has furnished
man, is not circumscribed from its limitations.
The Idea of Limitation of Reason
From the end of the nineteenth century, the reason has been given an elevated status. This is
largely because of the progress from science that has reason to praise as the precursor of new
inventions and innovations. As a result, Descartes, Leibnitz and Spinoza championed in writings,
the superimposition of reason (over and above senses) as the guide to certain and indubitable
knowledge. We do not deny the feat of reason and the fact that reason is a constitutive element of
man that gives man a bourgeoning status ahead of animals. We support Blaise Pascal’s comment
that “the use of reason is constitutive of our humanity; it belongs to our inner nature; one could
not conceive humans without the faculty of thought for we would be like stones or brutes if we
lacked the capability of reasoning.” This sort of claim has put man in a position to see himself as
the forerunner of progress as long as he is ready to put to use his thinking ability. Hence, the
majesty of reason arguably led to the conclusion that there are no limitations to man’s ability and
no boundaries to overcome nature. Is this conclusion true or can it be an exaggeration? We have
to truly search out man and examine the veracity of this claim.
In speaking of the limits of reason here, just like Evans (2008), we do not intend to refer simply
to such commonplace facts as ‘human beings sometimes make mistakes in their reasoning’,
‘human beings have the capacity to hold in their consciousness only a finite number of
propositions’, ‘human beings are unable intuitively to recognize the validity of inferences
beyond a certain complexity’, and so on. The more interesting kinds of limits would be limits of
the following sort. Are there kinds of questions that human reason simply cannot answer? Are
there topics that are, one might say, ‘no-go areas’, as far as human reason is concerned. If there
are any such limits, let us try to divide them into two categories, which we will call redeemable
and irredeemable limits. The irredeemable limitations are those imposed by a defect that human
reason has because it cannot find a way around it. This implies that there are some types of
questions that human reason, even if it were improved in various ways, will never be able to
answer. On the other hand, the redeemable limits are those imposed by a deficient human reason
but which could at least in principle be overcome (Evans: 2008, 1023).
The question as to whether human reason has limits and what those limits are, and how they
could be recognized are some of the most interesting ones in the history of philosophy. Of
course, the quest for the limits of reason is historically associated with many philosophers.
Wittgenstein (1961) in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus realizes how problematic the idea of
a limit to reason is. This he describes when he avows that to “set a limit to thought, we should
have to find both sides of the limit thinkable. This implies that we should have to be able to think
what cannot be thought” (Wittgenstein: 1961, 3). Wittgensteins’ own solution is to set the limit
not in thought but in language. However, this solution seems problematic since it requires
Wittgenstein himself to say what cannot be said, and the book also famously ends by affirming
that its own propositions are ‘nonsensical’ (Wittgenstein, 151).
Besides Wittgenstein, a famous pursuit to this quest was provided by Immanuel Kant (1965). He
was to get clear about the limits of reason in his ‘critical philosophy’. Kant provides a variety of
ways in which reason might come to recognize its limits, but one of the most interesting of his
position is his claim that when reason exceeds its limits, it leads to ‘antimonies.’ An ‘antinomy’
is an apparent contradiction that is generated when reason exceeds its proper bounds by
attempting to gain knowledge of what Kant calls the ‘pure ideas of reason’ (Kant: 384-484). For
example, when reason tries to think about the universe as whole it can both prove that the world
is limited in space and time, and that it is infinite in space and time, both that a necessary being
must exist as the cause of the universe and that no such thing as a necessary being exists.
Even if Kant’s critical philosophy as a whole is unsuccessful, we might still think that his
strategy for uncovering the limits of reason is sound. We are inclined to doubt that Kant’s own
vast ‘epistemological machine’ is in order. This is because he raised our consciousness to the fact
of the possibility of synthetic-apriori Knowledge and the challenge to understand the world both
as it appears to us and as the world really is. However, even if we are inclined to reject his own
system, we might agree that the discovery of a logical contradiction, apparent or genuine, is a
sign that reason has misfired in some way, and could perhaps be a clue that we have reached
some kind of boundary or limit.
Louis Pojman (1992), J.Hick among others, have also recognized the limits of reason in the
justification of reality. Pojman argues that “to employ other methods of arriving at reality is a
function of rationality. However, what the rationalists does, is to select a method that allies with
his objective while rejecting others” (Pojman: 1992, 14). He submits that “we need not be
rational all the time, but even determining when to let ourselves go, when to put ourselves on
automatic pilot and trust our emotions or intuitions, is a matter of reason to decide” (Pojman:
Perhaps, a somewhat different, but still similar, notion can be found in the writings of those
contemporary philosophers of mind. Colin McGinn and Thomas Nagel (1989) have suggested
that the problem of understanding consciousness and its relation to the brain may be one that is
impossible for humans to solve, due to ‘cognitive closure’ (McGinn and Nagel: 1989:243-261).
Given the finitude of the human mind, there may well be problems that we simply will never be
able to make any progress towards solving, and perhaps the repeated failures of philosophers to
make any plausible suggestions as to how to understand consciousness provides some evidence
that this is indeed a problem that lies beyond the limits of reason.
The fact that philosophers, as diverse as Wittgenstein, Kant, Pojman and McGinn, have all
accepted the idea that reason has limits that could be recognized, shows that such a claim by
itself is certainly insufficient to convict a philosopher of the sin of irrationalism. However, that
human reason has limitations is an undeniable fact. Such a vision explains why reason is also
frail and insufficient for B. Pascal, who maintains that the real grandeur of reason shines forth in
the recognition of its ultimate failure to grasp all of reality. Reason is paradoxically at its greatest
when it humbly admits of being weak. At least no one would deny it who accepts the fact that the
human mind is a finite entity, distinct from God, if there be any such being. Of course, one might
accept the claim that human reason has limits but to maintain that we will never be able to
specify what those limits are might also be correct. After all, knowledge of what are the limits of
human reason might itself be one of the things beyond the limit.
In Defense of Rational Faith in Irrational Times
In this section, we argue that since reason, as deployed at the moment is incapacitated in our bid
to know the whole of reality, there is the need to put forward a new understanding of the
relationship between faith and reason. We will also try to show why faith plays a crucial role
both in helping humans recognize the limits of reason and also in (partially) overcoming those
limits. Hence, faith in religion is trans-rational because its justification goes beyond the
descriptive reason of man. To justify this claim, we will argue that faith and reason are from God
but there are two kinds of expression of faith and reason. This will set our defense of a trans-
rational faith on a nice path.
Faith is conceived as a state of a person that gives that person a capacity for truth that would
otherwise be lacking. This state is the condition that a person must possess to gain the truth. On
the Christian view of things, human beings lack this condition and must be given it by God, who
offers the condition as a gift through his incarnation. We thus receive the condition by
encountering God in Christ (Kierkegaard, 1985: 47-48). The faith that the Bible speaks of is not
antithetical to reason. It is not just a will to believe, everything to the contrary notwithstanding.
Also, it is not a predisposition to force every piece of information to fit into the mold of one’s
desires. Faith in the biblical sense is substantive, based on the knowledge that the One in whom
that faith is placed has proven that He is worthy of that trust. In its essence, faith is a confidence
in the person of Jesus Christ and in His power, so that even when His power does not serve my
end, my confidence in Him remains, because of who He is (Zacharias, 2000:43-44). Faith for the
Christian is the response of trust based on who Jesus Christ claimed to be, and it results in a life
that brings both mind and heart in a commitment of love to Him.
Then, it is wrong to assume that faith is not constitutive of reason in any guise. That is why
Kierkegaard’s incommeasurabilist stance is ominous. As Cook (1919: 175) pointedly posits ‘that
a very large part of our faith comes through the use of reason. Faith does not begin where reason
leaves off but starts where reason begins’. This implies that there is no justification for a leap to
faith without reasoning. The only question that should boarder us is whether or not faith should
cease where reason stops.
Faith can be used in a purely normative and descriptive sense. When used normatively, it refers
to an ideal condition that involves backing up claims objectively with the evidence that confronts
us being indirect or outside us. That is, this kind is manifested when we take the authority before
the evidence adduced to be true. Say for example, we visit the hospital and we get drug
prescriptions from the Doctor to cure our ailment. We might believe that the prescribed drugs
will cure such ailment not because of our assurance that the drugs are the right prescription but
the assurance in the Doctor’s competence. This faith in an authority is a normative one and the
evidence that it is based on, is indirect but nevertheless evidential. Faith in this sense can be ‘a
reasoning trust, a trust which reckons thoughtfully and confidently upon the trustworthiness of
God’ (John Stott: 1973, 36). Hence, faith in this sense should be a regulative one. On the other
hand, when faith is used descriptively, it refers to those actual practices and patterns of beliefs
that are exhibited by an individual or a group that embodies normative faith. For example, faith
in the prescribed drugs to cure the ailment stems from the compound faith that the Doctor is well
Same for reason, normative reason refers to an ideal that project those practices and patterns of
thought and inference that are objectively most likely to lead to truth. Reason in this sense,
regulate other expressions of reasoning. The regulatory agent thus is God, because man’s
possession of reason is a gift from God (Griffiths and Hutter: 2005, 1-23). On the other hand,
when reason is used descriptively, it refers to those actual practices and patterns of thought that a
given individual, society or community sees as resting on or constitutive of the normative reason.
Reason from this perspective is drawn from the constitution of normative reason, the source of
which is God. Hence, the scientific sort of reasoning is submerged in the normative reasoning.
This could be the theological understanding of reason.
These two senses of expressing faith and reason have not been clearly distinguished in common
usage and when we praise a person for following or exhibiting either reason or faith, we
therefore are doing two things. We describe that person as employing those practices we
recognize as faith or reason and praise that person as following the path most likely to lead to
truth using the regulatory parameter or scale which most times are external to the individual.
However, these two senses are interrelated but it is possible to pull them apart. It is conceivable
that a person might criticize what is accepted as descriptive reason in a given society because of
a commitment to reason in the normative sense. Imagine a person that criticizes accepted
patterns of thinking like seeing every deformed fetus at pregnancy as a standard case for
abortion. Rightly or wrongly, that person has become convinced that those practices are not in
fact leading towards the ideal truth that he knows. This is exactly the situation of the Christian
believer’s faith in the word of God. The believer recognizes that the central claim of Christianity
will be judged improbable when measured by the standards humans employ in deciding
questions of religious truths because we only know in part. Since the Christian is convinced that
the claim of the Bible is true by faith in the words of the authority behind those claims, the
Christian takes this to be a good reason for doubting human standards and practices as well
suited to finding the truth. Thus, Ravi Zacharias (2008) remarks that “God has disclosed Himself
in descriptive terms that give us enough information to be able to know who He is, and He has
hidden enough of Himself for us to learn the balance between faith and reason.” Faith and reason
are intellectual pursuits, having their meeting and melting point in the human process of
understanding reality. While reason seeks to understand the ‘how’ of reality, faith seeks the
‘why’. In engaging in the ‘how’ and ‘why’ in a relationship, reason and faith provide the
potential for the development of a more complete understanding (Scott: 50-51).
One of the most startling things about life is that it does not start with reason and end with faith.
It starts in childhood with faith and is sustained either by reasoning through that faith or by
blindly leaving the reason for faith unaddressed. The child’s mind has a very limited capacity to
inform it of the reason for its trust. But whether the child nestles on her mother's shoulder, nurses
at her mother’s breast, or runs into her father’s arms, s/he does so because of an implicit trust that
those shoulders will bear her, that her food will sustain her, and that those arms will hold her. If
over time that trust is tested, it will be the character of the parent that will either prove that trust
wise or foolish. Thus, Faith is not bereft of reason (Zacharias: 2000, 45).
The main deficiency of the modern age is the twin problems of the decline of religious belief and
the parallel waning of intellectual commitment in our search for truth. The modern person is not
only unable to believe certain statements about God in the way people in earlier periods could,
but he is also unable to wrestle with religious claims because its intellectual formulations are
shallow and hollow. We believe that ‘it is necessary to make the belief in God more credible and
acceptable to modern man” (Ogungbemi, 20) and this is the challenge Ogungbemi arouses that to
the consciousness of philosophical theologians, to come up with a neatly constructed rational
idea of religious claims. However, demanding rational arguments for the claims of religion and
the compatibility of faith and reason can be met if he agrees that there is the normative sense in
which reason and faith can be employed as we have showed.
We have shown that reason in the scientific sense which favours sensual evidence, is a sightless
guide in search for truth. To the scientists, they think the only means which God has given us for
academic apprehension of truth is reason, however if such reason is used carefully, humbly and
accurately, we cannot deny the fact that sometimes our reason cannot apprehend some of these
truths because of its limitations. That is why we need faith in the authority behind those truths. If
we discover that our faith has been on the wrong belief, then the reason for such faith was wrong
in the first instance.
Biblically, faith is a trust in what we have reason to believe is true. Faith does not preclude
evidence but the request for sensual evidence in all matters of faith is the undoing of
philosophers like Ogungbemi, for there are so many things that reason and senses cannot provide
answers to. While all biblical faith is based on evidence, often times it is of a more indirect
nature, like the evidence we have for the trustworthiness of the person making the promise or
statement, rather than direct evidence for the promise or statement itself. In summary; therefore,
faith in Jesus Christ is a cognitive, passionate, and moral commitment to that which stands up
under the scrutiny of the mind, the heart, and the conscience. It is not an escapist grasp that
comes to the rescue when life is out of control. It is recasting every threat and possibility that life
presents into the design of God. Understood in this way, we would see that faith is built on and
not outside reason.
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