Beyond Reason


Christening of the Blog

Posted in Blogging,Faith,Philosophy by Abigail on March 23, 2007

So The Unnamable Blog is finally receiving a name: “Beyond Reason”.

The supreme function of reason is to show that some things are beyond reason.
— Blaise Pascal

What more could be added to that?

Unfortunately, a lot. The connection and discord between faith and reason has been confounding for… forever. As I am adept at solving thousand-year old mysteries, I’ve taken this on. I do it in my spare time. 🙂

Having been a Christian for a large portion of my life, I believe all kinds of crazy things. Things a person can’t know. And, being as inquisitive and “rational” as I am, this discord has been apparent to me for a very long time. That was essentially the core of the “Philosophy and Theology” posts, although free will and other things entered the picture.

I realized recently that I’ve been hearing philosophy all my life. Every Sunday. That’s because I go to church every Sunday. They teach you ethics, the meaning of life, and even all kinds of academic things like studying a document appropriately (the Bible). The church is filled with rational people. But Christianity isn’t wholly rational. It has serious levels of mysticism.

After you’ve accepted that some things are beyond you (a concept I have named my entire blog after), you’ve consciously entered the world of faith. Although reason should tell you that, before that point, you were already in the world of faith; it was just unconscious. Here are two conclusions I’ve come to. 1) Faith and reason are two sides of the same coin. They are indispensable to each other and we think too simply when we demand one without the other. They can not be separated. 2) Faith is what allows me to reason and reason tells me I am using faith.

One last thought which should be obvious but may not be. This faith, that I am referring to, is not religious faith. It is the set of assumptions we make daily relative to all human beings. I find Sam Harris’ book, The End of Faith, very, very amusing. It wouldn’t be hard to demonstrate that he has made assumptions. In other words, he acts on faith. Being human means being derivative, living within a framework that was there before you got there. But that’s for another post.

Thoughts?

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11 Responses to 'Christening of the Blog'

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  1. seneca said,

    When you ask me to admit that “some things are beyond reason”, and I do admit that, do you also require me to believe the illogical?

    Mike

  2. amandalaine said,

    Great question. Let me clarify something I left vague. When I say “beyond reason”, I mean “beyond human reason.” I am not a believer in nonsense, only in the limits of human understanding. Does that make more sense?

    So, am I suggesting that you believe the illogical? Yeah, I am. But let me explain that. What are you? If you are something that is by definition limited, it will literally not be possible for you to understand some things. I believe humans are finite, not just in obvious ways like spacio-temporal, but also our minds. (It would not make sense for the one to be finite and the other not to be.) Somethings must appear illogical because we are finite. This does not mean they are illogical, but that they appear to be. (Notice the differentiating factor here is “appear” – perception can be different than reality – this raises the tension between objective reality and subjective reality and reinforces the fact that we are finite). Would you claim that a human can process all information? Would you claim that we could even find all information? The question is almost stupid to ask because the answer is so obvious: no. We are intensely aware of our finity. We die. So are you really believing something illogical when you say “I see my limits” and “the world is so much bigger than those limits”? No. That is reasonable. But it does lead you to the point where you believe some things that are, from a human perspective, illogical. (A great example here is the Trinity from Christian theology.)

    Brad – you think I’m way out in left field? I hope someone corrects my thoughts if I’ve spoken poorly or been too vague or opened a can of worms I shouldn’t have.

    Thanks for your question Mike!

  3. seneca said,

    I am not Brad, but I think you are in center field. I agree with you.

    The universe need NOT conform to what a human being can understand. I happen to believe that the universe is so complex that a human being cannot understand it.

    But still, to be believed, you must give me a reason to believe other than just saying it is so.

    The Trinity is a good example. Was it not the Council of Nicea who dreamed up the Trinity about 325 AD in order to solve conflicting versions of the faith?

    I believe History’s report of the development of religion. I do not believe in the Trinity, as it’s clearly a human invention.

    Mike

  4. Chris said,

    I love the title and the Pascal quote (on of my favorite authors)!

  5. amandalaine said,

    Thanks Chris! Appreciate it! I noticed you’ve got a Pascal quote at the top of your blog. He appears to be quite influential 400 years after his death.

  6. amandalaine said,

    Mike, great thoughts. I am going to get back to you. I wish I could now, but, non-blogging duties call.

  7. amandalaine said,

    Mike,

    The example of the Trinity was only that – an example. I could have used others, religious or non-religious, to show how common it is for humans to believe something that 1) they do not have full evidence for, and 2) is illogical on some level.

    The Council of Nicea in 325, did not dream up the Trinity. That council was actually about the nature of Jesus – whether He was divine and how that would coalesce with his humanity. (Another illogical Christian belief.) The Trinity was actually “dreamed up” well before that in the first century when various New Testament documents were written.

    So, you would believe something that is not a human invention, i.e. something divine?

    What is the following in reference to? “But still, to be believed, you must give me a reason to believe other than just saying it is so.” I agree with the logic, I just don’t know what you’re referring to.

    Thanks Mike! Great thoughts!

  8. Brad said,

    I would be careful about the use of the word illogical. It lends the idea that Christian belief is contrary to logic. There are many things that seem contrary to logic which are either prior to or just outside of personal understanding but which are understandable in an absolute sense (even if it is only by analogy). Revelation-God’s revelation of himself to us- is something which I would call prior to logic. In other words it is not something you could deduce specifically, but is not contradictory with itself once understood. You need faith to accept the source of the revelation,but not the content.
    I will post more about the Trinity later. But for now let me say that it is not as illogical as it seems if you use analogy.

  9. Ray said,

    Very interesting discussion, and also, as a first time poster here, kudos to all who contribute.

    To reference Brad’s last post, I completely understand your use of the word illogical in reference to Christian belief, and it does not trouble me in light of that understanding, but it carries with is such a negative connotation in our common usage of the word that it can be taken at face value and misunderstood. This is without even taking the further step that Brad did to define how logic and understanding are related to each other. Which, by the way, was very well stated Brad, I appreciated the presentation of the concept and of your thoughts.

    I have just taken the time to read responses and “dig in” to Amanda’s blog here, but I have enjoyed it very much. I look forward to future discussions and keep it up Amanda, you know I always enjoy your thoughts.

  10. Brad said,

    I am really not going to do this subject justice in a single blog post, but that won’t keep me from trying.
    I think that the subject of the trinity is one of those things that is so highly misunderstood. Even amongst true believers I think the general response would be “It’s a mystery.”
    What is often meant by it’s a mystery is “I haven’t bothered to come to any important conclusions about it…I just believe it.” I think this attitude is both dangerous and off putting to outsiders. Specifically those within the moderate naturalist camp. Who would want to believe what you do if you could properly explain – in whatever meager means you have – as to what you affirmatively believe? We hide from these accusations (I am including myself in all of these rhetorical “we”s) by then saying “I can tell you what the Trinity is not.” And before I go much further into this post I will admit that there comes a point where the way of negation is all we have. But we shouldn’t stop before that point if we don’t have to.
    In this theological rant I am assuming a realist position in terms of universal concepts. (I’m not going to bother explaining that but it’s there for who find it useful) The Trinity is best understood in a philosophically relevant and biblically aware analogy. When the Bible says that God made man in his image I think that it gives rise to the question “what does that mean?”
    I am of the opinion that the Bible answers its own questions. Within the whole context of that statement there are pictures of God that we can ask of them “Does man exemplify these traits?” God creates, God speaks, God makes moral and aesthetic judgments, God emotes, God decides, God makes declarations (affirming the truth), God communes (with himself). All of these things are an important part of the image that the Bible refers to. But the last one is an especially important reference which we can use by analogy to explain the trinity. “Let us…”
    Without spending too much time explaining that the Hebrew language had no equivalent of “The Royal We” that we enjoy in English, let’s focus on what that might mean.
    We can directly conclude these things: more than one entity, separate frames of reference, and communicability (sounds contagious). We can indirectly conclude: agreement (they did not deliberate on what was suggested in the “let us” statements), equal participation (no one entity said “OK I’ll do this”), and potency (what was suggested actually came to pass).
    I haven’t really bothered to go to deeply into it and we can affirm six things about the Trinity. I know these are all pretty standard, but they might be helpful in affirming some things and not simply relying on the imagination.
    From a philosophical standpoint the Trinity can be understood by analogy to humans as well. Just think for a moment what it means to be you (as opposed to being someone else). Now think what it means to think of others who exist in a similar nature as you. How do “you” differ form “them”. We as humans differ in matter, experience, knowledge (especially in reference to experience), and the list could go on. If we could take away the first difference in that list (matter) what would that look like…well we couldn’t really tell now could we. But that is where the line is…this is where we have to go by way of negation. There are all sorts of these lines that we come to when we think about God and I could spend my life just listing them, much less explaining them.
    Suffice it to say that logic and reason play an important role in defining these lines so this is why I call it dangerous to say that Christianity is illogical. I will paraphrase my favorite philosopher and say when it comes to saying things about God we shouldn’t view Him as a dark impenetrable cloud but as a blinding light. We could keep going on and on and never exhaust our predications. But to sum it up simply…”beyond reason” is good.

  11. amandalaine said,

    Cool post, Brad. Thanks.

    Ray, it is good to finally hear from you!! You were the first person I quoted on this blog and I’m sure you never knew it. 🙂

    Brad, I appreciate your insights into the Trinity and into logic in general. Certainly, none of this is my expertise, so I hope no one takes my comments too seriously or without questioning them.

    I have found one major problem with my idea here. At what point do I respond to illogic in belief instead of disbelief? Under most circumstances, illogic results in disbelief. This is the purpose of logic – to guide you to what to believe in and what not. But if I say some things are past reason, or past my logic, then I’ve essentially entered a very dangerous place because logic (generally speaking) is my only tool. Anyway, just a thought. I do have an answer to this – just thought I’d bring it up.

    Also, I hate to focus only on the difficult points of a single religion when there are things “beyond reason” in all positions, religious or irreligious. However, I’ll leave it at that since this blog post isn’t supposed to be exhaustive on the matter. 🙂


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