Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but--more frequently than not --struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God...
Reason must be deluded, blinded, and destroyed. Faith must trample underfoot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees must be put out of sight and know nothing but the word of God...
Whoever wants to be a Christian should tear the eyes out of his reason.
But since the devil's bride, Reason, that pretty whore, comes in and thinks she's wise, and what she says, what she thinks, is from the Holy Spirit, who can help us, then? Not judges, not doctors, no king or emperor, because [reason] is the Devil's greatest whore.
-- Martin Luther
Okay, is that custom church sign too provocative with its Martin Luther quote? Maybe so, but I'm sorry. The direction that Protestantism in this country is heading in is scaring the heck out of me.
I saw this graphic in the Boston Pilot a couple of weeks ago, which was culled from a November 2008 Harris Poll.
Belief in God is roughly the same... but I don't know which bothers me the most, the fact that only 32% of Protestants believe in the Theory of Evolution (although the statistic of only 52% of Catholics isn't necessarily something to crow about), that over half of Protestants believe in Creationism, or that over half of Catholics believe in ghosts and nearly half believe in UFOs.
In the 2007 Harris Poll, they made a distinction between Protestants and Born-Again Christians for some strange reason, and only 16% of Born-Again Christians indicated that they believed in evolution.
What accounts for the differences? I suppose most everyone would agree that it boils down to the sola scriptura principle and biblical literalism. The only thing puzzling about that particular explanation is that there are references to ghosts in the Bible.
As for UFOs, I guess people could make the argument based upon numerical probabilities. One thing I'm pretty sure of. If UFOs were mentioned explicitly in the Bible, the percentage of people who believed in them would skyrocket significantly. I've always found this a curious thing about sola scriptura... People who will believe without a shadow of a doubt that a virgin had a baby, that a crucified man rose from the dead, that there are three persons in one Godhead, and that the Son is co-eternal with the Father, all based upon evidence in ancient texts, are vehemently loathe to accept something like the Immaculate Conception because it's "not biblical" and will ridicule the very notion as "man-made superstition."
A priest in my parish is fond of saying that "faith should take us beyond reason but should never take us beneath reason." We could all debate about whether or not all Christian doctrines are beyond or beneath reason, but one thing is certain, and that is that the Catholic Church has a long tradition of at least leaving a place for reason in the dialogue.
The Catholic Church takes a lot of heat over the Galileo affair, sexism, and its supposed retrograde thinking in a whole host of areas, but it's not entirely clear that the reformers offered an improvement in this regard by any means.
In his marvelous book Aristotle's Children: How Christians, Muslims, and Jews Rediscovered Ancient Wisdom and Illuminated the Middle Ages, author Richard Rubenstein tells the fascinating story of how Aristotle was rediscovered in Europe and how after a long struggle, aristotelian philosophy, which underlies the origins of modern secular science, was succesfully integrated with Catholic theology by Thomas Aquinas and others. From the editorial review:
Christian theologians rediscovered Aristotle through the commentaries of the monk Boethius, who argued in the sixth century that reason and understanding were essential elements of faith. There resulted a tremendous ferment in the study of Aristotle in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, culminating in the work of Thomas Aquinas, who used Aristotle's notion of an Unmoved Mover and First Cause to construct his arguments for God's existence. Aquinas, too, argued that reason was a necessary component of faith's ability to understand God and the world.There was opposition to scholasticism to be found of course, from such quarters as the Dominicans' Franciscan rivals, but the Protestant reformers in particular were utterly contemptuous of Aristotle and the "sophistry" of the schoolmen. In the extended quote below, Rubenstein explains how this represented a step backward from the hard-won achievements of those who championed aristotelianism, and for the synthesis between faith and reason.
With Luther's theological revolution, the separation of faith and reason foreshadowed by William of Ockham's philosophy and Meister Eckhart's religious practice was realized. One is not surprised to discover that Luther and John Calvin opposed Copernicus's sun-centered astronomy as vehemently as did the Catholic Holy Office. The Protestant leaders had determined that the individual's relationship to God need not be mediated by popes and priests; that "Scripture alone," not the authorized interpretations and doctrines of the Roman Church, represented God's unalterable word; and that the papacy was neither authoritative in matters of law nor infallible in matters of doctrine.
By the time they finished stripping away "non-apostolic" customs and doctrines, there would be little left of the Church as a public institution. Moreover, the attack on scholastic theology would tend to put questions of belief beyond the realm of rational argument. Luther "knew" that man is justified by faith alone because, while reading the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, he came upon Paul's quotation from Habakkuk, "He who through faith is righteous shall live," and was illuminated." Suddenly, he understood the relationship of faith to salvation. Because of this experience, his sermons took on a new character. As a classic biography of the Reformer puts it:
It was not an eloquent rhetorician or a pedantic schoolman that spoke, but a Christian who had felt the power of revealed truths, one who drew them forth from the Bible, poured them out from the treasures of his heart, and presented them all full of life to his astonished hearers. It was not the teaching of a man, but of God."This was all very well if one agreed with Luther's interpretation of the passage from Romans, but many other Christians (including most Catholics) did not. How to determine, in such cases, which interpretation was correct?
Eliminating the Church as the sole authorized interpreter of Scripture opened the door to the fundamentalist approach, which asserts that such-and-such is the literal meaning of the text, not an interpretation at all, or that a particular interpretation is divinely inspired, and therefore unquestionable. In Luther's time and afterward, Christians fed up with fanciful, allegorical interpretations of the Bible that reflected the prejudices of the interpreter were inclined to embrace this type of literalism, especially if it was accompanied by the sort of illumination that Luther himself had experienced.
Fundamentalist literalism, in other words, was not a feature of the medieval worldview from which modern rationalists had to be "liberated." It came into the world as a result of the same attack on Aristotelian-Christian thinking that produced secular science. One can imagine this as a sort of intellectual nuclear fission. Bombarded by its early modernist opponents, Aristotelianism implodes, generating a coldly objectivist science and a passionately subjectivist religion.
Follow one of these links to watch a short video featuring the Vatican Astronomer Fr. George Coyne SJ, discussing evolution (hat tip to Maria at Confessions and Contemplations by way of Busted Halo).